Saturday, January 12, 2008

Face on a banknote a break with convention

Sir Edmund Hillary died Friday in Auckland, New Zealand. He was 88. Hillary was most famous for being the first to successfully ascent Mount Everest. He reached the 29,035-foot (8850 m) summit on May 29, 1953 at 11:30 a.m. local time.

The Dominion Post | Saturday, 12 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary broke the rules when his face first appeared on the New Zealand $5 note in 1992.

Until then it had been the accepted international convention that only the faces of heads of state and dead people could appear on banknotes.

At the time, the Reserve Bank was engaged in a major redesign of New Zealand's banknotes and had undertaken wide public consultation.

Then Reserve Bank governor Dr Brash said his original plan had been to keep the Queen on one of the notes, then have one dead male Pakeha (scientist Ernest Rutherford), one dead female Pakeha (women's suffrage campaigner Kate Sheppard) and one dead Maori (MP and Cabinet minister Apirana Ngata) and one dead sports person sharing the five notes.

Finding a suitable candidate for the last was a problem.

"It was difficult to find someone of sufficient stature. When I had guests at the dinner table I would ask them. The first person they suggested was Ed Hillary."

He decided to break with convention and asked Sir Ed directly.

"He was out of the country at the time - I think he was in Germany. But Lady Hillary put me in touch with him. To my great delight he agreed."

Dr Brash said Sir Ed was well deserving of the Honor. "He was an extraordinary man."

Reserve Bank spokesman Mike Hannah said Sir Ed had insisted the backdrop to his portrait should show Aoraki/Mt Cook and not Mt Everest. The image also included a Ferguson tractor.

There are 19 million $5 notes in circulation.

Banknotes personally signed by Sir Ed are now expected to catch the attention of collectors.

A thousand of the banknotes were provided by the Reserve Bank for the Sir Edmund Hillary Project. About 800 notes are left, available for about $700 each.

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