Philip Temple


About Philip Temple

photo Reg Graham


Philip Temple was born in Yorkshire and educated in London. He emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 18, becoming an explorer, mountaineer and outdoor educator. With Heinrich Harrer, of Seven Years in Tibet fame, he made the first ascent of the Carstensz Pyramide in West Papua, one of the seven summits of the seven continents, and later sailed to sub-Antarctic Heard Island with the legendary H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman to make the first ascent of Big Ben.

Philip Temple’s first books reflected this adventurous career and The World At Their Feet  won a Wattie Award in 1970. After a period as features editor for the New Zealand Listener, Philip became a full time professional author in 1972. Since that time he has published about 40 books of all kinds and countless articles and reviews.

In the fiction field, his ten novels include the best-selling Beak of the Moon,  an anthropomorphic exploration of the mountain world seen through the eyes of the mountain parrot, kea. This, and its successor Dark of the Moon,  are rated as unique in New Zealand literature. His Berlin-based novels To Each His Own  and I Am Always With You  controversially tackle issues around German guilt and historical experience. Most recently, The Mantis  returns to the mountains in a story about the challenges and stresses of extreme Himalayan climbing; and MiSTORY  is a speculative, ‘cli-fi' novel that looks at what the future may hold if we continue with 'business as usual’ in the face of climate change and the surveillance society.

Philip’s non-fiction range is wide, from books about exploration and the outdoors to New Zealand history and electoral reform (MMP). His book about the Wakefield family and the early British settlement of New Zealand, A Sort of Conscience, was NZ Biography of the Year in 2003, and won the Ernest Scott History Prize from the University of Melbourne. Philip’s award-winning  children’s books, in collaboration with wildlife artist Chris Gaskin, are unique to the genre.

Over the years, Philip has been awarded several fellowships, including the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship (1979), the Robert Burns Fellowship (1980), the 1996 NZ National Library Fellowship, a Berliner Künstlerprogramm stipendium in 1987 and the 2003 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers Residency. In 2005, he was invested as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for Services to Literature and given a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement. Following examination of his work, Philip was granted the higher degree of Doctor of Literature (LittD) by the University of Otago in 2007.

Philip Temple lives in Dunedin with his wife, poet and novelist, Diane Brown. See