In the late 1880s, as the government retrenched and cut civil service salaries, Auditor General James Edward FitzGerald took part in discussions on the formation of a civil servants' union. FitzGerald presided over the second meeting, joined the provisional committee and was elected first president of the association, a position he held for three years.
The first PSA president, however, was no union radical and sought to distance the PSA from the union movement. According to historian Bert he FitzGerald thought it necessary to allay the fears that had been expressed and to play down the trade union aspects. Public servants, he told a gathering, should carry out their great and responsible duties to the best of their abilities, high pay or low pay , pension or no pension. 'It is not for the purpose of enlarging its emoluments, but of maintaining its character and increasing its efficiency, that we have met here this evening to inaugurate the foundation of the Public Service Association of New Zealand. '
An account of Fitzgerald’s colourful life can be read here: