Bror Erik (Eric) Friberg was born at Kristianstad, Sweden, on 6 July 1839, the son of Else Lundgren and Nils Erik Friberg, a farmer. Following his early education he attended a course in the science of forestry and worked as a forestry officer in Scandinavia. On 31 January 1866 in Lübeck, Germany, he married Cäcilie Elisabeth (Cecilia Elizabeth) Böhme. They had decided to emigrate to New Zealand, which was opening up forest areas for settlement, and in preparation Cäcilie Friberg undertook basic instruction in elementary nursing and first aid.
The Fribergs sailed from Hamburg on 9 February 1866 on the Grimsby. From Auckland, New Zealand, after the birth of their first child there in 1867, Bror Friberg transferred to Napier, where for three years he managed the Hawke's Bay Steam Boiling Down Company.
In 1871 Friberg offered his services to the Immigration and Public Works Department as a recruiting officer. With first-hand knowledge of New Zealand conditions and fluent in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German and English, he was appointed and proceeded to Europe. By the time he reached England in February 1872, the agent general for New Zealand in the United Kingdom, Isaac Featherston, had already arranged for the recruitment of Norwegian settlers. In Scandinavia he found that governments had instituted rigid systems of supervision and control over emigration agents. Regulations prevented him from recruiting settlers in Sweden, but while there he carried out research into the processing of sugar from beet and paper from white pine, and the preserving of milk.
Friberg eventually sailed for New Zealand from Christiania (Oslo), Norway, on the Høvding, arriving in Napier on 15 September 1872 with 292 adult immigrants, mainly Norwegians. He accompanied them to the Seventy Mile Bush where they balloted for sections in the settlements of Norsewood and Dannevirke. Friberg acted as interpreter, collector of promissory notes and paymaster for the immigrants, who were engaged in bush clearing and road building. The responsibilities of his position included frequent and detailed reports to the department on the state of health and employment of the immigrants, and recommendations for educational facilities and medical services. He also supported a petition for an extension of time for repayment of passage money.
The health of the settlers was a constant concern, with illness and accidents putting a strain on the settlement. Many of the immigrants he considered to be indifferent with pick and shovel and money was short. Friberg also accused them of thriftlessness. In 1875 he organised immigrants at Takapau from the Fritz Reuter, many with severe health problems, to settle on sections at Norsewood. He himself had applied for three sections in the Makotuku settlement, and later added four more. In 1876 he moved his family there from Waipukurau. He was in constant contact with all the settlers, travelling on horseback irrespective of weather conditions. His taxing duties were carried out rigorously, and his health began to deteriorate. On 1 February 1876 he had been naturalised, and was subsequently gazetted a justice of the peace.
In 1877 Friberg's salary was reduced as part of a reduction in the immigration service. On 9 January 1878 he requested leave of absence for health reasons, but the reply granting him leave came too late. He died on 3 February 1878 at Norsewood, aged 38 years, survived by his wife and five young children.