Colony of New Zealand

The Colony of New Zealand was a British colony that existed in New Zealand from 1841 to 1907, created as a Crown colony. The power of the British Government was vested in a governor, but the colony was granted self-government in 1852. The 1852 Constitution was inaugurated after the first parliament was elected in 1853, and the first government of New Zealand was formed in 1856. The Colony of New Zealand had three capitals: Old Russell (1841), Auckland (1841–1865), and Wellington (after 1865). In 1907, the colony became the Dominion of New Zealand with a more explicit recognition of self-government within the British Empire.

Colony of New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand
Flag of the United Kingdom (1841–1907)
Flag 1902–1907 (top)
1841–1902 (bottom)
Motto: "Dieu et mon droit"
"God and my right"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen/King"
StatusColony of the United Kingdom
CapitalOld Russell (1841)
Common languagesEnglish, Māori
GovernmentCrown colony (1841–1852)
Self-governing colony (1852–1907)
• 1841–1901
• 1901–1907
Edward VII
• 1841–1842
William Hobson (first)
• 1904–1907
William Plunket (last)
• 1856
Henry Sewell (first)
• 1906–1907
Joseph Ward (last)
LegislatureGeneral Assembly1
• Upper chamber
Legislative Council
• Lower chamber
House of Representatives
Historical eraVictorian era
• Separation from Colony of New South Wales
1 July 1841
30 June 1852
• Dominion status
26 September 1907
CurrencyNew Zealand pound
ISO 3166 codeNZ
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Colony of New South Wales
United Tribes of New Zealand
Dominion of New Zealand
1. The General Assembly first sat in 1854, under the provisions of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.


Following the proclamation of sovereignty over New Zealand from Sydney in January 1840, Captain William Hobson came to New Zealand and issued the same proclamation on 1 February 1840.[1] The Treaty of Waitangi was subsequently signed on 6 February 1840, William Hobson declaring British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand on 21 May 1840 in two separate formal declarations. In the first declaration, Hobson declared British sovereignty over the North Island. The basis for the claim over the North Island was the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori and the British Crown. In the English version of the treaty, Māori ceded sovereignty in return for the rights, privileges and protection of being a British subject. However, the Māori translation of the treaty referred to kawanatanga which is generally translated as governance rather than sovereignty and this point remains a subject of much controversy and political debate.[2] In the second declaration, Hobson declared British sovereignty over the South Island and Stewart Island on the basis of "first discovery" by Captain James Cook in 1769.

Initially, New Zealand was part of the Colony of New South Wales, and Lieutenant-Governor Hobson was answerable to his superior, the Governor of New South Wales.[3] By letters patent, the British government issued the Charter for Erecting the Colony of New Zealand on 16 November 1840.[3] The Charter stated that the Colony of New Zealand would be established as a Crown colony separate from New South Wales on 1 July 1841.[3]

Crown colony

Provinces of new zealand 1841
The provinces of New Zealand, as they were originally established, in 1841, with the creation of the colony

With the establishment of the Crown colony, Hobson became Governor of New Zealand. The first organs of the New Zealand Government were also established to assist the Governor: an Executive Council and a legislative council.[4]

The Executive Council consisted of the attorney-general, colonial secretary, and colonial treasurer. The Legislative Council consisted of the governor, Executive Council, and three justices of the peace appointed by the governor.[4] The Legislative Council had the power to issue Ordinances, statutory instruments.[5]

The colony was divided into three provinces: New Ulster Province (the North Island), New Munster Province (the South Island), and New Leinster Province (Stewart Island).

Self-governing colony

(1899) MAP OF NEW ZEALAND - comp. by Irvine
1899 map of the Colony of New Zealand and its counties

As new European settlements were founded in the colony, demands for self-government became louder. The New Zealand Company settlement of Port Nicholson (Wellington) had its own elected council, which was forcibly dissolved by Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson in 1840.[6] Later, Wellington became the centre of agitation by settlers for representative government led by Samuel Revans, who founded the Wellington Settlers' Constitutional Association in 1848.[7]

The first New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in 1846, though Governor George Grey was opposed to provisions that would divide the country into European and Māori districts. As a result, almost all of the Act was suspended for six years pending a new Act of 1852, with the only operative part of the 1846 Act being the creation of New Zealand's first provinces. In the meantime, Grey drafted his own Act which established both provincial and central representative assemblies, and allowed for Māori districts[8] and an elected governor. The latter proposal was rejected by the Parliament of the United Kingdom when it adopted Grey's constitution.

1851 population estimates

The six provinces formed in 1853 were Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago, though in 1858 New Plymouth was renamed Taranaki.

District / Settlement Males Females Total Percent
    Auckland 5,282 4,148 9,430 35.3%
    Windsor (near Auckland)
     Bay of Islands
     Smaller settlements
New Plymouth 845 687 1,532 5.7%
Wellington 3,613 2,796 6,409 24.0%
New Ulster 9,740 7,631 17,371 65.0%
Nelson 2,317 1,970 4,287 16.1%
    Akaroa 1,965 1,308 3,273 12.3%
     Rest of province
Otago 1,013 763 1,776 6.6%
New Munster 2,978 2,071 9,336 35.0%
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Colony of New Zealand 15,035 11,672 26,707 100.0%
Source: Dominion Committee[9] Blue Books[10][11]

1852 Constitution Act

The second New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in 1852 and became the central constitutional document of the colony. It created the General Assembly, which consisted of the Legislative Council and an elected House of Representatives.[12] The first general election for the House of Representatives was held on between 14 July and 1 October 1853. The 1st New Zealand Parliament was opened on 24 May 1854.[13] The Administrator of Government, Robert Wynyard, was quickly confronted by the demands of the new parliament that responsible government be granted to the colony immediately; on 2 June the House of Representatives passed a resolution, sponsored by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, to that effect. Wynyard refused, stating that the Colonial Office made no mention of responsible government in its dispatches. The Executive Council advised Wynyard against implementing responsible government, and in the meantime he sent a dispatch to London requesting clarification. Wynyard then offered to add some elected members of parliament to the Executive Council, and appointed James FitzGerald, Henry Sewell and Frederick Weld to the council. The compromise worked for a few weeks but on 1 August parliament demanded complete power to appoint ministers. Wynyard refused, and all three MPs resigned from the council. In response, Wynyard prorogued parliament for two weeks. On 31 August, he appointed Thomas Forsaith, Jerningham Wakefield and James Macandrew to the Executive Council, but when parliament met again, it moved a motion of no confidence in the members.

Parliament met on 8 August 1855, by which time Wynyard had received instructions from the Colonial Office to introduce responsible government. The new governor, Sir Thomas Gore Browne, arrived on 6 September 1855 and relieved Wynyard of his duties.[14] On 28 January 1858, Wynyard was appointed to the Legislative Council.[15]

Governor Thomas Gore Browne subsequently announced that self-government would begin with the 2nd New Zealand Parliament, elected in 1855.[16] Henry Sewell was asked by the governor to form a government, now known as the Sewell Ministry. He became colonial secretary—effectively the first Premier of New Zealand—on 7 May.[17] Sewell's government was short-lived, however. The leader of the provincialist (pro-provinces) faction, William Fox, defeated Sewell's government on 20 May 1856.[18] Fox himself, however, did not retain office for long, being defeated by Edward Stafford, a moderate.

Elevation to Dominion

Edward VII.-Großbritannien
In 1907, Edward VII declared New Zealand to be a Dominion.

The Colony of New Zealand continued until 26 September 1907, when, as a result of a decision by the 1907 Imperial Conference and by request of the New Zealand government, King Edward VII declared New Zealand to be a Dominion. On the same day, the King issued another Royal Proclamation granting the Colony of Newfoundland the status of Dominion of Newfoundland. The 1907 change from Colony to Dominion was largely symbolic, and New Zealand did not become independent until the General Assembly of New Zealand enacted the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947, which applied the Statute of Westminster 1931 to the Dominion of New Zealand (although the United Kingdom retained the right to legislate for New Zealand at its request); certain colonial enactments survived for sometime after—the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was finally replaced by the Constitution Act 1986.

Royal Proclamation

A Royal Proclamation granting New Zealand Dominion status was issued on 26 September 1907.

It read – "Edward R. & I. Whereas We have on the Petition of the Members of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives of Our Colony of New Zealand determined that the title of Dominion of New Zealand shall be substituted for that of the Colony of New Zealand as the designation of the said Colony, We have therefore by and with the advice of Our Privy Council thought fit to issue this Our Royal Proclamation and We do ordain, declare and command that on and after the twenty-sixth day of September, one thousand nine hundred and seven, the said Colony of New Zealand and the territory belonging thereto shall be called and known by the title of the Dominion of New Zealand. And We hereby give Our Commands to all Public Departments accordingly. Given at Our Court at Buckingham Palace, this ninth day of September, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seven, and in the seventh year of Our Reign. God save the King."[19]


The first flag used by the Colony of New Zealand was the British Union Flag. This began to change with the Colonial Navy Defence Act 1865, which required all ships owned by colonial governments to fly the defaced Royal Navy blue ensign with a colonial badge. New Zealand did not have a colonial badge, or indeed a coat of arms of its own at this stage, and so the letters "NZ" were added to the blue ensign.[20] The Colony New Zealand used the same royal coat of arms as the United Kingdom.

In 1869, Albert Hastings Markham, a first lieutenant on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Blanche, submitted a national ensign design to Sir George Bowen, the Governor of New Zealand.[21] It was initially used only on government ships, but was adopted as the de facto national flag in a surge of patriotism arising from the Second Boer War in 1902. To end confusion between the various designs of the flag, the Liberal Government passed the Ensign and Code Signals Bill, which was approved by King Edward VII on 24 March 1902,[22] declaring the flag as New Zealand's national flag.

Flag of the United Kingdom

The Union Flag was used exclusively until 1867.

Flag of New Zealand Government Ships 1867

The naval flag of New Zealand, 1867–1869

Flag of New Zealand

The national flag 1869, formally adopted in 1902

See also


  1. ^ Before Hobson. T Simpson. Blythwood Press. Wellington. 2015.
  2. ^ "Differences between the texts – Read the Treaty". NZ History. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Moon, Paul (2010). New Zealand Birth Certificates – 50 of New Zealand's Founding Documents. AUT Media. ISBN 9780958299718.
  4. ^ a b "Crown colony era – the Governor-General". 30 August 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  6. ^ Simpson, K. A. "Hobson, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  7. ^ Coleridge, Kathleen A. "Samuel Revans". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Constitution Act 1852 – English Version". 30 June 1852. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  10. ^ Blue Books: Statistics Information 1840 – 1855 Archives New Zealand Download: New Munster population | (Page 133)
  11. ^ Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand By New Zealand. Parliament. House of Representatives
  12. ^ Wilson, John (March 2009). "Government and nation – The constitution [See Pages 2 and 3]". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  13. ^ Gavin McLean (2006), The Governors, Otago University Press, p. 50
  14. ^ Rogers, Frank. "Wynyard, Robert Henry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  15. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 88.
  16. ^ McIntyre, W. David. "Sewell, Henry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  17. ^ McIntyre, W. David. "FitzGerald, James Edward". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  18. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 31.
  19. ^ See Proclamation of the Dominion of New Zealand (London, 9 September 1907), archived on WikiSource
  20. ^ Volker Preuß. "Flagge Neuseeland" (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2003.
  21. ^ "Rear-Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service". Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  22. ^ "New Zealand Signalling Ensign" (in Italian). Retrieved 20 August 2004.
  • Peter Spiller et al. (2001, 2nd ed.) A New Zealand Legal History (Brookers: Wellington).
1907 Imperial Conference

The Imperial Conference of 1907 was convened in London on 15 April 1907 as the Colonial Conference of 1907 and concluded on 14 May 1907. During the sessions a resolution was passed renaming this and future meetings Imperial Conferences. The chairman of the conference was British prime minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

The conference decided to cease referring to self-governing British colonies as colonies and conferred upon them dominion status. Canada and Australia were referred to as dominions in the conferences statements while Newfoundland Colony and the Colony of New Zealand were granted dominion status by Royal Proclamation on 26 September. Natal and Cape Colony would unite with the two Boer colonies of Orange River Colony and Transvaal Colony, which had been given self-government in 1907, to form the Union of South Africa as a dominion in 1910.

The possibilities of Irish Home Rule and self-governance for India were also discussed. Imperial preference was raised but rejected by the British prime minister due to British support for free trade.

Dominion of New Zealand

The Dominion of New Zealand (Māori: Te Tominiana o Aotearoa) was the historical successor to the Colony of New Zealand. It was a constitutional monarchy with a high level of self-government within the British Empire.

New Zealand became a separate British Crown colony in 1841 and received responsible government with the Constitution Act in 1852. New Zealand chose not to take part in Australian Federation and became the Dominion of New Zealand on 26 September 1907, Dominion Day, by proclamation of King Edward VII. Dominion status was a public mark of the political independence that had evolved over half a century through responsible government.

Just under one million people lived in New Zealand in 1907 and cities such as Auckland and Wellington were growing rapidly. The Dominion of New Zealand allowed the British Government to shape its foreign policy, and it followed Britain into the First World War. The 1923 and 1926 Imperial Conferences decided that New Zealand should be allowed to negotiate its own political treaties, and the first commercial treaty was ratified in 1928 with Japan. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the New Zealand Government made its own decision to enter the war.

In the post-war period, the term Dominion has fallen into disuse. Full independence was granted with the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and adopted by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947. However, the 1907 royal proclamation of Dominion status has never been revoked and remains in force today.

Edward Conolly (judge)

Edward Tennyson Conolly (31 August 1822 – 8 November 1908) was a New Zealand lawyer, politician and judge.

Conolly was born in Chichester, Sussex, England on 31 August 1822, and was the son of noted physician John Conolly.

He represented the Marlborough electorate of Picton in Parliament from 1881 to 1887, when he retired.He was the Minister of Justice 1882–1884 and Attorney-General 1883–1884.

Frederick Whitaker

Sir Frederick Whitaker (23 April 1812 – 4 December 1891) was an English-born New Zealand politician who served twice as the Prime Minister of New Zealand and six times as Attorney-General.

George Arney

Sir George Alfred Arney (1810 – 7 April 1883) was the second Chief Justice of New Zealand.

Henry Samuel Chapman

Henry Samuel Chapman (21 July 1803 – 27 December 1881) was an Australian and New Zealand judge, colonial secretary, attorney-general, journalist and politician.

James Prendergast (judge)

Sir James Prendergast (10 December 1826 – 27 February 1921) was the third Chief Justice of New Zealand. Prendergast was the first Chief Justice to be appointed on the advice of a responsible New Zealand government, but is chiefly noted for his far-reaching decision in Wi Parata v The Bishop of Wellington in which he described the Treaty of Waitangi as "a simple nullity"

Jermyn Symonds

Captain John Jermyn Symonds (4 January 1816 – 3 January 1883) was a 19th-century Member of Parliament in Auckland, New Zealand. He purchased land for the New Zealand Company and was later a judge of the Native Land Court.

John Findlay (New Zealand politician)

Sir John George Findlay (21 October 1862 – 7 December 1929) was a New Zealand politician of the Liberal Party, and was a Cabinet minister from 1906 to 1911.

New Leinster Province

New Leinster was a province of the Colony of New Zealand, consisting of Stewart Island/Rakiura and named after the Irish province of Leinster.

Governor William Hobson named the North Island New Ulster, the South Island New Munster and Stewart Island/Rakiura New Leinster after the corresponding regions in Ireland in 1840. In 1840, a Royal Charter created the separate colony of New Zealand and the three main islands were officially named New Ulster, New Munster and New Leinster. Being much smaller than the other two provinces and having almost no population, it existed only on paper, and was governed (to the extent that it was governed at all) from Auckland. New Leinster was merged into the province of New Munster with the passage of the New Zealand Constitution Act in 1846 and all three provinces names were abolished in 1852.

New Ulster Province

New Ulster was a province of the Colony of New Zealand that existed between 1841 and 1853. It was named after the Irish province of Ulster.

New Zealand Constitution Act 1852

The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 (15 & 16 Vict. c. 72) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that granted self-government to the Colony of New Zealand. It was the second such Act, the previous 1846 Act not having been fully implemented.The Act remained in force as part of New Zealand's constitution until it was repealed by the Constitution Act 1986.

The long title of the Act was "An Act to Grant a Representative Constitution to the Colony of New Zealand". The Act received the Royal Assent on 30 June 1852.

New Zealand pound

The pound (symbol £, or NZ£ for distinction) was the currency of New Zealand from 1840 until 1967, when it was replaced by the New Zealand dollar.

Like the British pound, it was subdivided into 20 shillings (symbol s) each of 12 pence (symbol d). As a result of the great depression of the early 1930s, the New Zealand agricultural export market to the UK was badly affected. The Australian banks, which controlled the New Zealand exchanges with London, decided to devalue the New Zealand pound in relation to sterling in the UK. By 1933, the New Zealand pound had fallen to a value of only 16 shillings sterling. In 1948 however, it was once again restored to its original sterling value. In 1967, New Zealand decimalised its currency, replacing the pound with the dollar at a rate of $2 = £1 (or $1 = 10s). In November of that year, the pound sterling devalued, and New Zealand used this as an opportunity to re-align its new dollar to parity with the Australian dollar. For a more general view of history in the wider region, see History of pound sterling in Oceania.

Patrick Buckley (New Zealand politician)

Sir Patrick Alphonsus Buckley (circa 1841 – 18 May 1896) was a New Zealand soldier, lawyer, statesman, and judge who held several high government posts in Wellington in the early 1890s.

Robert Hart (politician)

Robert Hart (1814 – 16 September 1894) was a 19th-century New Zealand politician.

Robert Stout

Sir Robert Stout (28 September 1844 – 19 July 1930) was a New Zealand politician who was the 13th Premier of New Zealand on two occasions in the late 19th century, and later Chief Justice of New Zealand. He was the only person to hold both these offices. He was noted for his support of liberal causes such as women's suffrage, and for his strong belief that philosophy and theory should always triumph over political expediency.

Thomas Gillies

Thomas Bannatyne Gillies (17 January 1828 – 26 July 1889) was a 19th-century New Zealand lawyer, judge and politician.

William Martin (judge)

Sir William Martin (1807 – 18 November 1880) was the first Chief Justice of New Zealand, from 1841 until he resigned in 1857.

William Richmond

Christopher William Richmond (12 July 1821 – 3 August 1895), generally called William Richmond, was a 19th-century New Zealand politician. He held a number of Cabinet positions between 1856 and 1861. He worked as a lawyer and was appointed a senior judge.

New Zealand articles

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