Colony of New Zealand

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Colony of New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand.svg
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Flag 1902–1907 (top)
1841–1902 (bottom)
Motto: " Dieu et mon droit "
"God and my right"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen/King"
New Zealand (orthographic projection) 2.svg
StatusColony of the United Kingdom
Capital Old Russell (1841)
Common languagesEnglish, Māori
Government Crown colony (1841–1852)
Self-governing colony (1852–1907)
Edward VII
William Hobson (first)
William Plunket (last)
Henry Sewell (first)
Joseph Ward (last)
LegislatureGeneral Assembly1
 Upper chamber
Legislative Council
 Lower chamber
House of Representatives
Historical era Victorian era
 Separation from Colony of New South Wales
1 July 1841
30 June 1852
 Dominion status
26 September 1907
Currency New Zealand pound
ISO 3166 code NZ
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Colony of New South Wales
Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand.svg United Tribes of New Zealand
Dominion of New Zealand Flag of New Zealand.svg
1. The General Assembly first sat in 1854, under the provisions of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.

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 the governor of New Zealand, but the colony was granted self-government in 1852. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was passed and the first parliament was elected in 1853; the first responsible government 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.



William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi WilliamHobsonGovNZ.jpg
William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi

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

The provinces of New Zealand, as they were originally established, in 1841, with the creation of the colony Provinces of new zealand 1841.PNG
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 the Colony of New Zealand and its counties (1899) MAP OF NEW ZEALAND - comp. by Irvine.jpg
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 / SettlementMalesFemalesTotalPercent
     Auckland 5,2824,1489,43035.3%
     Windsor (near Auckland)
     Bay of Islands
     Smaller settlements
New Plymouth 8456871,5325.7%
Wellington 3,6132,7966,40924.0%
New Ulster 9,7407,63117,37165.0%
Nelson 2,3171,9704,28716.1%
     Akaroa 1,9651,3083,27312.3%
     Rest of province
Otago 1,0137631,7766.6%
New Munster 2,9782,0719,33635.0%
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Colony of New Zealand15,03511,67226,707100.0%
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

In 1907, Edward VII declared New Zealand to be a Dominion. King-Edward-VII (crp ret).jpg
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 Naval 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.

See also

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  15. Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 88.
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  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.