Realm of New Zealand

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The Realm of New Zealand consists of the entire area (or realm) in which the monarch of New Zealand functions as head of state. The Realm of New Zealand is not a federation; it is a collection of states and territories united under its monarch. New Zealand is an independent and sovereign state. It has one Antarctic territorial claim (the Ross Dependency), one dependent territory (Tokelau), and two associated states (the Cook Islands and Niue). [1]

Realm community or territory over which a sovereign rules

A realm is a community or territory over which a sovereign rules. The term is commonly used to describe a kingdom or other monarchical or dynastic state. A realm may also be a subdivision within an empire, if it has its own monarch, e.g. the German Empire.

A head of state is the public persona who officially embodies a state in its unity and legitimacy. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government and more.

Federation A union of partially self-governing states or territories united by a central government that exercises power over them

A federation is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal political body. Alternatively, the federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between a central authority and a number of constituent regions so that each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs. It is often argued that federal states where the central government has the constitutional authority to suspend a constituent state's government by invoking gross mismanagement or civil unrest, or to adopt national legislation that overrides or infringe on the constituent states' powers by invoking the central government's constitutional authority to ensure "peace and good government" or to implement obligations contracted under an international treaty, are not truly federal states.


The Ross Dependency has no permanent inhabitants, while Tokelau, the Cook Islands and Niue have indigenous populations. The United Nations formally classifies Tokelau as a non-self-governing territory; the Cook Islands and Niue are internally self-governing, with New Zealand retaining responsibility for defence and for most foreign affairs. The governor-general of New Zealand represents the monarch throughout the Realm of New Zealand, though the Cook Islands have an additional Queen's Representative.

The indigenous peoples of Oceania are Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians, Papuans and Australian Aboriginals. With the notable exceptions of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and Guam, indigenous peoples make up the majority of the populations of Oceania.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international cooperation, and being a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. It is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. The UN is headquartered on international territory in New York City; other main offices are in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague.

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories UN General Assembly document listing places that are not self-governing and subject to decolonization

The United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories is a list of places that the United Nations General Assembly deems to be "non-self-governing" and subject to the decolonization process. Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter embodies a "Declaration on Non-Self-Governing Territories" which declares that the interests of the occupants of dependent territories are paramount and requires member states of the United Nations in control of non-self-governing territories to submit annual information reports concerning the development of those territories. Since 1946, the General Assembly has maintained a list of non-self governing territories under member states' control. Since its inception, dozens of territories have been removed from the list, typically when they attained independence or internal self-government, while other territories have been added as new administering countries joined the United Nations or the General Assembly reassessed the status of certain territories.


The monarch of New Zealand, represented by the governor-general of New Zealand, is head of state throughout the Realm of New Zealand. The New Zealand monarchy is unitary throughout all jurisdictions in the realm, with the headship of state being a part of all equally. [2] The exact scope of the realm is defined by the 1983 Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand. [3]

Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand Royal decree in New Zealand

The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand is a royal decree and a part of the uncodified New Zealand constitution. Sometimes known as the Letters Patent 1983, the instrument has been amended twice since its original issue in 1983. The letters patent—essentially an open letter from the monarch that is a legal instrument—constitutes the office of governor-general as the monarch's representative in the Realm of New Zealand, vests executive authority in the governor-general, establishes the Executive Council to advise the governor-general, and makes provision for the exercise of the governor-general's powers should the office be vacant.

The Cook Islands and Niue became New Zealand's first Pacific colonies in 1901 and then protectorates. From 1965 the Cook Islands were self-governing; so was Niue from 1974. Tokelau came under New Zealand control in 1925 and remains a non-self-governing territory. [4]

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

The Ross Dependency comprises that sector of the Antarctic continent between 160° east and 150° west longitude, together with the islands lying between those degrees of longitude and south of latitude 60° south. [5] The British (imperial) government took possession of this territory in 1923 and entrusted it to the administration of New Zealand. Neither Russia nor the United States recognises this claim, and the matter is left unresolved (along with all other Antarctic claims) by the Antarctic Treaty, which serves to mostly smooth over these differences. It is largely uninhabited, apart from scientific bases.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), it is, by a considerable margin, the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

New Zealand citizenship law treats all parts of the realm equally, so most people born in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency before 2006 are New Zealand citizens. Further conditions apply for those born from 2006 onwards. [6]

NZL orthographic NaturalEarth labelled en.svg
The locations of New Zealand (with its major and outlying islands annotated), Niue, Tokelau, and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The Ross Dependency in Antarctica is also shaded.
AreaRepresentative of the QueenHead of the governmentLegislature Capital PopulationLand area
km2sq mi
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Governor-General Prime Minister New Zealand Parliament (House of Representatives) Wellington 4,893,120268,680103,740
Flag of the Cook Islands.svg  Cook Islands Queen's Representative Prime Minister Parliament of the Cook Islands Avarua 21,38823691
Flag of Niue.svg  Niue Representative of the Queen [Note 1] Premier Niue Legislative Assembly Alofi 1,145260100
Flag of Tokelau.svg  Tokelau Administrator Ulu-o-Tokelau General Fono Fakaofo 1,405104
Flag of New Zealand.svg  Ross Dependency Governor [Note 1] None [Note 2] Scott Base Scott Base: 10–85
McMurdo Station: 200–1,000 (seasonally)
  1. 1 2 The Governor General of New Zealand is also the Representative of the Queen of Niue and the Governor of the Ross Dependency, but they are separate posts.
  2. Legislation for the Ross Dependency is enacted by the New Zealand Parliament, though practically this is limited due to the Antarctic Treaty System.


A governor-general represents the head of state—Elizabeth II, in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand—in the area of the realm. Essentially, governors-general take on all the dignities and reserve powers of the head of state. Dame Patsy Reddy was appointed to assume the position on 14 September 2016. [7]

Sovereignty within the Realm

Cook Islands and Niue

Associated states in relation to New Zealand:
New Zealand
The Cook Islands New Zealand (+associated), administrative divisions - Nmbrs - monochrome.svg
Associated states in relation to New Zealand:
  1. New Zealand
  2. Niue
  3. The Cook Islands

Both the Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand. The details of their free association arrangement are contained in several documents, such as their respective constitutions, the 1983 Exchange of Letters between the governments of New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and the 2001 Joint Centenary Declaration. As such, the New Zealand Parliament is not empowered to unilaterally pass legislation in respect of these states. In foreign affairs and defence issues New Zealand acts on behalf of these countries, but only with their advice and consent.[ citation needed ]

As the governor-general is resident in New Zealand, the Cook Islands Constitution provides for the distinct position of Queen's representative. This individual is not subordinate to the governor-general and acts as the local representative of the Queen in right of New Zealand. Since 2013, Tom Marsters is the Queen's representative to the Cook Islands. (Marsters was preceded by Sir Frederick Tutu Goodwin.) This arrangement effectively allows for the de facto independent actions of internal and most external areas of governance.

According to Niue's Constitution of 1974, the governor-general of New Zealand acts as the Queen's representative, and exercises the "executive authority vested in the Crown". [8]

In the Cook Islands and Niue, the New Zealand high commissioner is the diplomatic representative from New Zealand. John Carter (since 2011) is the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, and Ross Ardern (since 2014) is the New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue.

Despite their close relationship to New Zealand, both the Cook Islands and Niue maintain some diplomatic relations in their own name. Both countries maintain High Commissions in New Zealand and have New Zealand High Commissioners resident in their capitals. In Commonwealth practice, High Commissioners represent their governments, not the Head of State.

New Zealand

New Zealand is a sovereign state. At the United Nations, the country is identified in the General Assembly as simply "New Zealand", not as the Realm of New Zealand. [9]

New Zealand proper consists of the following island groups: [10]


Tokelau has a lesser degree of self-government than the Cook Islands and Niue, and had been moving toward free association status. New Zealand's representative in Tokelau is the Administrator of Tokelau and has the power to overturn rules passed by the General Fono (parliament). In referenda conducted in 2006 and 2007 by New Zealand at the United Nations' request, the people of Tokelau failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to attain a system of governance with equal powers to that of Niue and the Cook Islands. [12]

Future of the Realm

Within New Zealand there exists some support [13] [14] for a New Zealand republic. Should New Zealand become a republic it would retain the Ross Dependency and Tokelau as dependent territories and the Realm of New Zealand would continue to exist without New Zealand, the Ross Dependency and Tokelau. [15] This would not be a legal hurdle to a New Zealand republic as such, and both the Cook Islands and Niue would retain their free association with New Zealand. Rights to abode and citizenship, codified in New Zealand legislation by the Citizenship Act 1977, would not change. [16]

However, a New Zealand republic would present the issue of continued allegiance to the Sovereign to the Cook Islands and Niue. [17] Thus, a number of options for the future of the Realm of New Zealand exist should New Zealand become a republic with the Cook Islands and Niue either:

See also

Related Research Articles

Ross Dependency New Zealands territorial claim in Antarctica

The Ross Dependency is a region of Antarctica defined by a sector originating at the South Pole, passing along longitudes 160° east to 150° west, and terminating at latitude 60° south. It is claimed by New Zealand. Since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, Article IV of which states: "No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica," most countries do not recognise territorial claims in Antarctica.

Dominion of New Zealand former dominion of the British Empire

The Dominion of New Zealand 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.

Monarchy of New Zealand constitutional system of government in New Zealand

The monarchy of New Zealand is the constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of New Zealand. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne on the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952. Elizabeth's eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, is heir apparent.

Time in New Zealand

Time in New Zealand is divided by law into two standard time zones. The main islands use New Zealand Standard Time (NZST), 12 hours in advance of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) / military M (Mike), while the outlying Chatham Islands use Chatham Standard Time (CHAST), 12 hours 45 minutes in advance of UTC / military M^ (Mike-Three).

Politics of Tokelau

The politics of Tokelau takes place within a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency. The head of state of Tokelau is Queen Elizabeth II in right of her Realm of New Zealand, who is represented by an Administrator. The monarch is hereditary, the Administrator is appointed by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Republicanism in New Zealand is a political position that holds that New Zealand's system of government should be changed from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.

Queens Representative

The Queen's Representative is the formal title given to the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of New Zealand, in the Cook Islands. The office of Queen's Representative is different from that of the Governor-General of New Zealand.

Administrator of Tokelau New Zealand government administrator

The Administrator of Tokelau is an official of the New Zealand Government, responsible for supervising the government of the dependent territory of Tokelau.

Monarchy in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a constitutional monarchy within the Realm of New Zealand. Under the Cook Islands Constitution, the Sovereign in Right of New Zealand has been Head of State of the Cook Islands since 4 August 1965. The Sovereign is represented by the Queen's Representative; as such, the Queen is the de jure head of state, holding several powers that are hers alone, while the Queen's Representative is sometimes referred to as the de facto head of state. The viceregal position is currently held by Tom Marsters.

The United States shares international land borders with two nations:

Seal of Niue

The Seal of Niue, or the Public Seal of Niue, is the official seal of Niue. It was created in 1974 when Niue gained self-governing status and joined into free association with New Zealand.

There are six monarchies in Oceania; that is: self-governing sovereign states in Oceania where supreme power resides with an individual hereditary head, who is recognised as the head of state. Each is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the sovereign inherits his or her office, usually keeps it until death or abdication, and is bound by laws and customs in the exercise of their powers. Five of these independent states share Queen Elizabeth II as their respective head of state, making them part of a global grouping known as the Commonwealth realms; in addition, all monarchies of Oceania are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The only sovereign monarchy in Oceania that does not share a monarch with another state is Tonga. Australia and New Zealand have dependencies within the region and outside it, although five non-sovereign constituent monarchs are recognized by New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and France.

Political status of the Cook Islands and Niue

The political status of the Cook Islands and Niue is formally defined as being states in free association within the Realm of New Zealand, which is made up of the Cook Islands; Niue; and New Zealand and its territories, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency.


  1. New Zealand's Constitution, New Zealand government, retrieved 20 November 2009
  2. "Tokelau: A History of Government" (PDF). Wellington: Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau. 2008. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  3. Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand (SR 1983/225), New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office, retrieved 20 November 2009
  4. Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Pacific Islands and New Zealand – Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  5. Hare, McLintock, Alexander; Wellington., Ralph Hudson Wheeler, M.A., Senior Lecturer in Geography, Victoria University of; Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu (1966). "The Ross Dependency". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  6. "Check if you're a New Zealand citizen". New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  7. "Reddy for a new Governor General appointment process? | Radio New Zealand News". Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  8. "Niue Constitution Act 1974 No 42 (as at 01 April 1988), Public Act Schedule 2 The Constitution of Niue". New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  9. McIntyre, W. David (2001). A guide to the contemporary Commonwealth. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave. p. 11. ISBN   9781403900951.
  10. Diamond, Jared (1990). Towns, D; Daugherty, C; Atkinson, I (eds.). New Zealand as an archipelago: An international perspective (PDF). Wellington: Conservation Sciences Publication No. 2. Department of Conservation. pp. 3–8.
  11. New Zealand and Antarctica. NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2010
  12. "Tokelau decolonisation high on agenda". The New Zealand Herald . NZPA. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  13. A July 2005 poll published in The Press showed 27% support for the question "Do you support New Zealand becoming a republic?", and 67% opposition.
  14. A poll by The Sunday Star-Times, published on 20 January 2006, stated there was 47% support for a New Zealand republic and 47% support for the monarchy.
  15. 1 2 Townend, Andrew (2003). "The Strange Death of the Realm of New Zealand: The Implications of a New Zealand Republic for the Cook Islands and Niue". Victoria University of Wellington Law Review. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  16. Quentin-Baxter & McLean 2017, p. 114.
  17. Quentin-Baxter & McLean 2017, p. 115.