New Zealand head tax
New Zealand imposed a poll tax on Chinese immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The poll tax was effectively lifted in the 1930s following the invasion of China by Japan, and was finally repealed in 1944. Prime Minister at the time Helen Clark offered New Zealand's Chinese community an official apology for the poll tax on 12 February 2002.
Although Chinese immigrants were invited to New Zealand by the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, prejudice against them quickly led to calls for restrictions on immigration. Following the example of anti-Chinese poll taxes enacted by California in 1852 and by Australian states in the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s, John Hall's government passed the Chinese Immigration Act 1881. This imposed a £10 tax per Chinese person entering New Zealand, and permitted only one Chinese immigrant for every 10 tons of cargo. Richard Seddon's government increased the tax to £100 per head in 1896, and tightened the other restriction to only one Chinese immigrant for every 200 tons of cargo.
The poll tax was waived in 1934 by the Minister of Customs, following Japan's invasion of Manchuria, and the Act was finally repealed in 1944.
Impact of the head tax
As compensation, the government spent NZ$5 million in 2005 to establish a Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust to sponsor events that promotes:
- learning and use of the Cantonese language
- awareness and understanding of the history of Chinese in New Zealand
- the recording and preserving of Chinese New Zealand history
- greater public understanding of ethnic diversity with particular emphasis on the contributions of Chinese New Zealanders
- Chinese arts and culture (including Chinese New Zealand creative and cultural expression).
People who paid the poll tax were not personally compensated.
- "New Zealand Chinese Association Going Bananas Conference - History in the Making".
- "Follow up to apology to Chinese community". Office of Ethnic Affairs. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- Steven Young. "Poll tax". Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust