Jump to content

Colony of New Zealand

Coordinates: 41°17′20″S 174°46′38″E / 41.2889°S 174.7772°E / -41.2889; 174.7772
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Colony of New Zealand
Flag of New Zealand
Top: Flag of New Zealand (since 1902)
Bottom: Flag of the United Kingdom (until 1902)
Anthem: "God Save the Queen/King"
StatusBritish colony
CapitalOkiato (1841)
(since 1865)
Common languagesEnglish, Māori (de facto)
Demonym(s)New Zealander
GovernmentCrown colony (1841–1852)
Self-governing colony (1852–1907)
British monarch 
• 1841–1901
• 1901–1907
Edward VII
• 1841–1842
William Hobson (first)
• 1904–1907
William Plunket (last of colony)
• 1856
Henry Sewell (first)
• 1906–1907
Joseph Ward (last of colony)
LegislatureGeneral Assembly1
• Upper chamber
Legislative Council
• Lower chamber
House of Representatives
• Separation from the Colony of New South Wales
3 May 1841[1]
28 August 1846
30 June 1852
26 September 1907
• 1901 census
CurrencyNew Zealand pound
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.

The Colony of New Zealand was a colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that encompassed the islands of New Zealand which was proclaimed by its British settler population in 1841, and which lasted until 1907. The sovereignty of Britain over the islands was initially nominal, before becoming substantive upon the conclusion of the New Zealand Wars, after which Māori sovereignty was essentially overcome. The power of the British Government was vested in the governor of New Zealand. The colony had three successive capitals: Okiato (or Old Russell) in 1841; Auckland from 1841 to 1865; and Wellington from 1865, which continues as the capital of New Zealand today.

Created as a Crown colony, during the early years of British settlement the governor had wide-ranging powers. The colony was granted self-government with the passage of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. The first parliament was elected in 1853, and responsible government was established in 1856. The governor was required to act on the advice of his ministers, who were responsible to the parliament. In 1907, the colony became the Dominion of New Zealand, which heralded 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

Following the extension or the boundaries of New South Wales in January 1840 by Governor Gipps to include New Zealand, William Hobson left Sydney for New Zealand.[2]

The Treaty of Waitangi—between Māori chiefs and British representatives of Queen Victoria—was subsequently signed on 6 February 1840. Hobson declared British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand on 21 May 1840 in two separate declarations. In the first declaration, Hobson declared sovereignty over the North Island on the basis of cession following the Treaty of Waitangi. In the English version of the treaty, Māori ceded sovereignty and received the rights, privileges and protections of being British subjects. The Māori version of the treaty refers to kāwanatanga which is often translated today as governance or government. This point of difference has been a subject of much controversy and political debate.[3][4] In the second declaration, Hobson declared British sovereignty over the South Island and Stewart Island on the basis of discovery, following "first discovery" by Captain James Cook in 1769.

New Zealand had had a close relationship with the Colony of New South Wales from 1788 onwards. The relationship was formalised when a new definition of NSW's boundaries arrived from London on 15 June 1839 which included New Zealand. It stated that the NSW colony would include "any territory which is or may be acquired in sovereignty by Her Majesty ... within that group of Islands in the Pacific Ocean, commonly called New Zealand."[5] This made Lieutenant-Governor Hobson answerable to his superior, the governor of New South Wales. By letters patent, the British (Imperial) Government issued the Charter for Erecting the Colony of New Zealand on 16 November 1840.[1] The Charter stated that the Colony of New Zealand would be established as a de jure Crown colony separate from New South Wales on 3 May 1841.[1]

Issue of sovereignty


Although the status of New Zealand as a Crown colony was recognised under English law, it is generally accepted today that this, nor any transfer of sovereignty, was neither consented to nor immediately recognised by Māori. In 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal report on Stage 1 of the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry found that Māori, specifically Ngāpuhi, never intended to cede sovereignty. "The rangatira who signed te Tiriti o Waitangi in February 1840 did not cede their sovereignty to Britain", the Tribunal concluded. "That is, they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories. The Tribunal conceded as well that rangatira who signed the treaty did agree to share power with Britain, but only to the extent that they "agreed to the Governor having authority to control British subjects in New Zealand, and thereby keep the peace and protect Māori interests", on the understanding, and thus the condition, that Māori and Britain would be equal partners.[6]

According to historian James Belich, sovereignty fell into two categories: nominal (meaning the de jure status of sovereignty, but without the power to govern in practice) and substantive (in which sovereignty can be both legally recognised and widely enforced without competitition). In his 1986 book The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, Belich comments that "There is little doubt that the British had the latter meaning in mind, but it is the former which may have come closer to the Maori understanding of the Treaty."

Given that Māori who signed the Treaty of Waitangi did not seek to give up their sovereignty, and that many iwi managed to retain control over their own dominions for decades afterwards, there is debate as to what extent the 'Colony of New Zealand' really existed as a legal entity. Belich continues that "Certainly, for many years after 1840, 'nominal sovereignty' was much closer to the reality. This ambiguity was a source of friction. The British imagined that they were entitled to govern the Maoris in fact as well as name, although [William Hobson and Robert FitzRoy] were sufficiently realistic to grasp that substantive sovereignty could not be applied comprehensively overnight."[7]

Crown 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 (General) Legislative Council.[8]

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.[8] The Legislative Council had the power to issue laws called Ordinances.[9]

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


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.[10] Later, Wellington became the centre of agitation by settlers for a representative government led by Samuel Revans, who founded the Wellington Settlers' Constitutional Association in 1848.[11]

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 and an elected governor.[12] The latter proposal was rejected by the Parliament of the United Kingdom when it adopted Grey's constitution.

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.[13] The first general election for the House of Representatives was held from 14 July 1853 until early October.[14]

The 1st New Zealand Parliament was opened on 24 May 1854.[15] 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.[citation needed]

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.[16] On 28 January 1858, Wynyard was appointed to the Legislative Council.[17]

Governor Thomas Gore Browne subsequently announced that self-government would begin with the 2nd New Zealand Parliament, elected in 1855.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] Fox himself, however, did not retain office for long, being defeated by Edward Stafford, a moderate.[citation needed]

Elevation to Dominion

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.[21]

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."[22]



Population summary for the census of 1901


Māori were counted separately and not as part of the official census. The total population of the Colony of New Zealand was 772,719 people with the number of "full-blooded" Māori being counted at 43,143 people. The number of "half-castes" living as members of Māori tribes, and others living with and counted as Europeans in the census were counted at 5,540 people.

Persons Males Females
In counties 417,596 231,426 186,170
In boroughs 350,902 170,450 179,752
On adjacent islands 943 589 354
Chatham Islands 207 112 95
Kermadec Islands 8 5 3
On shipboard 3,763 3,410 353
Total for colony 772,719

Māori population

Persons Males Females
North Island 40,715 21,919 13,790
Middle Island (South Island) 1,009 1,022 887
Stewart Islands 112 66 46
Chatham Islands
Māori 180 90 90
Moriori 31 15 16
Māori wives living with European husbands 196 196
Totals 43,143 23,112 20,031
Half-castes living as members of Māori tribes (included in Māori population numbers)
Persons Male Female
North Island 2,517 1,379 1,138
Middle Island (South Island) 551 288 263
Stewart Islands 13 5 8
Chatham Islands
Māori 34 14 20
Moriori 18 8 10
Totals 3,133 1,694 1,439
Half-castes living as members of Māori tribes Half-castes living as Europeans Total half-caste population
1891 2,681 2,184 4,865
1896 3,503 2,259 5,762
1901 3,133 2,407 5,540

Population of principal divisions of New Zealand

Persons Percentage
North Island and adjacent islands 390,571
South Island and adjacent islands 381,661
Stewart Island 272
Chatham Islands 207
Kermadec Islands 8
Totals for colony 772,719 100.0%

1901 population by provincial district

District / Settlement Males Females Total Percent
Auckland 92,944 82,994 175,938 22.77%
Taranaki 20,569 17,286 37,855 4.9%
Hawke's Bay 18,859 16,565 35,424 4.6%
Wellington 74,234 67,120 141,334 18.29%
Marlborough 7,151 6,175 13,326 1.72%
Nelson 20,607 17,308 37,915 4.91%
Westland 8,106 6,400 14,506 1.88%
Canterbury 72,871 70,170 143,041 18.51%
Otago 90,534 82,611 173,145 22.41%
Chatham Islands 112 95 207 0.03%
Kermadec Islands 5 3 8 0.001%
Colony of New Zealand 405,992 366,727 772,719 100.0%
Source: 1901 New Zealand Census[23]

Religion in 1901

Religion Total Percent
Christianity 748,490 96.97%
Church of England and Protestants (not defined) 315,263 40.84%
Presbyterians 176,503 22.87%
Methodists 83,802 10.86%
Baptists 16,035 2.08%
Congregationalists 6,699 0.87%
Lutherans 4,833 0.63%
Salvation Army 7,999 1.04%
Society of Friends 313 0.04%
Unitarians 468 0.06%
Other Protestants 16,877 2.19%
Roman Catholics and Catholics (undefined) 109,822 14.23%
Greek Church 189 0.02%
Other denominations 1,347 0.17%
No denomination 8,240 1.07%
Hebrews (Jews) 1,611 0.21%
Buddhists, Confucians 2,432 0.30%
No religion 1,109 0.14%
Uspecified 882 Nil
Object to state 18,295 2.38%
Colony of New Zealand 772,719 100.0%



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.[24] 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.[25] 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,[26] declaring the flag as New Zealand's national flag.

See also





  1. ^ a b c Moon 2010, p. 66.
  2. ^ Simpson, Tony (2015). Before Hobson. Wellington: Blythswood Press. ISBN 978-0-473-31284-8.[page needed]
  3. ^ "Differences between the texts – Read the Treaty". NZ History. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  4. ^ Orange, Claudia (20 June 2012). "Treaty of Waitangi – Interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  5. ^ "New Zealand becomes a separate colony". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  6. ^ "Report on Stage 1 of the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry Released | Waitangi Tribunal". waitangitribunal.govt.nz. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  7. ^ Belich, J. (2015). The new zealand wars and the victorian interpretation of racial conflict. Auckland University Press, p.21
  8. ^ a b "Crown colony era – the Governor-General". 30 August 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  9. ^ "NO. 21. – Charter for erecting the Colony of New Zealand, and for creating and establishing a Legislative Council and an Executive Council, and for granting certain powers and authorities to the governor for the time being of the said colony". Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  10. ^ Simpson, K. A. "Hobson, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  11. ^ Coleridge, Kathleen A. "Samuel Revans". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Constitution Act 1852 – English Version". 30 June 1852. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  13. ^ Wilson, John (March 2009). "Government and nation [See Pages 2 and 3]". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  14. ^ "165th anniversary of New Zealand's first General Election". www.parliament.nz. New Zealand Parliament. 13 July 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  15. ^ Gavin McLean (2006), The Governors, Otago University Press, p. 50
  16. ^ Rogers, Frank. "Wynyard, Robert Henry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  17. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 88.
  18. ^ McIntyre, W. David. "Sewell, Henry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  19. ^ McIntyre, W. David. "FitzGerald, James Edward". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  20. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 31.
  21. ^ "Constitution Act 1986". New Zealand Legal Information Institute. 1986. Retrieved 4 February 2023.
  22. ^ See Proclamation of the Dominion of New Zealand (London, 9 September 1907), archived on WikiSource
  23. ^ "Report on the Results of a Census of the Colony of New Zealand Taken for the Night of the 31st March, 1901". www3.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  24. ^ Volker Preuß. "Flagge Neuseeland" (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2003.
  25. ^ "Rear-Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service". Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  26. ^ "New Zealand Signalling Ensign" (in Italian). rbvex.it. Retrieved 20 August 2004.



41°17′20″S 174°46′38″E / 41.2889°S 174.7772°E / -41.2889; 174.7772