New Zealand History/The Colonial Government

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The Colonial Government edit

The Colonial New Zealand flag

After New Zealand was annexed by Britain, it was initially set up as a dependency of New South Wales. However, by 1841, New Zealand was made a colony in its own right. As a colony, it inherited political practices and institutions of government from the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom Government started the first New Zealand Government by appointing governors, being advised by appointed executive and legislative councils.

In 1852, the British Parliament passed the New Zealand Constitution Act, which provided for the elected House of Representatives and Legislative Council. The General Assembly (the House and Council combined) first met in 1854.

New Zealand was effectively self-governing in all domestic matters except 'native policy' by 1856. Control over native policy was passed to the Colonial Government in the mid-1860s.

The first capital of the country was Russell, located in the Bay of Islands, declared by Governor Hobson after New Zealand was formally annexed. In September 1840, Hobson changed the capital to the shores of the Waitematā Harbour where Auckland was founded. The seat of Government was centralised in Wellington by 1865.

Provincial Governments in New Zealand

The boundaries of the former New Zealand provinces

From 1841 until 1876, provinces had their own provincial governments. Originally, there were only three provinces, set up by the Royal Charter:

  • New Ulster (North Island north of Patea River)
  • New Munster (North Island south of Patea River, plus the South Island)
  • New Leinster (Stewart Island)

In 1846, the provinces were reformed. The New Leinster province was removed, and the two remaining provinces were enlarged and separated from the Colonial Government. The reformed provinces were:

  • New Ulster (All of North Island)
  • New Munster (The South Island plus Stewart Island)

The provinces were reformed yet again by the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. In this constitution, the old provinces of New Ulster and New Munster were abolished and six new provinces were set up:

  • Auckland
  • New Plymouth
  • Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Canterbury
  • Otago

Each province had its own legislature that elected its own Speaker and Superintendent. Any male 21 years or older that owned freehold property worth £50 a year could vote. Elections were held every four years.

Four new provinces were introduced between November 1858 and December 1873. Hawkes Bay broke away from Wellington, Marlborough from Nelson, Westland from Canterbury, and Southland from Otago.

Not long after they had begun, provincial governments were a matter for political debate in the General Assembly. Eventually, under the premiership of Harry Atkinson, the Colonial Government passed the Abolition of Provinces Act 1876, which wiped out the provincial governments, replacing them with regions. Provinces finally ceased to exist on the 1st of January 1877.

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