Political History of New Zealand/Provincial Governments

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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 from Wellington, Marlborough from Nelson, Westland from Canterbury, and Southland from Otago.

Not long after they had begun, Provincial Governments were under 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 1 January 1877.

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