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A note on the annexation of New Zealand

Before the annexation of New Zealand, British citizens were arriving in large numbers, settling in a country which by all accounts was a no man’s land. There was no law and order, and as time went by Great Britain recognized that there was a need to control its people who were settling in this country. A form of formal sovereignty was necessary to overview the British populated areas of New Zealand.

The use of Imperial Troops to achieve this however, was never considered an option. Instead, the preparation of a Treaty with Māori was planned, by which it could be stated that New Zealand had become a member of the British Empire of her own accord. The British promised equal rights for both Māori and British, promising also to honour Māori ownership of land, including Māori fishing rights.

Captain William Hobson was sent to negotiate the Treaty. He had the authority to become Lieutenant Governor, but this title did not legally grant him the right to constitute a government.

In order to overcome this, the colony of New South Wales extended its jurisdiction to encompass areas in New Zealand which had been ceded to the Queen. This meant that when Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over the totality of New Zealand in 1840, government was introduced at the same time.

From 1840 New South Wales laws applied to New Zealand, and new laws passed by the New South Wales Legislative Council took effect in New Zealand as well. By means of this governmental system, the British were able to commence procedures for separating New Zealand from New South Wales.

After the drawing up of a charter, Hobson became Governor in 1841, being directly answerable to the British Minister in charge of the Colonial Office.

Laws and the administration of laws were now able to be introduced, backed by the authority of the British Empire. New Zealand became part of the British Empire, and the Queen was able to delegate powers to a Governor.

New Zealand began to evolve towards independence around the time of the Second World War. In 1947 New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster, and a short time later, in 1950, abolished the Upper House of Parliament which had been created by the Imperial Act of 1852. The members of this House had until then always been appointed by the Crown, on nomination by the Government.

Up until the 1970s, the Governor-General of New Zealand had always been a high standing British citizen, whose task was to represent the King or Queen. Once the Governor-General’s term was over he returned to Great Britain. This changed in the 1980s, when the Governor-General became a New Zealander. In 1986 a New Zealand Act replaced the Imperial New Zealand Constitution Act.

In the 1980s Britain turned more towards Europe, and the links which bonded New Zealand and Britain, such as a common sterling currency, shared nationality, privileges of trade and investment etc., lessened. The British identity which had always associated with New Zealand began to fade.

Source : Governing New Zealand - G.A. Wood (Longman Paul)

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