Table of Contents

List of Tables


THE 1938 edition of the New Zealand Official Year-Book is the forty-sixth number of the volume.

New material appearing in this issue includes an Appendix giving some preliminary results of the 1936 Census of Population; while another feature of special interest is an analysis of certain statistics of dairy-farms collected by the Census and Statistics Department late in 1936.

Additions have been made to the scope of several sections, notably in oases of topics now assuming an added importance. For example, the section on Local Government has been expanded by the inclusion of a brief résumé of the development of local government, together with a description of the functions of the various local-governing authorities. The subsection on Agricultural Production has been largely recast, as have the Descriptive and Historical sections at the commencement of the volume.

The wide variety of subjects covered in a reference work of this nature necessitates brevity of treatment if the size of the volume is to be kept within reasonable limits. Subjects of national importance must, however, be treated adequately; while changes of note affecting the subject-matter of the various sections must be recorded. In these circumstances, difficulty is experienced in maintaining a proper balance as between the treatment of various subjects. The re-introduction in this issue of the section on Statistical Organization (which includes a comprehensive Statistical Bibliography) will, it is hoped, facilitate easy reference to alternative sources of information in respect of subjects which are possibly inadequately treated in the Year-Book.

I wish to record my appreciation of the assistance rendered by members of my staff and by officers of other Government Departments. The exacting editorial duties have again been undertaken by Mr. G. E. F. Wood, M.A., Chief Compiler, to whom my special thanks are due.


Government Statistician.

Census and Statistics Department, Wellington, C.1, New Zealand, 15th December, 1937.


[Following are certain important statistical data for later periods than are included in the body of the Year-Book. The page numbers relate to the appropriate pages in this Year-Book containing more complete information in respect of earlier periods.]

POPULATION (pp. 52–79):—

Estimated population (inclusive of Maoris but exclusive of Cook and other Pacific Islands)—

 As at 30th September—
MIGRATION (pp. 58–64):—1st April to 31st October—
* Excluding through passengers.
    Passenger arrivals*14,94418,385
    Passenger departures*16,89219,308
VITAL STATISTICS (pp. 80–146):—1st January to 30th September—
    Infant Deaths580603
Corresponding yearly rates—  
    Births (per 1,000 mean population)16.5116.98
    Deaths (per 1,000 mean population)8.758.98
    Marriages (per 1,000 mean population)8.949.45
    Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births)31.4231.51
TOTAL TRADE (pp. 217–224):—1936.1937.
  Commodity exports—££
    Ten months ended 31st October48,608,90758,187,404
    Twelve months ended 31st October56,408,11366,330,437
Commodity imports—  
    Ten months ended 31st October35,880,71846,604,991
    Twelve months ended 31st October42,139,32254,983,159
Excess of exports—  
† Excess of imports.
    Ten months ended 31st October12,728,18911,582,413
    Twelve months ended 31st October14,268,79111,347,278

PRINCIPAL EXPORTS (pp. 229–230, 241–242).

Twelve Months ended 31st October,
  £ £
Butter (cwt.)2,788,59815,422,5723,049,19916,610,502
Cheese (cwt.)1,644,5264,899,4751,688,9105,500,914
Frozen meats—    
  Beef (cwt.)525,123647,524505,890645,275
  Lamb (carcases)2,661,7198,583,1662,740,0239,189,144
  Mutton (carcases)906,6121,713,722862,1091,606,465
  Pork (cwt.)607,9951,584,273588,4231,675,644
Chilled beef (cwt.)228,257367,866303,527517,451
Sheep-skins (number)12,590,2791,684,75412,800,1932,284,537
Wool (bales)907,78612,910,614838,90719,240,426
Gold (oz.)175,5111,463,479168,8551,406,398
Timber (sup. ft.)30,393,097289,49717,211,425195,151


Twelve months ended 31st October,
Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes756,335925,664
Miscellaneous apparel and ready-made clothing1,216,2871,784,160
Miscellaneous drapery344,851456,024
Boots, shoes, and slippers482,071710,154
Cotton, silk, and artificial silk piece-goods2,746,2093,279,444
Woollen piece-goods784,1431,152,734
Iron and steel: Bar, bolt, and rod367,656531,221
Galvanized plate and sheet464,601702,375
Electrical machinery (including wireless apparatus)2,098,6993,147,970
Motor-vehicles and motor-cycles4,242,9156,038,955
Rubber tyres for motor-vehicles and motor-cycles675,241820,192
AGRICULTURE (pp. 389–402):—1936–37.1937–38.
  Areas sown (p. 391)—Acres.Acres.
PASTORAL PRODUCTION (pp. 403–428):—1936–37.1937–38.
    Wool production (greasy basis), lb.302,900,000313,000,000
FRUIT PRODUCTION (p. 400):—1935–36.
    Sweet oranges6,90010,400
    Poorman oranges30,00037,400
    Other fruits118,50054,600


* Excluding establishments exclusively engaged in malting.
Meat freezing and preserving—  
  Total persons engaged No.7,6927,665
  Salaries and wages paid £1,634,1851,865,282
  Value of output £17,514,04920,769,869
    Added value £3,058,5663,551,616
  Total persons engaged No.728743
  Salaries and wages paid £164,546169,291
  Value of output £2,302,0612,348,855
    Added value £493,681493,550
Biscuit, confectionery, and sugar-boiling works—  
  Total persons engaged No.2,8623,127
  Salaries and wages paid £314,717392,606
  Value of output £1,688,1911,964,130
    Added value £813,122992,743
Breweries and malthouses*  
  Total persons engaged No.868990
  Salaries and wages paid £218,907253,874
  Value of output (including beer duty) £1,925,8772,320,867
    Added value £834,053978,087
Soap and candle works—  
  Total persons engaged No.492553
  Salaries and wages paid £89,187107,259
  Value of output £574,191578,569
    Added value £296,128279,091
  Total persons engaged No.543571
  Salaries and wages paid £104,888117,755
  Value of output £519,157614,113
    Added value £210,692217,565
Superphosphates and chemical fertilizers—  
  Total persons engaged No.690753
  Salaries and wages paid £149,020186,208
  Value of output £1,360,1231,498,228
    Added value £539,428597,020
Boot and shoe manufacturing—  
  Total persons engaged No.2,7883,108
  Salaries and wages paid £360,684438,084
  Value of output £1,140,6461,384,186
    Added value £534,340648,442
Woollen mills—  
  Total persons engaged No.2,6322,792
  Salaries and wages paid £360,782405,484
  Value of output £1,005,8301,230,829
    Added value £592,741653,292
Hosiery factories—  
  Total persons engaged No.1,0121,226
  Salaries and wages paid £114,379146,623
  Value of output £461,653564,990
    Added value £248,236258,715
TRANSPORT (pp. 284–336):— Twelve Months ended October—
* As at, 30th September.
  Shipping (pp. 284–290)—   
    Overseas, inwardsNumber641617
    Overseas, outwardsNumber640610
  Railways (pp. 291–301)—   
    Net ton-miles runNumber476,000,000542,000,000
    Passenger journeysNumber20,918,59021,912,050
    Operating revenue£6,616,4117,378,757
    Operating expenditure£5,908,1036,989,919
  Road (pp. 309–324)—   
    Motor-vehicles licensed* 217,782241,063
 Six Months ended 30th September—
CONSOLIDATED FUND (pp. 548–550): —££


Prices index numbers (pp. 738–759):—  
  Retail—Month of October.
    Food (1926–30 = 1000)894985
    All groups (1926–30 = 1000)876938
  Wholesale—All groups (1909–13 = 1000)1,4251529
  Export—All groups (1909–13 = 1000)1,2621486
  Share prices—All groups (1926 = 1000)957977
Mortgages registered (pp. 704–707) £1,676,8111,578,785
Mortgages discharged (pp. 704–707) £1,777,9991,613,277
Land-transfers registered (p. 350) £1,623,4102,446,291
Pensions (pp. 590–607):—  
    Annual value £2,475,0003,279,513
    Annual value £1,519,0001,544,766
  Family allowances—  
    Annual value £145,000101,453
  Trading banks—  
    Debits, weekly average (excluding Government), (p. 648) £14,782,85918,237,762
    Ratio of advances to deposits (p. 646) Per cent.75.9680.87
  Reserve Bank—29th November.
    Net reserve ratio (p. 640) Per cent.76.0874.77
    Gold (p. 640) £2,801,7902,801,791
    Exchange (p. 640) £16,578,68116,586,526
  Net note circulation (p. 649) £8,668,7659,547,346
 25th October.
  Overseas funds of banks (p. 650) £31,451,27828,024,490
 25th September.
Number of unemployed males (p. 804)49,41936,450


Title.Latest No.Month of Issue.Price per Copy.Postage (extra).
* £1 1s. per annum (post free).
New Zealand Official Year-Book1938Jan., 1938766
Annual Statistical Reports—     
  Population and Buildings1935–36Jan., 1937262
  Vital Statistics1935Jan., 1937505
  Justice1936Sept., 1937262
  Trade and Shipping (Part I)1936Sept., 19372006
  Trade and Shipping (Part II)1935Dec., 1936364
  Agricultural and Pastoral Production1935–36Jan., 1937262
  Factory and Building Production1935–36April, 1937363
  Insurance1935Mar., 1937202
  Miscellaneous (Prices, Wage-rates and Hours of Labour, Unemployment, Industrial Accidents, Tramways, Banking, Building Societies, Bankruptcy, Commercial Afforestation, Incomes and Income-tax, Statistical Summary)1935Aug., 1937404
Local Authorities Handbook of New Zealand (published annually)1937Nov., 1937766
Monthly Abstract of Statistics  26*1
Volumes of 1936 Census Results—     
  Increase and Location of Population1936Sept., 1937464
  Dependencies1936Sept., 1937161
  Poultry1936Sept., 1937161
(Other volumes to follow)     

NOTE.—This list is subject to revision from time to time. Publications are obtainable from the Government Printer, Wellington.



CONSISTING of two large and several smaller islands, the Dominion of New Zealand lies in the South Pacific Ocean some 1,200 miles to the eastward of Australia. With South America some 6,000 miles distant to the east and the Antarctic-Continent 1,600 miles distant to the south, the Islands are, for their size, among the world's most isolated. For statistical purposes the following classification of the administrative area is the most convenient:

  1. Islands forming the Dominion proper (total area, 103,415 square miles):—

     Square Miles.
    North Island and adjacent islets44,281
    South Island and adjacent islets58,092
    Stewart Island and adjacent islets670
    Chatham Islands372

    In all further references in this volume, unless the context indicates the contrary, Chatham Islands and Stewart Island are included with the South Island. It should be noted also that statistics for “the Dominion” and for “New Zealand” refer to the above group of islands, unless it is expressly stated that the outlying islands, group (b), and/or the annexed islands, group (c), are included. This definition is in accord with popular usage.

  2. Outlying islands (total area, 307 square miles) included within the geographical boundaries of New Zealand as proclaimed in 1847, but none of which is inhabited:—

     Square Miles.
    Three Kings Islands3
    Auckland Islands234
    Campbell Island44
    Antipodes Islands24
    Bounty Islands
    Snares Islands1
    Solander Island
  3. Islands (total area, 212 square miles) annexed to New Zealand:—

    Kermadec Islands, annexed in 1887 (area, 13 square miles).

    Cook and other Pacific Islands, annexed in 1901:—

    Cook Islands (area, 84 square miles)—

    Mangaia.Mauke (or Parry).
    Mitiaro.Manuae (or Hervey Islands).

    Islands outside the Cook Group (area, 115 square miles)—

    Niue (or Savage).Rakahanga (or Reirson).
    Palmerston (or Avarau).Pukapuka (or Danger).
    Penrhyn (or Tongareva).Suwarrow (or Anchorage).
    Manihiki (or Humphrey).Nassau.

The total area of the foregoing groups is 103,934 square miles. Elsewhere in this issue (viz., in the section on land tenure, settlement, &c.) the aggregate area of the Dominion appears as 66,390,196 acres—i.e., 103,735 square miles. The matter area does not include the Cook and other Pacific Islands annexed in 1901.

As well as exercising jurisdiction over the areas already mentioned, the Dominion also administers the Union Islands, the Ross Dependency, and Western Samoa (which is held on a mandate from the League of Nations). Jointly with the Imperial Government and the Government of Australia, New Zealand is responsible for the mandate over the Island of Nauru. The administrative appointments for the island are made by the Australian Government, but New Zealand appoints a representative to the British Phosphates Commission, which controls the working of the phosphate deposits.

The relevant Proclamations, &c., defining from time to time the administrative area of the Dominion are given in the following paragraphs.

The Proclamation of British sovereignty over New Zealand, dated the 30th January, 1840, gave as the boundaries of what was then the colony the following degrees of latitude and longitude: On the north, 34° 30' S. lat.; on the south, 47° 10' S. lat.; on the east, 179° 0' E. long.; on the west, 166° 5' E. long. These limits excluded small portions of the extreme north of the North Island and of the extreme south of Stewart Island.

In April, 1842, by Letters Patent, and again by the Imperial Act 26 and 27 Vict., c. 23 (1863), the boundaries were altered so as to extend from 33° to 53° of south latitude and from 162° of east longitude to 173° of west longitude. By Proclamation bearing date the 21st July, 1887, the Kermadec Islands, lying between the 29th and 32nd degrees of south latitude and the 177th and 180th degrees of west longitude, were declared to be annexed to and to become part of the then olony of New Zealand.

By Proclamation of the 10th June, 1901, the Cook Group of islands, and all the other islands and territories situate within the boundary-lines mentioned in the following schedule, were included as from the 11th June, 1901:—

A line commencing at a point at the intersection of the 23rd degree of south latitude and the 156th degree of longitude west of Greenwich, and proceeding due north to the point of intersection of the 8th degree of south latitude and the 156th degree of longitude west of Greenwich; thence due west to the point of intersection of the 8th degree of south latitude and the 167th degree of longitude west of Greenwich; thence due south to the point of intersection of the 17th degree of south latitude and the 167th degree of longitude west of Greenwich; thence due west to the point of intersection of the 17th degree of south latitude and the 170th degree of longitude west or Greenwich; thence due south to the point of intersection of the 23rd degree of south latitude and the 170th degree of longitude west of Greenwich; and thence due east to the point of intersection of the 23rd degree of south latitude and the 156th degree of longitude west of Greenwich.

By Imperial Order in Council of the 30th July, 1923, the coasts of the Ross Sea (in the Antarctic regions), with the adjacent islands and territories, were declared a British settlement within the meaning of the British Settlements Act, 1887, and named the Ross Dependency. The dependency is uninhabited.

By Imperial Orders in Council of the 4th November, 1925, the Union or Tokelau Islands (consisting of the islands of Fakaofu, Nukunono, and Atafu, and the small islands, islets, rocks, and reefs depending on them, a total area of only four square miles) were excluded from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, and placed under the administration of the Governor-General of New Zealand. In accordance with a provision of the second of these Orders in Council, the Governor-General's authority and power in connection with the administration of the islands were, by New Zealand Order in Council of the 8th March, 1926, delegated to the Administrator of Western Samoa.



Since the combined length of the North and South Islands extends just over a thousand miles, and since the width of neither Island exceeds 280 miles at its broadest point, New Zealand possesses a long coast-line in proportion to its area. With the exception of the low-lying North Auckland peninsula, the length of the New Zealand land-mass lies along a south-westerly-north-easterly axis, and is thus parallel to the direction of its mountain-chains.

By reason of the latter fact the coast-line is, on the whole, not greatly indented; and, as a consequence, New Zealand is not well endowed with natural harbours. In the North Island, Auckland and Wellington are the only two safe natural harbours of which the fullest commercial use can be made. On the east coast of the North Auckland peninsula several deep and sheltered harbours exist, but as the surrounding country is comparatively undeveloped and the area somewhat remote they are of little economic consequence at present. In the South Island the Marlborough Sounds and the West Coast Sounds form perfect land-locked harbours, but owing to their situations and to the rugged nature of the terrain (especially in the latter locality) they have little or no commercial utility. Where vital localities have not been endowed with ideal harbours it has been necessary to improve existing facilities by dredging and by breakwater-construction, &c. In this manner efficient ports, capable of accommodating overseas vessels, have been formed in Lyttelton, Otago, and Bluff harbours. On the west coast of both Islands the strong ocean-drifts and high seas cause shoaling at river-mouths and harbour-entrances so that these are useless for any hut the smallest vessels, while on the east coast of the South Island similar circumstances prevail, due to the large quantities of shingle brought down by the rivers being spread along the coast by ocean currents.

Since the mountainous nature of the country makes the haulage of goods to and from the better-equipped natural harbours both costly and difficult, the construction of further ports at various points along the coasts of both Islands has been necessary, either by dredging river-mouths or by harbour-construction work.


The mountainous nature of New Zealand is one of its most striking physical characteristics. In the North Island the higher mountains occupy approximately one-tenth of the surface; but, with the exception of the four volcanic peaks of Egmont (8,260 ft.), Ruapehu (9,175 ft.), Ngauruhoe (7,515 ft.), and Tongariro (6,458 ft.), they do not exceed an altitude of 6,000 ft. Of these four volcanoes only the first-named can be classed as extinct. Other volcanoes include Mount Tarawera and White Island, each of which has, upon one occasion within historical times, erupted with disastrous consequences. Closely connected with the volcanic system are the multitudinous hot springs and geysers.

The South Island is much more mountainous than the North, but shows fewer manifestations of recent volcanic activity. Along almost the entire length of the Island runs the massive chain known as the Southern Alps, which attain their greatest height in Mount Cook (12,349 ft.), while no fewer than seventeen peaks exceed 10,000 ft.

The position and trend of the mountains in New Zealand exert considerable influence on the economic life of the Dominion. Attention has already been drawn to the relation between the direction of the mountains and the nature of the coast-line, while in the article dealing with climate (post) explanation is made of the effect of mountains on climatic conditions. To the existence of mountain barriers can be attributed the groupings of the population in the intermontane plains and valleys; and, as has been mentioned, such barriers, by placing restrictions on internal transport, have necessitated the construction of several artificial ports.

As may be expected, the higher mountains of the South Island have exerted a greater influence on the economic development of the country than those of the North Island. For many years the Southern Alps were an effective barrier to communication by land between the east and west coasts, while their climatic effects on the Canterbury plains and Otago plateaux determined the types of cultivation undertaken. Moreover, the existence of much open country above the timber-line led to the development of pastoral holdings on a large scale. While the mountains in the North Island are not as high nor as extensive as those of the South Island, in the early days they effectively isolated various portions of the coastal plains and valleys. Their effect on climatic conditions, however, is considerably less, the rainfall being more evenly distributed. Due to this more even distribution of the rainfall, and to the existence of considerable areas of lower relief, the foothills of the mountain systems were heavily wooded, and so proved a hindrance to agrarian development.

In the 1931 issue of the Year-Book was given a list, not claimed as exhaustive, of 223 named peaks of 7,500 ft. or more in altitude. Below is a list of the peaks, restricted to the three largest volcanic cones in the North Island and to mountains of a minimum height of 9,000 ft. in the South Island. The list has been compiled from various sources, and does not purport to be free from omissions.

Mountain or Peak.Height (Feet).
North Island. 
South Island. 
Kaikoura Ranges 
Southern Alps 
  David's Dome10,443
  Malte Brun10,421
  Elie de Beaumont10,200
  Douglas Peak10,107
  La Perouse10,101
  De la Beche10,058
  The Minarets10,058
  Glacier Peak9,865
  Aiguilles Rouges9,731
  Le Receveur9,562
  Big Mac9,511
  Conway Peak9,510
  Bristol Top9,508
  Hochstetter Dome9,258
  The Footstool9,073
  The Dwarf9,025
Darran Range 


In keeping with the dimensions of her mountain system, New Zealand possesses, in the South Island, a glacial system of some magnitude. Of the glaciers the largest is the Tasman, which, with others of comparable size, rises in the more elevated area surrounding Mount Cook. Flowing down the eastern slope of the range, this glacier has a length of 18 miles and a width of 1¼ miles. In common with other glaciers on the eastern slope, of which the more important are the Murchison (11 miles), the Mueller (8 miles), the Godley (8 miles), and the Hooker (7¼ miles), its rate of flow is slow, while its terminal face is at an altitude of just over 2,000 ft. On the western slope of the range, owing to the greater snow precipitation, the glaciers are more numerous and descend to lower levels, while the steeper slope gives them a faster rate of flow. The two largest of these are the Fox and the Franz Josef, with lengths of 9¾ miles and 8½ miles respectively, and terminal faces at altitudes of 670 ft. and 690 ft.

As will be realized, these glaciers are an important tourist attraction, and as such have definite economic significance. Moreover, those glaciers on the eastern slopes which feed rivers utilized for irrigation and hydro-electric purposes are valuable in that they help to ensure a steady volume of water in such rivers.


Though numerous, few New Zealand rivers are of sufficient length or volume to be navigable. Moreover, owing to the high relief of the country, they are mostly swift-flowing, while, as mentioned previously, nearly all are obstructed at their mouths by bars. For the purpose of internal communication, therefore, they are of little economic utility, and only in two or three isolated instances have they been thus consistently used. With improved roading conditions, however, their traffic has become negligible even in these cases.

As sources of hydro-electric power, New Zealand rivers are of considerable importance, since their rapid rate of flow and dependable volume of ice-free water make them entirely suitable for such utilization. At the present time the Waikato and the Mangahao rivers in the North Island and the Waitaki River in the South are used for major hydro-electric schemes. The characteristics just mentioned are also important for purposes of irrigation, but, owing to the reliable rainfall, there are few areas other than in Canterbury and Otago where the rivers are so utilized.

In the 1932 Year-Book appears an account of the rivers of New Zealand by Professor R. Speight, M.Sc., F.G.S., Curator of the Canterbury Museum.

Space in this issue is, however, available only for a list of the more important rivers, with their approximate lengths, the latter being supplied by the Department of Lands and Survey. Figures in parentheses indicating the approximate discharge, in cubic feet per minute, are shown for the largest rivers.


Flowing into the Pacific Ocean—Miles.
  Waihou (or Thames)90
Flowing into Cook Strait— 
  Manawatu (over 600,000)100
  Wanganui (over 500,000)140
Flowing into the Tasman Sea— 
  Waikato (over 800,000)220
  Wairoa (over 250,000)95


Flowing into Cook Strait—Miles.
Flowing into the Pacific Ocean— 
  Waimakariri (low water 80,000; normal flood 500,000)93
  Clutha (over 2,000,000)210
Flowing into Foveaux Strait— 
  Plowing into the Tasman Sea— 
  Cleddau and Arthur20
  Buller (nearly 1,000,000)105

The discovery in 1861 that the beds of numerous rivers in the South Island contained extensive deposits of alluvial gold was of considerable importance in the economic development of the country. Not only did it lead to an increase in population and in wealth, but it also led to the rapid exploration of large tracts of remote country watered by the numerous streams. The exploitation of these deposits has been carried on with varying degrees of success up to the present time by both manual and mechanical means.

A further factor in connection with rivers is that, owing to the very successful acclimatization of English fresh-water fish, the rivers now provide exceptionally fine fishing and have thus become one of the country's major tourist attractions.


In considering New Zealand's numerous lakes, a distinction can be made, especially from the scenic viewpoint, between the lakes of the two Islands. Surrounded by extremely rugged country the larger lakes of the South Island are distinguished by the grandeur of their alpine settings, while those of the North Island, situated on a volcanic plateau, are of interest by reason of the neighbouring thermal activity. Due to the excellence of their fresh-water fishing, the latter possess an added tourist attraction. In both Islands the larger lakes are situated at high altitudes, and their consequent remoteness renders them unsuitable as a means of communication. In their functions as reservoirs the lakes of both Islands are of vital importance for the maintenance of the streams draining them and as a means of flood-prevention. More especially is this the case where hydro-electric schemes are involved, Lakes Waikaremoana and Taupo in the North Island, and Lakes Coleridge, Pukaki, and Tekapo in the South Island, being of particular significance in this respect.

A detailed article on the lakes of New Zealand, also by Professor It. Speight, will be found in the 1932 Year-book. The more important lakes are stated below.

Lake.Length, in Miles.Greatest Breadth, in Miles.Area, in Square Miles.Drainage Area, in Square Miles.Approximate Volume of Discharge, in Cubic Feet per Second.Height above Sea-level, in Feet.Greatest Depth, in Feet.
North Island.       
Tarawera1575 1,032285
Wairarapa104271,250  64
South Island.       
Rotoiti5286 1,997228
Rotoroa78146 1,470 
Brunner5416145 280357
Kanieri5811 422646
Coleridge1131870 1,667680
Wanaka30475960 922 
Te Anau3361321,32012,660694906
Manapouri12656416 5961,458
Poteriteri17217162 96 
Waihola1⅛3⅓2,200 (Tidal)52
Ellesmere1610107½745 (Tidal)45


The following article on the geology of New Zealand was prepared by Dr. J. Henderson, M.A., F.R.S.N.Z., Director of the Geological Survey:—


New Zealand is a small country, but its geological history is as complex and as ancient as that of a continent. Land, though from age to age it varied greatly in area, outline, and elevation, must have persisted in the New Zealand area from the oldest Palæozoic or earlier. Long periods—during which gentle regional oscillations and warpings, aided by the slow-acting forces of denudation, brought about gradual changes—were interrupted by great revolutions when earth-stresses ridged the crust into mountains and quickly altered the whole configuration of the land and sea-floor. For New Zealand the important geological periods are those that followed the two latest mountain-building movements—the Kaikoura deformation of late Tertiary time, and the Hokonui deformation of the early Cretaceous, The deposits laid down in the intervening period of relative crustal stability cover a large proportion of the land, and contain all the coal and most of the limestone of the Dominion. The soils on which grow the forests, pastures, and crops are of post-Tertiary age, and the great bulk of the gold has been won from deposits formed during the same period.


The oldest known fossiliferous rocks in New Zealand are the Ordovician slates and greywackes of west Nelson and south-west Otago. Lower unfossiliferous beds of the same great system extend southward from the northern area and outcrop in the Westport, Reefton, Greymouth, Ross, and Okarito districts. Above the fossil-bearing beds, but probably also of Ordovician age, are the black phyllites, quartzites, and marbles which outcrop continuously from Takaka to Mount Owen, and are again exposed in the upper basins of the Matakitaki, Maruia, and Grey Rivers. The similar rocks of western Otago probably also belong to this group. The complex of gneisses and schists of the same region, intruded by acid and basic plutonics, and usually considered of Archæan age, resembles the part of the Ordovician strata of western Nelson that has been similarly invaded and metamorphosed and may well be of early Palæozoic age. Different authorities assign the mica, chlorite, and quartz schists of Central Otago to ages that range from the Archæan to the Triassic. They are certainly Palæozoic or older, since they grade upward into greywackes that, at Clinton, contain Permian fossils.

Devonian rocks are certainly known only in the Baton, Wangapeka, and Reefton districts. These beds, fossils from which have lately been examined in England, cover only small areas. But the old Geological Survey mapped wide tracts of country in Nelson and Otago, covered with beds of the Te Anau Series, as Devonian, and the correlation may well be correct, though the rocks are entirely unfossiliferous.

The Maitai Series, which forms the ranges on the south-east side of the Nelson lowlands, are probably of Carboniferous or Permo-Carboniferous age. Their position in the time scale and their correlation with rocks in other parts of New Zealand have provoked much discussion. Permian strata, as already stated, occur in Otago, where the area they cover may be considerable.

Richly fossiliferous late Triassic rocks are known in the Kawhia-Mokau district, near the City of Nelson, and at several localities in Canterbury and Otago. Except in Nelson and Canterbury, strata that contain fossils referable to several stages of the Jurassic succeed without observed unconformity. The broad belt of greywacke and argillite that forms the mountains of Canterbury and Marlborough, and continues as a narrower belt through Wellington to northern Hawke's Bay, is usually referred to the Trias-Jura. Similar rocks outcrop in the centre of the North Island and at many points in North Auckland. There are Upper Triassic molluscs in these beds at several localities, and the vertebra of a saurian with Triassic rather than Permian affinities was found near Wellington. Lithologically the greywackes and argillites of this vast series differ somewhat from the rocks of similar type belonging to the Jurassic and Maitai series; they are therefore thought to be of older Triassic age, but may well range into the Permian. The schists occurring with them in the Kaimanawa, Kaikoura, Moorhouse, and Kirkliston Ranges are probably older.

The thick conglomerates conformably overlying the younger Jurassic shales of the Port Waikato, Kawhia, and Coromandel regions belong to either the youngest Jurassic or the oldest Cretaceous. Strata of early and middle Cretaceous age occur east of the main axis of New Zealand at several points from Marlborough to East Cape. Late Cretaceous beds are much more widely distributed, being known in North Auckland and in many localities along the eastern side of both Islands. They contain thick layers of black shale that give many indications of oil, which, however, has not yet been found in commercial amount. The oldest known workable coal-seams in New Zealand, those at Broken River, Malvern Hills, Shag Point, and Kaitangata, and perhaps some near Greymouth, are in young Cretaceous beds.

Tertiary rocks form the greater part of the North Island and are widely distributed in the South. As a whole they are weaker and more readily weathered than the older strata, and hence have given rise to less rugged country, now mostly cleared and grassed and forming productive pastoral land.

Eocene rocks are present in North Auckland, and probably also in the Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, and east Wellington districts. In the South Island they occur on the West Coast and in Canterbury and Otago, in which regions they contain valuable coal-seams worked at Westport, Reefton, Greymouth, Mount Somers, and Milton. Of the same age are the auriferous “cements” of the Tuapeka district that greatly enriched the gravels of the neighbouring streams and are themselves worked for gold.

In Oligocene time the maximum subsidence during the Tertiary occurred, and but little of the New Zealand area remained above sea-level at its close. The thick limestones of the Oamaru district and the contemporaneous limestone prominent in many parts of New Zealand are the younger deposits of his age. The older beds contain the extensive coal-measures of the North Auckland, Waikato, Charleston, and other coalfields.

Miocene strata cover large areas in both islands, and also outcrop in the Wanganui, Gisborne, and Hawke's Bay regions. In north Taranaki, the Murchison basin, and parts of the West Coast thick coal-measures of this age contain workable seams of brown coal.

During the Pliocene the New Zealand area, which had been intermittently rising since the close of the Oligocene, was greatly elevated and deformed. The earth-blocks from which the present mountains have been carved were uplifted from, or from near, sea-level, and New Zealand as it now is was roughly shaped out. In the South Island the deposits of this period are chiefly gravels deposited in structural depressions; but in the North Island, and especially in its southern half, there are thick and extensive shoal-water marine sediments. These, and the underlying Miocene strata, are the source of the petroleum found at New Plymouth.

The Pleistocene was a period of regional oscillation. While the land was high the mountains of the South Island were intensely glaciated, and great ice-streams, carrying vast bodies of debris, descended into the low country; after the highlands had been reduced in height through both denudation and decided subsidence the glaciers rapidly retreated, and are to-day represented by comparatively small remnants far in the mountains. While the ice was melting, the rivers of the South Island were unusually active in transporting waste to the lowlands and the sea. At this time, too, as well as somewhat earlier, the volcanoes of the North Island ejected an abundant supply of fragmentary material, much of which was borne away by the streams and used in building plains.

The deposits of Pleistocene and Recent age are in New Zealand of greater economic importance than those of all other ages. The plains, river-flats, and lowlands generally were formed or profoundly modified during this period, and the soils that cover them produced. During the same time practically all the gold won from the gravels of the South Island was liberated from a hard matrix and concentrated into workable deposits, and the rich bonanzas of the lodes of Hauraki were formed by secondary enrichment. The land-oscillations of the period are also of economic importance, for New Zealand's abundant water-power is derived from streams that have not yet, owing to the recency of land-uplift, cut their valleys to grade. On the other hand, land-depression has provided harbours and valuable artesian basins in many parts of the Dominion.


Plutonic rocks intrude many of the Palræozoic and Mesozoic strata, and some of the formations show evidence of contemporaneous volcanic action. Of the plutonic rocks granite is much the mos prominent, and it outcrops at many points in west Nelson, Westland, Otago, and Stewart Island. In Nelson there were at least two periods of intrusion, probably corresponding with the great mountain-folding movements of the late Palæozoic and early Cretaceous times. The auriferous lodes of Reefton and other localities on the West Coast probably originated from the cooling magmas that formed the younger granites. Basic and ultra-basic rocks, the latter now largely altered to serpentine, occur in Nelson, Westland, Otago, and, to a less extent, in North Auckland.

Though volcanoes are known to have existed in Mesozoic and Palæozoic times, they seem to have been more active during the Tertiary than in any earlier age. The vast pile of flow and fragmental rocks that form the Hauraki Peninsula and the range that continues it southward to Tauranga belong to this period. The gold-silver veins extensively worked at Coromandel, Thames, and Waihi are in these rocks, which southward are smothered by the rhyolitic pumice that vents in the Taupo-Rotorua zone ejected during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene. Thick showers of pumice from this region cover a large part of the centre of the North Island, and streams have carried the finer material to practically all the low-lying parts of the island. The volcanoes are still alive, as is evidenced by the steam-vents, hot springs, and geysers found in the depressed zone extending from Ruapehu to White Island. The volcanic rocks of Taranaki probably range from the Miocene to the Pleistocene in age. The basalts and scoria cones that occur so abundantly between Kawhia and the Bay of Islands belong to the most part to the late Pliocene and Pleistocene, though cones at Auckland City are probably Recent.

In the South Island the volcanoes appear to be quite dead, for the hot springs at Hanmer and near the alpine chain are due to other causes. In the middle Tertiary, however, there were outbursts at many points, the chief eruptions being at Banks Peninsula and about Dunedin.


In a short article it is impossible to give an adequate idea of what geological workers have accomplished in New Zealand, or of what they have yet to do in order that the wisest use may be made of the country's mineral and agricultural resources. For good general accounts the treatises of Professors Park and Marshall should be consulted, and for more detailed information the bulletins of the Geological Survey and the many papers that have appeared in the “Transations” of the New Zealand Institute (now the Royal Society of New Zealand).


THE following article deals with earthquakes in New Zealand. The first section of the article has been prepared by Dr. J. Henderson, Director of the Geological Survey, and the remaining sections by Mr. R. C. Hayes, Acting-Director of the Dominion Observatory.


Earthquake and volcanic activity are manifestations of the adjustments constantly occurring in the earth's crust. In the not far distant past, geologically speaking, a more or less continuous belt of mountains was raised up round the border of the great sunken area of the Pacific, and this belt as a whole is characterized by “chronic and acute seismicity.” At times the earthquakes occur within the belt itself, though a large proportion have their epicentres on its submerged frontal slope.

The South Island of New Zealand and the eastern part of the North Island are on the crest of the great mountain ridge or crustal fold which forms a portion of the real border of the Pacific. This ridge maintains a relatively straight course north-north-east for 1,600 miles across the floor of the Pacific, nearly to Samoa. The Auckland Peninsula, part of a decidedly weaker fold, meets the main fold nearly at right angles in the Rotorua-Taupo volcanic region. The earthquakes of this seismically sensitive district, though they may be locally severe, are not usually felt far from their points of origin. On the other hand, the tectonic earthquakes that occur along the main earth-fold shake largo areas, some of them being recorded on instruments throughout the world. These are caused by the slipping of earth-blocks against their neighbours along fractures.

Many great fault-zones have been traced for long distances, but a few only have been active since European occupation. The Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931 raised an area sixty miles long in a north-east direction and in parts ten miles wide. The uplift was greatest along the south-east edge of the area—for miles amounting to 6 ft. or more. Numerous levels on the Heretaunga Plain and along the railway north of Napier show that the uplift decreased north-westward, so that the area was slightly tilted in that direction. The ground east of the uplifted area sank, and parts of the Napier and Wairoa flats are over a foot lower than before the earthquake.

In 1929 movement along a north-trending fault seven miles west of Murchison raised the ground east of the fault by about 15 ft., and caused it to shift north-west by about 9 ft. The uplift gradually decreases eastward and dies out sixteen miles from the fault, facts indicating a slight tilt of the earth-block toward the east. Recent levellings show that the block is sinking somewhat irregularly, a movement, no doubt, causing some of the innumerable local after-shocks felt in the area over many months. Other sensible earth-movements occurred in connection with the Taupo earthquake series of 1922,* the Amuri earthquake of 1888, the Wellington earthquake of 1855, probably the Awatere earthquake of 1848.§ There is also definite evidence of geologically recent differential movement of earth-blocks at several widely separated points in both Islands.


A comparison between the records of destructive earthquakes in New Zealand and similar records in other seismic countries shows that the seismicity of New Zealand in general is surprisingly high. This, however, is due to the occurrence of a large number of earthquakes of the semi-destructive type, with comparatively few of the disastrous type.

During the period 1835–1934 sixty-nine destructive earthquakes are known to have occurred in New Zealand, forty-nine of which were of the semi-destructive type (not exceeding intensity R.-F. 8). There were fourteen of intensity 9, and six of intensity 10.*

The distribution of earthquakes throughout New Zealand itself during the period 1848–1934 shows that the region of intense seismic activity, where earthquakes are frequent and occasionally severe, includes the eastern and southern parts of the North Island and the northern part of the South Island.

The Auckland Peninsula, South Canterbury, and Eastern Otago appear to have been comparatively free from earthquakes during the past hundred years. Although the seismic history of the Fiord region of the South Island is not very well known, there are records of sealers having experienced violent earthquakes in those parts in 1792, 1810, and 1826–27.** Also there is some record of violent earthquakes having occurred near Auckland in 1834–35.††

It is thus evident that, although some parts of New Zealand have experienced no severe earthquakes during the past hundred years, no assurance can be given that such will not occur there in the future.

The following table, compiled for some of the main centres in New Zealand, shows—(1) The mean annual frequency of all earthquakes during the period 1848–1934 ; and (2) the number of destructive earthquakes during the period 1835–1934‡‡:—

Centre.Mean Number of Shocks per Year.Number of Earthquakes of Intensity R.-F. 8 or over.
New Plymouth2.76

*P. G. MORGAN: N.Z. Geological Survey; Annual Report for the year 1923, p. 10.

†ALEXANDER McKAY: Reports of Geological Explorations during 1888–89. Wellington, 1800.

New Zealand Government Gazette, Wellington, Vol. 2, No. 14, 17th October, 1855, p. 110. Sir CHARLES LYELL, “The Principles of Geology,” tenth edition, 1868, Vol. 2, p. 82. London: John Murray.

§New Zealand Government Gazette, Wellington, Vol. 1, No. 27, 13th November, 1848, and Vol. 1, No. 29, 20th November, 1848. H. S. CAPMAN in Westminster Review, Vol. 51, 1849.

‖ L. BASTINGS: “Destructive Earthquakes in New Zealand, 1835–1934,” N.Z. Jour. Sci. & Tech., Vol. 17, No. 1, July, 1935. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 103.

¶ L. BASTINGS and R. C. HAYES: “Earthquake Distribution in New Zealand, 1848–1934,” N.Z. Jour. Sci. & Tech., Vol. 10, No. 5, March, 1935. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 95.

**R. McNAB: “Murihiku and the Southern Islands” (1907). R. TAYLOR: “Te Ika a Maul,” London, 1855.

†† Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, Vol. 3, 1891, p. 531.

‡‡ R. C. HAYES: “The Seismicity of New Zealand Cities and Towns,” N.Z. Jour. of Sci. & Tech., 1936. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 111.

Although there appears to be no regular annual variation in the frequency of New Zealand earthquakes, the mean monthly numbers over a long period indicate that earthquakes are on the average most frequent in March and least so in January. The mean monthly numbers follow approximately the mean annual variation of atmospheric pressure in New Zealand.*

The total number of earthquakes reported felt in New Zealand, and the maximum intensities reported in each of the years 1921 to 1936 inclusive, are as follows:—

Year.Number of Earthquakes reported felt.Maximum Intensity of Heaviest Shock, B.-F. Scale.

The figures in the above table, giving the number of reported earthquakes, require careful interpretation. In years of major earthquakes, such as 1929 and 1931, many of the numerous after-shocks are liable to be passed unnoticed, while during a period of quiescence there is a tendency for all shocks, however slight, to be reported. This leads to an undue emphasis being placed upon earthquake activity during a comparatively quiet period. The great number of earthquakes reported in 1922 is due to the swarm of local shocks which occurred in the Taupo region in the latter half of that year. Also, although there was no major earthquake in 1930, a large number of shocks occurred in that year, due mainly to the continuation of after-shocks of the Buller earthquake of 17th June, 1929.


During the period 1848–1935 the number of deaths recorded in New Zealand as duo directly or indirectly to earthquakes was 284. Of these, 255 were due to the Hawke's Bay earthquake of 3rd February, 1931. A table giving details of the number of deaths due to earthquakes in New Zealand was published in the 1936 issue of the Year-Book.


Earthquakes in New Zealand are recorded by means of seismographs, and also by a system of non-instrumental reports. The main seismograph stations are located at the Dominion Observatory, Wellington, and the Magnetic Observatory, Christchurch. The Dominion Observatory acts as a central station for eleven other subsidiary stations in New Zealand and one at the Chatham Islands. The subsidiary stations are operated by officers of other Government Departments, by Engineers of some of the Electric-power Boards, and by private individuals. The station at Apia, Samoa, is under the direct control of Apia Observatory.

*R. C. HAYES: “Earthquake Frequency in New Zealand,” N.Z. Jour. Sci. & Tech., Vol. 10, No. 5, 1935. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 104.

The system of non-instrumental earthquake reports was inaugurated in 1888, At first it was confined to a selected number of telegraph-offices distributed throughout the Dominion, but in recent years more telegraph-offices have been added, and a number of lighthouse-keepers and several private observers have also taken up the work. There are at present 115 non-instrumental reporting stations. This system of recording earthquakes depends entirely on personal observations. Special forms are used, on which information is required concerning the observed time of an earthquake, the direction and duration of the movement, and any other particulars likely to be of value in estimating its intensity. The Dominion Observatory collects and summarizes all such reports of earthquakes felt in New Zealand.

Information regarding earthquakes obtained from the seismograph records of all the New Zealand stations, and from the reports furnished by non-instrumental stations, is published in a monthly seismological bulletin. This bulletin includes provisional earthquake epicentres in New Zealand and in the south-west Pacific generally. The New Zealand epicentres are determined solely from the records and reports of the New Zealand stations, while the determination of those in other parts of the south-west Pacific requires the use of additional data from Apia and the Australian seismograph stations.

The Dominion Observatory also publishes special bulletins dealing with the results of research work in seismology. All seismological publications are distributed to the chief seismological stations and institutions throughout the world.


Earthquake activity in New Zealand has been decreasing during the past three years. In 1936 there were 123 earthquakes reported felt in some part of the Dominion. Of these, 87 were felt in some part of the North Island and 40 in some part of the South Island. The maximum intensity reported was 6 on the Rossi-Forel scale. This is the lowest maximum reported in any year since 1923.

The following table gives the number of earthquakes reported felt, and the maximum intensities reported, for each month during the year 1936:—

Month.Number of Earthquakes reported felt.Maximum Intensity, R.-F. Scale.Locality of Maximum.
North Island.South Island.Both Islands.Total for New Zealand.
January71 84Te Kuiti, Cheviot.
February25 75Masterton, Invercargill.
March82 104+Opotiki, Takaka, Reefton.
April8  85Rongotea.
May1331156Waipiro Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Cheviot.
June23 55Wanganui, Opotiki, Hanmer Springs.
July12112216Opotiki, Farewell Spit,
August53 85Hastings, Half-moon Bay.
September12 36Ohakune, Kahurangi Point.
October125 176Tokaanu, Kahurangi Point.
November1021115Hawera, Karamea.
December73 106Waipiro Bay, Kahurangi Point.

The next table gives the total number of earthquakes reaching various degrees of maximum intensity:—

Month.Intensity (Rossi-Forel Scale).Totals.
January 5111     8
February 1 6      7
March 415      10
April 1511     8
May 24243    15
June 13 1     5
July 884 1    21
August 2411     8
September  2 1     3
October 211211    17
November 3422     11
December 33211    10
Totals 324626136    123

Of the 123 earthquakes reported felt in 1936 only 11 were sufficiently well recorded by seismographs to enable their epicentres to be determined. Particulars of these earthquakes are given in the following table, which also includes three earthquakes not reported felt in any part of New Zealand:—

Date.Time (N.Z.M.T)Approximate Position of Epicentre.Remarks.
1936.H. M.°° 
Mar. 619 3242.6 S.171.5 E.Felt at Westport and Reefton, R.-F. 4.
May 1507 4140.4 S.172.4 E.Felt in north-west part of South Island, R.-F. 4.
May 2402 0942.8 S.173.3 E.Felt in parts of Canterbury and Westland, maximum R.-F. 6.
May 2403 0240.0 S.180.0Felt in central districts, and in eastern districts from Waipiro Bay to Christ-church, maximum R.-F. 6. Deep focus.
July 921 5140.7 S.179.4 W.Felt over most of North Island and in northern half of South Island, maximum R.-F. 6. Deep focus.
Sept. 422 2040.3 S.173.5 E.Felt in north-west part of South Island, R.-F. 5.
Sept. 1415 1238.3 S.177.2 E.Deep focus. Not reported felt.
Oct. 1105 1042.5 S.175.5 E.Not reported felt.
Oct. 1112 3042.5 S.177.5 E.Not reported felt.
Oct. 1821 1140.7 S.172.0 E.Felt in north-west part of South Island, R.-F. 3.
Oct. 2803 4639.8 S.175.8 E.Felt fairly extensively in southern half of North Island, maximum R.-F. 4.
Nov. 923 5939.5 S.180.0Felt in eastern districts of North Island, R.-F. 4.
Nov. 2305 0941.4 S.172.8 E.Felt in northern part of South Island and about Cook Strait, maximum R.-F. 5.
Dec. 1207 3840.7 S.172.4 E.Felt at Kahurangi Point and Westport, maximum R.-F. 6.


The following article on the climate of New Zealand has been prepared by Dr. E. Kidson, O.B.E., D.Sc., F.R.S.N.Z., Director of Meteorological Services:—


The New Zealand Meteorological Office is located at Wellington. Weather forecasts, based on observations at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., are issued at noon and 5 p.m. respectively. The midday forecast is telegraphed to approximately one hundred country centres, where it is displayed at the post-offices. District forecasts are broadcast at 1 p.m. from the stations of the National Broadcasting Service at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The evening forecast is broadcast from these stations at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. approximately. The 7 p.m. broadcast from Wellington includes weather reports from a series of observation stations distributed through the Dominion and the surrounding area. Regular reports are also broadcast for the information of aircraft.

Rainfall data from approximately four hundred stations are printed monthly in the New Zealand Gazette. Observations of temperature, pressure, sunshine, wind, &c., from about forty-five stations are published annually by the Meteorological Office. Papers on various aspects of the climate and weather of the Dominion are published from time to time as “Meteorological Office Notes.”


New Zealand lies wholly within the Temperate Zone, and it is also wholly and at all seasons within the zone of prevailing westerly winds though they are stronger and more persistent farther southward. Owing to its isolation and its narrowness in the direction of the prevailing winds, its climate is predominantly marine in character. Nevertheless, the modifications due to the height and continuity of the main ranges and the general high relief of the country are quite considerable, especially in the South Island. There is, for example, a very great variation in the rainfall from the western to the eastern side of the Southern Alps, and for so narrow a country, features of a continental type are rather strongly developed in the ulterior of the South Island. By breaking up the prevailing winds and causing the air at different levels to mix, mountains tend, also, to prevent the stratification of the air into layers of different density. Consequently very extensive and persistent cloud-sheets are seldom experienced. New Zealand therefore enjoys a high percentage of sunshine, a factor of great importance in the climate of a country with so high a rainfall.

The principal current in the surrounding ocean waters is from south-west to north-east. Off the west coast of the South Island, however, the current divides, one branch turning southwards to Foveaux Strait, while others pass through Cook Strait and round the northern extremity of the Dominion. The rather small range in climate from north to south is probably accounted for by this current.

According to the widely accepted classification of climates developed by W. Köppen, New Zealand has the climatic formula Cfb, denoting a cool-temperate moist climate without marked seasonal variations in temperature or precipitation. Under the same formula are classified southern Victoria and Tasmania and parts of southern Chile in the Southern Hemisphere, much of Europe, Japan and Korea, and a strip of the west coast of North America in the Northern Hemisphere. Generally, however, it is a climate characteristic of the ocean rather than the land areas of the Temperate Zone.

Tables 1 to 10 appearing in the following pages relate to varying, but usually lengthy, periods. In Table 11 the duration covered by the respective averages for that table is given.


Of all the climatic elements, probably the one that exerts the greatest influence on our lives is rainfall. It causes us much personal discomfort, but the production of the food by which we live depends directly on the availability of moisture from this source. Maps showing the distribution of mean annual rainfall appear in issues of the Year-Book prior to 1934.

The controlling influence of topography on rainfall in New Zealand is very conspicuous. Areas exposed to the westerly winds have heavier rains than those protected from them by mountain ranges. Next, the greater the altitude, the greater in general is the precipitation. There must be a limit beyond which precipitation begins to decrease again with altitude, but this has not yet been determined in this country. The indications are that precipitation is heaviest between 3,000 ft. and 4,000 ft. The annual total varies from about 13 in. at Galloway in Central Otago to over 200 in. in parts of the Southern Alps and on Mount Egmont.

The distribution of the precipitation throughout the year is little less important than its total amount, the effect of rainfall in winter, for example, being very different from that in summer. There are three principal factors controlling the annual variation of rainfall in New Zealand. The first of these is the proximity to the high-pressure belt in the subtropics. In this belt the rainfall year is divided into a dry summer and a wet winter season. We will call this distribution type A. As the distance from the high-pressure belt increases, the contrast between summer and winter decreases, so that by the time southern New Zealand Is reached the variation due to this factor is small. The next most important factor is the influence of the prevailing westerly winds. These bring rains to the areas exposed to them, while areas which are protected from them by mountain ranges have little rain when the westerlies are blowing. Now, the westerly winds are strongest in spring, the maximum flow being in October. There is a temporary drop in February, followed by a partial recovery in the autumn, but the flow is least in winter. The regime of the westerly winds, therefore, tends to produce a second type of annual variation, type C, in which the rainfall is heaviest in spring, decreases somewhat in the late summer, increases again in the autumn, and decreases to a minimum in winter.

The third factor is the convection which takes place during periods of light winds, clear skies, and intense sunshine, especially when the preceding winds have brought cold air over the land from the South. After conditions of the type mentioned have endured for several days, the convection is likely to be so intense as to produce local showers. These are often heavy, sometimes accompanied by thunder, and occasionally of the nature of local cloud-bursts. Rainfall of this type is most common in the interior of continents. Being caused by solar radiation, it is most frequent when solar radiation is strongest—namely, in summer. According to type B. therefore, we would have a relatively wet summer and a dry winter.


Cape Maria van Diemen1.712.882.033.864.834.623.903.732.842.561.611.0536.31
Tolaga Bay3.214.424.735.497.716.386.706.063.603.262.963.0357.55
Riversdale, Inglewood7.566.
Waitatapia, Bulls2.432.502.463.003.533.183.252.682.783.633.222.7135.37
Ditton, near Masterton3.142.963.583.675.454.985.594.783.714.363.563.0148.79
Marshlands, Blenheim2.
Peel Forest4.844.054.383.542.512.753.422.573.773.854.014.8544.54

A rainfall regime of type A in a fairly pure form is experienced in the part of the Auckland Province, north, roughly, of Kawhia and Tauranga, and on the eastern side of the main ranges from Cook Strait to East Cape. It is still dominant in the lower country about the Tasman and Golden Bays, and in Marlborough and North Canterbury. Type C is developed strongly in Westland and the south-west Fiord country. It is shown fairly well by Hokitika, but much more distinctly if the date for a number of West Coast stations be combined. It is dominant in the far South, in the mountains of Nelson, and in the portion of the North Island not yet referred to. In this latter area, however, types A and C combine in varying proportions. Most districts show the effect of the westerly winds in a relatively high rainfall in October, but this is least noticeable in the low country east of the main ranges. The areas where type C dominates are those with the heaviest rainfall. Type B is dominant in the interior and southern portions of Canterbury and the central and eastern portions of Otago, and is especially characteristic of the dry areas of the provinces mentioned. The summer rains of this type are of great importance to the farming communities in the interior of Canterbury and Otago. The regime of annual rainfall experienced had an important influence in determining the nature of the primitive vegetation in the various districts.

Table Table 2. DAYS WITH RAIN.

New Plymouth12.710.411.913.317.717.618.818.417.618.416.314.2187.3
Marshlands, Blenheim7.
Half-moon Bay18.516.217.818.020.419.919.719.018.620.220.818.2227.3

Next to the amount and the annual variation of precipitation, the frequency with which it falls is its most important characteristic. In Table 2 the average number of days with rain in each month is given for some representative stations. A day with rain is one on which 0.005 in. or more is measured. Generally speaking, there is a fairly close relationship in New Zealand between the amount of rain and the number of rain days, but the latter is not directly proportional to the rainfall. There are considerable areas on the west coast of the South Island, for instance, which have ten or more times as much rain as the driest portions of the interior, but only about double the number of rain days. Marlborough seems to have a small number of wet days compared with its rainfall. To the south of New Zealand there is a rapid increase in cloudiness, showers fall with great frequency, and the number of rain days becomes high. New Zealand is extremely fortunate in that, even where the rainfall is very heavy, intervals between rains are almost everywhere sufficiently frequent and prolonged to ensure adequate drainage, while there is enough sunshine to dry the soil surface. Otherwise, large areas in the west and south would be covered with peat.


Temperature is no less important than rainfall in determining the living conditions of a country and the yield from its soil. But it is much less variable, and in the Southern Hemisphere especially, is largely determined by latitude. Its influence is therefore taken much more for granted. The specification of the temperature of a place is, however, not so simple a matter as might appear. Many different factors are involved in the determination of the precise temperatures experienced in any locality. The sea, for instance, responds very slowly to both daily and yearly changes in the amount of heat received from the sun, while on the land the response is rapid. Consequently, the nearer a station is to the sea the smaller are its daily and yearly fluctuations of temperature. It is to this effect that the principal difference between a continental and a marine climate is due. Although New Zealand is narrow, the high ranges shield the country to the east of them to a considerable extent, so that there is a nearer approach to continental conditions than would otherwise be expected, particularly in the interior of Canterbury and Otago. Again, on plain country the air tends to stagnate, especially at night. At night-time the surface layer cools rapidly through radiation from the ground, while during the day it becomes heated by the sun. There is less stagnation in the warm layer of the daytime than in the cold layer of the night. Consequently, stations on level plains or plateaux tend to be subject to frost and to have a relatively low mean temperature. The effect is accentuated near the slopes of hills because the cold air flows away down the slopes to lower levels. The hills, therefore, gain freedom from frost at the expense of the plains. In windy situations, also, the susceptibility to frost is lowered owing to the prevention of stagnation. Apart from the effects due to air-drainage and windiness, the temperature decreases with altitude. In temperate latitudes the fall is about 9° F. per kilometre. It is unsound, therefore, to compare, for example, temperatures recorded at Thorndon, Wellington, which was only 12 ft. above sea-level, with those at the present meteorological station at Kelburn, which is at an altitude of 415 ft., without making allowance for this difference in altitude. Such a procedure would lead to the erroneous conclusion that the climate had become colder. If charts of mean temperature are to be prepared it is clear that they will be very complicated, especially in a mountainous country like New Zealand, owing to this effect of altitude. It is usual, therefore, to simplify matters by applying a correction at the rate of 9° F. per kilometre or approximately 2.7° F. per 1,000 ft. This has been done in Table 3. The Rotorua values, for example, have been increased by 2.5° F., the station being 925 ft. above sea-level. If the actual temperature is required, it can be found by reversing this process.

In New Zealand publications it has been the general practice to derive monthly mean temperatures from the means of the daily maximum and minimum. But, even on the average, the mean of the maximum and minimum differs slightly from the true mean for the day. The correction to the mean for the day has been determined from the records of thermographs with fair accuracy at Wellington and more roughly at several other places.

In Table 3, therefore, the temperatures are reduced to sea-level and mean of day. For the remainder of the temperature tables the observed readings have been used without correction. All are in Fahrenheit degrees.


New Plymouth62.962.961.257.854.451.449.750.

The stations given in the above table were chosen with a view to illustrating the effect of changing latitude, the difference between east and west coasts, especially in the South Island, and the contrast between coastal and inland conditions. Waipoua is in the Auckland Peninsula, north of Dargaville, and Ophir in Central Otago.

Table Table 4. AUCKLAND (ALBERT PARK, 160 FT.).

Mean daily maximum72.672.970.966.962.158.657.057.860.
Mean highest maximum78.678.676.472.267.364.062.562.865.468.672.075.779.7
Absolute highest max.81.585.079.077.471.
Mean daily minimum59.760.458.555.351.348.
Mean lowest minimum51.853.051.546.442.739.538.139.141.744.347.149.437.3
Absolute lowest min.
Days of frost in screen            0.0
Days of ground frost    1.0

Table Table 5. TAIHAPE (2,157 FT.).

Mean daily maximum68.067.364.659.952.848.547.448.852.857.459.664.357.6
Mean highest maximum78.077.374.469.
Absolute highest max.87.381.078.075.569.865.061.061.867.073.475.882.087.3
Mean daily minimum50.049.848.244.940.737.636.436.639.
Mean lowest minimum39.539.538.234.631.929.228.028.730.032.034.437.026.4
Absolute lowest min.31.932.034.830.027.020.424.025.425.525.031.430.220.4
Days of frost in screen 18.6
Days of ground frost0.


Mean daily maximum69.369.366.962.958.354.853.154.357.560.463.266.761.3
Mean highest maximum78.177.774.970.265.361.359.661.564.568.
Absolute highest max.
Mean daily minimum55.755.854.251.347.244.142.442.845.748.450.353.849.1
Mean lowest minimum46.446.744.141.237.434.533.333.436.238.440.944.732.3
Absolute lowest min.39.440.539.135.731.929.928.629.
Days of frost in screen   1.4
Days of ground frost0.

Table Table 7. HOKITIKA (12 FT.).

Mean daily maximum66.466.564.761.256.853.352.653.656.458.760.663.859.5
Mean highest maximum73.572.571.367.763.759.558.659.562.364.767.070.975.9
Absolute highest max.79.082.484.574.071.563.565.067.167.670.574.179.084.5
Mean daily minimum53.
Mean lowest minimum43.243.540.636.532.129.929.029.832.235.238.441.928.1
Absolute lowest min.
Days of frost in screen  17.2
Days of ground frost0.

Table Table 8. CHRISTCHURCH (22 FT.).

Mean dally maximum70.469.266.462.155.851.150.352.357.662.465.869.261.0
Mean highest maximum86.683.781.475.768.762.561.564.970.676.179.884.088.4
Absolute highest max.95.794.189.882.377.869.370.
Mean daily minimum52.852.549.745.039.936.035.136.340.544.047.150.844.3
Mean lowest minimum41.240.937.232.328.626.126.026.729.432.135.439.024.7
Absolute lowest min.
Days of frost in screen 35.4
Days of ground frost0.

Table Table 9. DUNEDIN (240 FT.).

Mean daily maximum66.565.963.158.953.349.347.950.355.
Mean highest maximum81.580.577.371.864.459.357.461.566.873.075.378.084.3
Absolute highest max.
Mean daily minimum49.749.547.844.841.038.637.438.240.642.944.948.043.6
Mean lowest minimum41.341.539.136.733.831.230.531.233.034.837.040.029.4
Absolute lowest min.
Days of frost in screen   4.5
Days of ground frost

Table Table 10. GORE (245 FT.).

Mean daily maximum69.068.966.160.153.747.747.151.756.860.963.166.459.3
Mean highest maximum84.984.380.273.864.958.457.162.068.673.077.680.987.9
Absolute highest max.93.091.589.
Mean daily minimum46.746.044.040.435.732.431.633.237.540.842.244.939.6
Mean lowest minimum35.134.932.929.225.923.522.924.628.230.832.635.021.4
Absolute lowest min.
Days of frost in screen0.
Days of ground frost0.

The above tables (Nos. 4 to 10) relate to temperature extremes. The first line gives the average of the maximum temperatures as observed each day, the second the average of the highest temperatures observed in each month and the year, and the third the highest yet recorded. Corresponding information regarding minimum temperatures follows. Next comes the average number of days on which the minimum temperature in the thermometer screen falls below 32° F. This gives some idea of the susceptibility to severe frosts, such as would affect fruit-trees. The last line gives the number of ground frosts. According to the British Convention, a ground frost is recorded when the grass minimum thermometer falls below 30.4° F., damage being unlikely at higher temperatures. In the preparation of these tables some of the older records have, for various reasons, been discarded.


In Table 11 are listed for each month and the year the average number of hours of sunshine at all places from which a sufficiently long record is available. The greatest amounts are recorded at places protected from the prevailing winds by high mountain ranges. The excellence of New Zealand's climate, particularly for the growth of pasture, is undoubtedly due to the abundance of sunshine combined with a high rainfall and an absence of extreme temperatures.


Station.Number of Years.Jan.Feb.Mar.April.May.June.July.Aug.Sept.Oct.Nov.Dec.Year.

*Jordan sunshine-recorder used until February, 1933.

Waipoua State Forest9196.8155.0150.1132.0101.582.196.5127.9116. 1133.2139.4156.81,587.4
New Plymouth19–21255.5222.7221.6166.4159.4132.7141.5169.0169.5174.5212.1241.02,265.9
Palmerston N.9202.2182.9173.1139.5132.8108.1105.9134.7133.3149.1178.4209.31,849.3
Hanmer Springs24–27207.9189.7190.7156.6126.1104.6106.6144.9166.8180.4200.6209.81,984.7
Lake Tekapo10–12268.1229.3237.7186.9161.8126.4143.8167.1198.0222.6239.5273.12,454.3


Tables giving monthly averages for a number of stations under each of the heads distinguished below, will be found on page 25 of the 1933 edition of the Year-Book.

Fog.—Fog does not play an important part in New Zealand weather. Most of the fogs recorded are shallow radiation fogs occurring only in the early morning. During the approach of cyclonic depressions, however, widespread and persistent fog is a frequent occurrence. Occasionally, parts of the coast are affected by fog in calm weather. The landlocked harbours and estuaries of North Auckland appear to be unusually susceptible.

Snow.—Snow is rare at sea-level, especially in the North Island. In the interior and at high altitudes it occurs more frequently. On the summits of the ranges in the whole length of the South Island and on the highest peaks in the North Island snow falls, on the average, on over thirty days per annum. In the interior of the South Island there is a considerable area of settled country which is subject to half that number. Towards the coast, however, the number falls off rapidly. Data regarding snow lying are scanty. In the North Island any snow falling on the low levels almost invariably melts as it falls, but on the high plateaux it may lie, especially in the hollows, for from one to three weeks during the year. In the South Island it practically never lies at low levels on the north or west coasts, but on the east coast does so on a few days in some years. At altitudes between 500 ft. and 1,000 ft. in the interior of the South Island the average number of days appears to be between seven and fourteen. Railway traffic is seldom interfered with by snow, even to a minor extent.

Hail.—Hail is experienced more frequently as the latitude increases, and on the west coast than on the east, the rise in frequency in the extreme south-west and about Foveaux Strait being very marked. It occurs more often in spring than at other times of the year. The majority of the hailstorms recorded, however, are harmless, the stones being quite small. Occasionally severe hailstorms are experienced in New Zealand, the stones reaching a diameter of from ½ in. upwards. These are usually associated with thunderstorms, and are probably little less numerous on the east coast than the west or in the North Island than in the South.

Thunder.—Thunderstorms are more numerous in the North than in the South and on the west than on the east side of the main ranges. They are very rare in eastern districts in winter.

Strong Winds.—Averages give the number of days of strong winds experienced per year as: Auckland, 31.5; New Plymouth, 25.7; Wellington, 57.7; Hokitika, 38.3; and Dunedin, 16.3 days. These figures include a proportion of high winds (force 7 on the Beaufort scale) as well as gales (force 8 and over). The figures for Wellington show the effect of the concentration of the winds through Cook Strait.


January.—In the North Island the weather was very wet, with more than the average cloudiness. In the far north north-easterly gales and some flooding occurred. In the South Island conditions were reversed, the rainfall being much below average, especially in Canterbury and on the West Coast. Temperatures were slightly above normal.

February was the wettest February recorded in New Zealand and, indeed, one of the wettest months on record. Most of Westland, the Mackenzie country, the interior of Otago, and Southland had less than the average rainfall, but elsewhere from two to four times the average was recorded. Flooding occurred at times over practically the whole of the North Island. From the 1st to 2nd it was of record proportions in parts of the Auckland Province. In south Marlborough, Canterbury, and north-eastern Otago also there were severe floods. In Canterbury the floods of the 19th to 21st were the most severe since 1923, and the Ashley River rose to unprecedented heights. There was a great flush of growth of grass, and the milk yields became high. Conditions were, however, unfavourable for fattening lambs or for haymaking. Most crops were adversely affected. Some damage was done to the wheat crop, which would otherwise have been excellent. In many cases the grain sprouted, both standing and in the stook. Temperatures were generally somewhat below normal. From the 1st to the 2nd the North Island was visited by a cyclone of tropical origin, which was the most severe in its history. Very severe damage was done by the wind, which in places reached whole gale force. The Manawatu district, and particularly Palmerston North, suffered the worst. Not only was the precipitation extraordinarily heavy, but for a rain so widespread the rate of fall was still more remarkable. The resultant flooding was responsible for serious losses of stock as well as much other damage. Abnormal tidal effects were produced.

March was a very cold month. Though not nearly so heavy as in February, the rainfall was above average in most districts. Pasture was abundant, but was rank and soft. The growth of other vegetation was generally checked and conditions were unfavourable for flowering and fruiting processes. The northern half of the North Island was again affected by a severe cyclone of tropical origin between the 25th and 27th.

Severe gales and remarkably high tides were experienced from Auckland northwards, causing much damage, but the amount of rainfall was surprisingly small.

April.—For the first eighteen days the weather was warm and, except in western and southern portions of the South Island, there was very little rain. In consequence, stock and vegetation thrived. Pastures hardened considerably in most districts and, for the first time during the year, lambs began to fatten well. Cold, wet, and stormy weather after the 18th, however, caused a setback.

May.—On the 2nd a south-westerly storm occurred which for extent and severity was one of the most notable in the history of the country. There followed a spoil of fine weather unprecedented for the time of year. The winds, though light, were mainly southerly, and mean temperatures consequently very low. Frosts and morning fogs were numerous and some snow fell on the ranges, but conditions were not really severe. The month was, on the whole, a good one for stock and pastures.

June was very dry in most districts. Some sharp frosts occurred in the North Island during the first week, but owing to winds being very light, with an absence of severe southerlies, the month was generally a very mild one. Though checked in much of the North Island, there was unusual growth of pasture elsewhere, and, for the time of year, the quality was good. Stock were in good condition.

July.—Rainfall was above average in most districts, but the reverse was the case in the Far North, in parts of Taranaki and Hawke's Bay, and on the west coast of the South Island. Temperatures were rather low and, in the North Island, unusually numerous and sharp frosts were experienced. There were several intervals of very stormy weather, with numerous hailstorms and snow down to low levels. On the 6th, following the passage of a cyclone across the South Island, pressure in the extreme south fell to 28.3 in., the lowest value recorded at sea-level in New Zealand.

August.—A storm which commenced at the end of the preceding month was still raging at the beginning of August. A strong, cold southerly wind was blowing on the 1st and snowstorms were widespread. Around Wellington the snow was unusually thick and extended to low levels. It was some days before it finally disappeared. Several days of cold weather with sharp frosts followed the snowstorm. Another severe storm occurred towards the end of the month, causing heavy, general rains, followed by southerly gales and much snow and hail. Most of the country had considerably more than the average rainfall. Mean temperatures were amongst the highest ever experienced in August.

September was a typical spring month with a persistence of strong and squally westerly winds and frequent rain in districts with a westerly aspect. As regards total rainfall, conditions varied greatly from district to district, and over the country as a whole the fall approximated the average. Temperatures were rather low. Though growth of vegetation was retarded in western and southern districts of the South Island and much of the North, in Hawke's Bay, about Wellington, and in Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds there was rapid growth. A good ambing season was being experienced.

October, except in the first ten or eleven days, was very mild. A rather sharp frost on the 15 th following a cold rain caused very serious damage to fruit and tomato crops in the Hastings district. Except in parts of the Wairarapa and southern Hawke's Bay, vegetation grew rapidly and there was ample feed for stock. Rainfall exceeded the average over most of the west coast of the South Island and the Nelson and Marlborough Provinces, but elsewhere it was below. Temperatures were well above normal.

In November the weather was dull, wet, and changeable. Rainfall exceeded the average in almost all parts, while temperatures were above normal. There was consequently a lush growth of pasture and, except that lambs failed to fatten well on the soft feed, stock were in splendid condition. The wet weather interfered with shearing.

December.—Though the first half was generally fine and much hay was gathered, the last part was wet. Shearing and farm work were again delayed. Stock were in good condition, but feed was soft and rather too plentiful. Rainfall was rather above average and temperatures below. North-easterly gales, heavy rain, and some flooding in the Auckland Province were associated with a cyclonic depression which approached northern New Zealand on the 30th.

Year.—Over the greater part of the country the total rainfall for the year was above average. In considerable areas the excess was 10 in. and upwards. Nevertheless, there were a number of small areas where somewhat less than the average was recorded. Temperatures were slightly below normal in most districts, but a little above in Otago and Southland. In no case did the departures amount to as much as 1° F. The year was remarkable for the variability of weather conditions and the number of new records of intensity created for various types of weather. In temperature, however, there were no great extremes. The amount of bright sunshine was below normal in most districts.

At no time was there serious shortage of pasture over any large portion of the country, but, on the contrary, in many parts there was throughout the year a superabundance. The milk yield was therefore good, and stock fared well. The feed was, however, too soft for lambs to fatten very satisfactorily. The lambing season was an excellent one in spite of the rather low temperatures and the high rainfall. The yield of wheat was high, but much of the crop was damaged by sprouting. The 1936 apple crop was good, but the prospects for the 1937 one were less so. The cold, dull, and wet weather of the late summer was responsible for considerable irregularity in the blossoming of many trees, shrubs, and flowering plants.


(The observations were taken at 9 a.m., mean time.)

Station.Temperatures in Shade.Hours of Sunshine.Rainfall.
Mean Dally Maximum.Mean Dally MinimumApprox. Mean Temperature.Extremes for 1936.Absolute Maximum.Absolute Minimum.Total Fall.Number of Days.
Maximum and Month.Minimum and Month.

* On two days sunshine was not recorded at Massey College.

 °F.°F.°F.°F.°F.°F.°F. Inches. 
Waipoua State Forest65. Feb.28.0 Aug.  1,694.271.00210
Riverhead64.146.855.578.1 Jan.21.7 June   62.03188
Auckland64.653.058.879.0 Jan.35.5 Aug.80.533.22,234.752.54174
Waihi63.947.655.781.5 Jan.24.0 July89.021.01,934.297.59164
Te Aroha66.748.657.684.0 Jan.25.2 June95.021.0 53.43177
Morrinsville66.044.855.482.3 Feb.21.8 June   45.82165
Tauranga65.747.156.480.8 Jan.25.9 Aug.87.022.52,437.063.59168
Hamilton East65.444.755.190.0 Jan.22.0 June94.422.0 50.42173
Rotorua62.945.654.381.6 Jan.24.6 July98.021.01,908.767.53146
Whakarewarewa63.844.254.082.0 Jan.23.3 July91.022.0 60.09153
New Plymouth63.149.556.378.7 Jan.31.8 Sept.89.027.02,069.862.97187
Karioi58.938.348.677.0 Jan.16.0 July81.211.5 53.98170
Napier64.148.456.285.6 Jan.28.0 July94.027.52,291.748.59141
Hastings66.745.256.086.2 Dec.24.2 July92.420.0 40.98135
Taihape57.443.050.277.2 Jan.25.3 July87.820.4 44.37180
Palmerston North63.447.455.481.0 Feb.27.0 {Jun.
91.023.0 45.31151
Massey College, Palmerston North*61.946.854.482.5 Feb.25.0 Sept.87.021.21,843.743.21154
Tangimoana62.746.254.581.0 Jan.27.2 Aug.87.620.5 38.40138
Pahiatua61.945.053.581.6 Feb.21.0 July87.021.0 54.17172
Masterton64.043.553.884.2 Feb.22.3 July95.420.02,077.347.14152
Wellington59.748.254.079.1 Feb.33.2 Aug.88.028.01,984.756.80173
Nelson62.846.054.480.0 Dec.27.1 Aug.92.025.02,279.943.47122
Appleby, Nelson62.545.754.179.4 Dec.23.0 Aug.84.823.0 40.83121
Blenheim64.943.854.484.8 Jan.23.5 Aug.92.523.52,352.526.78131
Golden Downs61.140.050.679.5 Jan.17.2 Aug.85.517.2 53.91115
Waihopai62.342.952.681.8 Jan.23.8 Aug.91.623.0 38.50130
Hanmer Springs60.838.749.784.5 Feb.14.0 July97.08.21,855.359.04153
Balmoral Plantation61.941.151.591.0 Jan.17.5 Aug.92.212.0 29.22112
Hokitika59.945.252.577.5 Jan.26.0 Aug.84.525.51,681.4109.93200
Lake Coleridge60.241.751.079.8 Dec.16.5 July93.012.0 40.69145
Methven58.743.150.978.0 Jan.25.0 Aug.89.023.0 52.67147
Christchurch59.544.351.981.8 April26.0 June95.721.31,886.030.14140
Lincoln61.143.952.583.6 April25.6 July98.420.41,789.138.82121
Ashburton59.940.950.479.9 Jan.19.4 Aug.94.019.21,658.540.38153
Lake Tekapo56.737.547.178.3 Jan.14.2 Aug.90.04.02,324.929.7392
Fairlie59.737.748.785.7 Jan.17.0 Aug.93.07.61,869.132.81121
Timaru59.843.551.689.4 Jan.24.8 July99.023.01,758.430.74101
Queenstown58.441.249.881.4 Feb.23.2 Aug.90.220.42,016.435.37149
Ophir59.838.849.384.0 Jan.17.3 May94.01.0 17.62111
Waipiata58.238.848.581.0 Jan.21.0 (Jun.
Alexandra60.541.050.885.3 Jan.23.5 June91.512.22,102.512.59102
Manorburn Dam52.734.743.775.0 Feb.9.0 Aug.93.00.5 19.41129
Dunedin58.643.851.284.0 Jan.29.5 Sept.94.023.01,742.748.06103
Gore60.739.550.183.0 Jan.24.0 Aug.95.018.01,787.740.09180
Invercargill58.142.750.481.0 Feb.26.0 Aug.90.019.01,580.048.69247

For 1936 the mean pressure at 9 a.m., in inches, reduced to sea-level and standard gravity, was: Waipoua, 29.935; Auckland, 29.979; Rotorua, 29.944; Wellington, 29.938; Nelson, 29.948; Hokitika, 29.945; Christchurch, 29.900; Dunedin, 29.886.


The following article on the New Zealand flora is by Dr. W. R. B. Oliver, D.Sc., F.R.S.N.Z., Director of the Dominion Museum:—

Though the unique features of the flora of New Zealand are frequently emphasized, it should not be thought that there are not other floras which might be described as having equally peculiar characteristics. Taking the plants of the whole world, differentiation has proceeded in all areas so that each is unique in some respects, and as a general rule the quality of uniqueness is most impressed in those areas which for a long time have been isolated, thus giving evolution the opportunity to proceed unhampered by intercrossing with adjacent floras. The peculiar features of a flora are consequently an expression of its past history; and so those regions, such as South Africa, Western Australia, South America, and New Zealand, which, for considerable periods in their history, have been cut off from the remainder of the world, developed floras with many characteristics of surpassing interest. New Zealand is far distant from any continental mass and has maintained such a relation for a long period, probably throughout the whole of the Tertiary Era. Briefly, the peculiar features of the plants of New Zealand are a high degree of endemism; great development of certain genera such as the koromikos (Hebe), karamus (Coprosma), wild Spaniards (Aciphylla), daisy trees (Olearia), mountain daisies (Celmisia), and native brooms (Carmichaelia); the absence or poor development of many of the largest genera of plants, such as Astragalus, Acacia, Eucalyptus, Euphorbia, Mesembryanthemum, Selaginella, although some are highly developed in Australia; the presence of an element, known as Antarctic, containing species related to those in South America and the islands of the Southern Ocean; certain peculiar life-forms, such as the dense cushion plants, known as vegetable sheep; and the high proportion of species with persistent juvenile stages considerably different from the adult forms.

In the following account a select number of species are mentioned for their interest in one way or another. Among the many important discoveries of the late Dr. L. Cockayne, however, was the fact that many of the individual plants in the vegetation are in reality hybrids between the ordinary “species” of the taxonomist. The prevalence of hybrids is, in fact, much more general than is apparent to the untrained eye. In a list recently published, Cockayne and H. H. Allan record nearly five hundred native hybrids. Some, such as the crosses among the beeches (Nothofagus) and tutus (Coriaria), take, in places, a prominent part in the vegetative covering.

Taking the vascular plants—that is, flowering-plants, conifers, ferns, and lycopods—as a whole, by far the larger portion show affinities directly or indirectly with the plants of the Malayan region. Coming under this head are most of the conifers, especially the kauri (Agathis) and the two principal genera of podocarps (Dacrydium, Podocarpus), and practically all the endemic genera for which the flora is so justly famed. It is necessary to mention only such important examples as Carmichaelia, Anisotome, Aciphylla, Haastia, Raoulia, Stilbocarpa, Entelea, and Myosotidium. The presence of this element is justification for stating that the basis of the New Zealand flora is Malayan, and that it came to the country by way of an ancient land connection. Supporting evidence of such a land bridge is found in the presence in New Zealand of some flightless species of birds and the tuatara lizard; also, in former times, of the large wingless moas.

Another important element in the New Zealand flora may be described as Australian, as it includes species either identical with or related to those found in Australia or Tasmania. Some belong to endemic genera, some are odd species belonging to large and characteristic Australian genera such as Phebalium, Persoonia, Myoporum, and Epacris; and there are over 250 species common to both sides of the Tasman Sea. About a fourth of these are widely distributed in many other parts of the world. Some of the Australian species may have come to New Zealand with the Malayan element; others may have been accidentally carried by ocean currents, wind, or birds.

Of exceptional interest is the element in the New Zealand flora known as Antarctic, because of its remarkable distribution and the fact that it has given rise to much controversy among biologists. Taking any of the southern continental lands, we find a considerable number of species related to those in the other cold temperate regions. Thus, in the New Zealand region there are about 70 species of vascular plants whose relations are with those in South America and the islands of the Southern Ocean. The most conspicuous of the Antarctic plants in New Zealand are the beeches (Nothofagus), fuchsias, broadleafs (Griselinia), wild Irishman (Discaria), pukatea (Laurelia), and ourisias. Some botanists explain the presence of the Antarctic element in New Zealand by an ancient southern land connection; others think that equally ancient dispersal from the north and accidental dispersal overseas are sufficient to account for them. All of these methods may have played their part.

The internal distribution of the plants of New Zealand deserves brief notice. Some species occupy quite limited areas even on the mainland. Examples are Cassinia amoena in the North Cape Peninsula, Pittosporum Dallii near Boulder Lake, Hebe oblusata north of Manukau Harbour, Coprosma obconica in the Wairoa Gorge, and several species in the mountains of the South Island. More often, species of limited distribution are confined to islands; in fact, most of the islands at some distance from the coast have one or more species peculiar to them. Conspicuous examples are Homolanthus polyandrus in the Kermadec Islands, Davallia Tasmani at the Three Kings. Xeronema Callistemon on the Poor Knights Islands and Hen Island, Myosotidium hortensia in the Chatham Islands, and species of Pleurophyllum and Stilbocarpa in the Subantarctic Islands.

Perhaps of more importance than these cases of isolated distribution is the circumstance that on the main islands considerable numbers of species have their southern or northern limits at about the same latitude. Two critical boundaries in this connection are 38° S. lat. in the North Island, and 42° S. lat. in the South Island. On this basis New Zealand may be divided into three botanical districts; and if other evidence be taken into account a number of provinces may be defined. The northern botanical province, which extends from the Three Kings Islands to 38° S. lat., is especially well-marked, having nearly 100 species which are confined to it or extend but a short distance beyond its southern border. Of especial interest are the kauri (Agathis australis), taraire (Beilschmiedia taraire), makamaka (Ackama rosaefolia), mangrove (Avicennia officinalis), pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), and mairehau (Phebalium nudum).

A brief review may now be made of the principal groups of plants found in New Zealand. The vascular plants, which comprise ferns, lycopods, and their allies, conifers, and flowering-plants, almost entirely form the land vegetation of physiognomic importance. It is these which clothe the ground and are thus of so much importance to the beauty of the landscape. Lichens are dominant in certain rocky situations, especially near the coast, and these plants, together with mosses and liverworts, are conspicuous members of the interior of scrub and forest in humid climates. Algae take undisputed possession of rocky coasts below tide marks, but on muddy bottoms a flowering-plant, the sea wrack (Zostera), covers wide areas in sheltered situations.

Beginning with the flowering-plants, of which there are over 1,600 species, we find that the daisy family, Compositae, generally placed in the highest position in the flora, contains about 260 species. This is a world-wide family of over 13,000 species. The New Zealand species show some peculiar features and include some exceedingly interesting kinds. The leathery-leaved Pachystegia insignis, the purple-flowered species of Pleurophyllum, and the edelweiss-like Leucogenes, form a remarkable series, Raoulia and Haastia include the wonderful cushion-like species known as vegetable sheep, characteristic of the drier mountains of the South Island. Smaller species of similar growth extend as far north as the Tararuas, and as far south as Stewart Island. The mountain daisies, Celmisia, run into over 60 species; and there are over 40 species of daisy-trees, Olearia. Notable members of this genus are the holly-leaved daisy-tree (O. ilicifolia) and the tete-a-weka (O. angustifolia). Senecio includes about 35, species belonging to New Zealand, several being trees of considerable height. The puheretaiko or mutton-bird shrub (S. rotundifolius) forms a coastal scrub in Stewart Island and the fiord district.

The Australian family, Stylidiaceae, includes only a few New Zealand species, but among them are the bog cushion plants Donatia, and Phyllachne.

The blue-bell family, Campanulaceae, which comprises about 1,000 species found in all parts of the world, is represented in New Zealand by 17 species, one of which (Wahlenbergia cartilaginea) is a fleshy plant characteristic of mountain shingle slips, and another (W. Matthewsii) has rather large pale lilac flowers.

The madder family, Rubiaceae, of over 5,000 species, mainly tropical and subtropical, includes the genus Coprosma, of about 90 species, of which 40 are found in New Zealand. The species of this genus range from forest trees of moderate height to creeping shrubs, and have inconspicuous flowers but bright berries of different colours. The best-known species are the taupata (C. repens), a coastal plant much used for hedges, the karamu (C. robusta), and the kanono (C. australis).

A characteristic Australian family is Myoporaceae, with one representative only in New Zealand, the well-known coastal tree, ngaio (Myoporum laetum).

The speedwell family, Scrophulariaceae, comprises over 2,600 species, mainly found in temperate climates. In New Zealand it has developed chiefly in the four genera: Hebe, 66 species; Veronica, 13 species; Ourisia, 10 species; and Euphrasia, 13 species. The Hebes or koromikos are shrubs with handsome racemes of pale-lilac to white flowers and are conspicuous in all the natural scrubs of the Dominion, but are especially in evidence in mountainous localities. The willow-leaved koromiko (H. salicifolia), in one or other of its forms, is found throughout New Zealand in lowland forests and scrub. Several species of Hebe, known as whip-cord koromikos, are remarkable for the fact that the leaves are reduced and scale-like, resembling those of the cypress. The large flowering-heads of Ourisia are conspicuous objects in the mountains.

The mangrove, Avicennia officinalis, is found in tidal estuaries throughout the eastern hemisphere. In New Zealand it occurs from the North Cape to Kawhia and Opotiki. Another member of this family, Verbenaceae, is the puriri (Vitex lucens), a handsome tree with extremely hard wood.

The borage family, Boraginaceae, of 1,600 mostly north temperate species, is represented in New Zealand by 31 species of forget-me-not (Myosotis), and by Myosotidium hortensia. This last species is confined to the Chatham Islands, and is remarkable for the large reniform leaves, sometimes a foot across, and the large heads of blue flowers.

There are 24 species of gentians, family Gentianaceae, in New Zealand. They are mainly mountain plants, and many have showy flowers, mostly white with radiating purple veins. Elsewhere the genus, which comprises some 350 species, is mainly north temperate, but extends all along the Andes.

The four species of olive, family Oleaceae, found in New Zealand, include the black maire, Olea Cunninghamii, and the white maire, O. lanceolata, notable for their hard timber.

The heath family, Ericaceae, widely spread in temperate regions, is poorly represented in Australia and New Zealand. Gaultheria, with 100 species in America, has but 8 in New Zealand. Instead of Ericaceæ, however, there is present in Australia and New Zealand, and almost confined thereto, an allied family, Epacridaceae, containing some 300 species. The most conspicuous members in New Zealand are the various kinds of grass trees, Dracophyllum, of which there are over 30 species. Some are trees, but mostly they are shrubs and take a prominent part in subalpine scrubs. The leaves are grass-like and the flowers are borne in racemes or panicles. Two of the largest members are the neinei (D. latifolium) of the North Island, and D. Traversii of the South Island.

The cornel family, Cornaceae, contains two species of the genus Griselinia, otherwise Chilean. They have large, shining, dark-green leaves, and one, the broadleaf (G. littoralis), produces a durable timber.

The world-wide carrot family, Umbelliferae, is represented in New Zealand by over 80 species, but over half of them belong to the genera Aciphylla and Anisotome. The species of Aciphylla have branched, sword-like leaves arising at ground-level as a dense tuft. Some are 2 ft. in length, and, being rigid, are formidable objects to man or beast. From the centre rises an equally armoured spike of small flowers. Anisotome includes unarmed herbs, more or less aromatic, with compound leaves and conspicuous compound umbels. With the exception of a few species in Australia, Aciphylla and Anisotome are confined to New Zealand.

The ivy family, Araliaceae, mainly tropical in distribution, is represented in New Zealand by 25 species, all but three being trees. The three herbs belong to the remarkable genus Stilbocarpa, and have leaves 1½ ft. in diameter. The trees include the large-leaved puka, Meryta Sinclairii, of tropical affinities. Those belonging to the genus Pseudopanax, some of which are known as lance-woods, pass through juvenile forms with straight, unbranched stems bearing narrow and deflexed, toothed leaves up to 3 ft. in length.

The evening primrose family, Onagraceae, found in many temperate climates, is represented in New Zealand by about 40 species of willow-herbs and three species of Fuchsia. The latter is an American genus of over 60 species, and by what method the New Zealand forms reached New Zealand is a question of great interest to biologists. The common New Zealand kotukutuku, Fuchsia excorlicata, is a tree, usually deciduous, with papery bark.

The myrtle family, Myrtaceae, is widespread, but most abundant in South America and Australia. In New Zealand there are 17 species or shrubs and trees belonging to this family. The most common are the manuka, Leptospermum scoparium, and the kanuka, L. ericoides. One or both of these cover extensive areas in situations ranging from swamps to sand-dunes. They form dense thickets and, in some places, forest. The various species of rata (Metrosideros) produce an abundance of brush-like red or white flowers. Most conspicuous along the shores of the northern portion of the Dominion is the pohutukawa, M. excelsa, which, in midsummer, is covered with crimson flowers. Equally conspicuous are the northern and southern ratas, M. robusta and M. umbellata, lofty forest trees producing durable timber. The northern rata begins life as a seedling high up on another tree, such as a rimu, and, reaching the ground with its roots, clasps the stem of its host, finally killing and replacing it. Some of the species of Metrosideros are climbers. Their woody, cable-like stems, sometimes 6 in. in diameter, enable the foliage to expand among the tops of the tallest trees.

The mallow family, Malvaceae, of tropical and subtropical distribution, includes a few trees inhabiting New Zealand. They are known as lace-barks and ribbon-woods on account of the lattice-like strands of the bast. The Maori used this bark for textile work. The species of Hoheria or lace-barks bear, in late summer, a profusion of white flowers. One species is deciduous.

The small tropical family Elaeocarpaceae contains two species of Elaeocarpus, a large Malayan genus, one of them being the hinau, which bears large clusters of pendant flowers. The makomako, Aristotelia serrata, is a common tree which springs up in abundance in forest clearings.

The karaka, Corynocarpus laevigata, is a handsome tree with shining dark-green foliage and large orange drupes. The kernel contains a virulent poison, but the flesh is edible. The Maori treated the kernel so as to render it innocuous. The family, Corynocarpaceae, contains one genus of three species, two of which are natives of New Caledonia.

The small tropical family, Coriariaceae, is represented in New Zealand by about five species of Coriaria, one of which is the well-known tutu, C. arborea, the leaves of which are poisonous to stock. The tutu appears abundantly in clearings and on bracken-covered hills.

Although the family Meliaceae contains 600 species, mainly tropical, only one, the kohekohe, Dysoxylon spectabile, is found in New Zealand. The flowers are borne during mid-winter on the trunks and branches. The timber is easily worked, and on account of its brown colour is responsible for the name “New Zealand cedar” being given to this species.

The bean family, Leguminosae, one of the largest in the world, contains a number of New Zealand species, but, as in the carrot family, most of them belong to genera highly peculiar to the Dominion. There are over 20 species of Carmichaelia and a few of some related genera, all of broom-like habit—that is, having leafless twigs and paniculate flowers. Some of the species bear large clusters of blooms of great beauty. Notable members of this family are the three species of kowhai, Edwardsia. The genus is tropical and subtropical; but the New Zealand species have South American affinities. All the species have showy yellow flowers much sought after by honey-sucking birds, and the common kowhai, E. microphylla, produces a durable timber known to saw-millers as New Zealand lignum vitae.

The rose family, Rosaceae, is in New Zealand chiefly noted for its species of Acaena, of infamous reputation. The plant flourishes in pastures, and its burrs collect in great clots on the wool of sheep, causing much loss to sheep-farmers.

The subtropical family, Cunoniaceae, is represented in New Zealand by three species of trees. One, the kamahi, Weinmannia racemosa, is excessively abundant in forests south of the Waikato district, and its ally, the tawhero, W. sylvicola, replaces it in the north.

Pittosporaceae is a family of trees and shrubs which, with the exception of Pittosporum, is confined to Australia. This genus is well represented in New Zealand, where it includes 23 species. Some, such as the kohuhu, P. tenuifolium, and karo, P. crassifolium, are extensively used as hedge plants. A remarkable and beautiful species is P. Dallii. It is distinguished by its serrated leaves and large white flowers.

The large family of saxifrages, Saxifragaceae, with numerous herbaceous genera in northern temperate regions, is represented in New Zealand by three genera only, each containing one or two species of trees. Carpodetus, the putaputaweta, is the most common. In early summer the trees are covered with large clusters of small white flowers.

The cress family, Cruciferae, is of world-wide distribution and of numerous species. It is, however, little in evidence in New Zealand but contains the peculiar genera of mountain plants, Pachycladon and Notothlaspi. A species of Lepidium, now almost eaten out by stock, was formerly abundant along the seashore, and was used as a vegetable by the crews of Captain Cook's ships.

Another world-wide family of plants, that of the buttercups, Ranunculaceae, contains in New Zealand 9 species of Clematis, over 40 of Ranunculus, and a few others. The species of Ranunculus are especially characteristic of the subalpine and alpine zones and contain some very peculiar forms. Some are found only on mountain screes and some reach almost the upper limit of vegetation. The mountain buttercup, R. Lyallii, possesses large, circular, peltate leaves, and the largest flowers of any species belonging to the genus. During the summer months the puawhananga (Clematis indivisa) displays masses of large white flowers over the surrounding foliage.

A tropical family of root parasites, Balanophoraceae, has in New Zealand a single member, the pua-reinga (Dactylanthus Taylori). The host tree responds by forming rosettes with radiating flutings and considerably wider than the diameter of the roots themselves.

Of woody parasites, New Zealand possesses 11 members of the mistletoe family, Loranthaceae. Members of the genus Elytranthe are conspicuous objects among the tops of beech-trees on account of their clusters of scarlet or yellow flowers.

The large Australian and South African family of proteas, Proteaceae, is represented in New Zealand by only 2 members. One is the toru (Persoonia toru), a small tree belonging to an Australian genus of 60 species, and the other is the rewarewa (Knightia excelsa), a lofty tree with relatives in New Caledonia. The wood of the rewarewa is beautifully variegated and is much used for inlaying and cabinet work.

The mulberry family, Moraceae, widely represented in the tropics, extends to New Zealand only in three species of Paratrophis. Most common is the turepo or milk-tree, P. microphylla, and all exude a white latex when bruised.

The beech family, Fagaceae, which is best represented in the northern temperate zone, has in New Zealand 5 species of small-leaved beeches, referred to the genus Nothofagus, a very close ally of the northern Fagus. The other members of Nothofagus are found in Australia, Tasmania, and temperate South America. The New Zealand beeches are the dominant members of large areas of upland forest in the main islands. They provide a considerable proportion of the timber milled in the Dominion. The species are the red beech (N. fusca), silver beech (N. Menziesii), black beech (N. Solandri), mountain beech (N. cliffortioides), and hard beech (N. truncata).

Of monocotyledonous plants the orchids, family Orchidaceae, are among the most specialized, and may be mentioned first. New Zealand is relatively poor in species, there being only 66 known kinds, whereas the world total is about 8,000. Most of the New Zealand forms are ground species, some inconspicuous. The large epiphytic genera Dendrobium and Rulbophyllum are represented by 1 and 2 species respectively, and there are 3 species of the Polynesian Earina and 1 of the Australian Sarcochilus. All New Zealand epiphytes occasionally grow on rocks or even on the ground.

The world-wide lily family, Liliaceae, extends to New Zealand in a comparatively small number of genera, but, like other cosmopolitan families, some of these are noteworthy. Phormium contains the celebrated New Zealand flax, P. tenax, and another smaller species, P. Colensoi. The larger species is found in swamps and wet places. It is a noble plant with sword-like leaves from 6 ft. to 10 ft. long, overtopped by the erect flower-heads. It is now extensively cultivated for its fibre. Xeronema Callistemon, with red, brush-like flowers and iris-like leaves, is confined to islands off the coast of the North Auckland Peninsula. Its only relative is found in New Caledonia. Conspicuous in swamps, scrub, and low forest are the species of Cordyline, palm-like plants bearing clusters of small white flowers. The most plentiful is the ti-rahau or cabbage-tree, C. australis; but the most remarkable, on account of its wide, elastic leaves, is the toii, C. indivisa, found on the forest border or in the more open parts of cool forests. Perched in great clusters on tall forest trees are various species of Astelia and Collospermum, in habit like large tussock grasses.

Palms constitute an immense family, Palmaceae, of over 1,100 species, and are essentially tropical or subtropical. Only 2 species are found in New Zealand, one, the nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida), extending as far south as Banks Peninsula and Hokitika, and the other (R. Cheesemanii) confined to the Kermadec Islands.

The grasses, family Gramineae, of which there are over 120 species in New Zealand, include the large pampas-like toetoe, Arundo conspicua. As its specific name implies, it is a conspicuous species. It is especially abundant in swamps and in coastal localities. Other notable grasses are the various species of Danthonia which, over wide areas in the mountains, form the dominating feature—namely, large tussocks of narrow waving leaves. The smaller species of Danthonia, notably D. pilosa and D. semiannularis, are important pasture grasses. Many of the New Zealand grasses are also found in Australia, and among them the spinifex, S. hirsutus, abundant as a sand-binding species along the outer dunes.

Many of the sedges, family Cyperaceae, of which there are over 120 species in New Zealand, form large tussocks with tall brown panicles. Unlike the grasses, they are conspicuous in scrubs and forests. Chief among these are the various species of Gahnia. A beautiful species, Cladium Sinclairii, has flat, shining leaves and adds much to the beauty of wet cliffs. The genus Uncinia, with 14 species in New Zealand, must be mentioned on account of the fact that it is found in south temperate regions and islands generally, and because the fruit is furnished with peculiar hooks enabling it to become entangled in the hair or wool of animals. There are 55 species of the genus Carex in New Zealand, some, such as G. ternaria, forming dense thickets in swamps.

The class of cone-bearing trees, or gymnosperms, is represented in New Zealand by two families, one, Araucariaceae, containing two genera of truly cone-bearing trees, Agathis and Libocedrux, and the other, Podocarpaceae, containing 17 species with nutlike fruits surrounded more or less by the fleshy scales.

The kauri (Agathis australis) for more than a century has been world-famed for its timber. A straight bole, up to 80 ft. or more in height, carries an immense rounded head of dark-green, shining leaves. The kauri is found only in the northern part of the North Island, and only a few areas of considerable extent now exist. The timber is still an important product. The resin, which is obtained from the living tree and also dug from the ground where kauri forests formerly existed, is of value in making varnishes and for other purposes. In former times the value of the resin exported was greater than that of the timber.

Libocedrus contains two cypress-like trees with brown bark which falls in long, thin strips. One species, the kawaka (L. plumosa), is more northern in distribution than the other, the pahautea (L. Bidwillii).

Of the podocarps, the three New Zealand genera extend to Malaya and other regions. They include the rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), which is cut for timber more than is any other species of tree in New Zealand; the totara (Podocarpus totara), a handsome tree with pungent leaves and producing a useful timber, the favourite of the Maoris for canoes and house carvings; the matai (P. spicatus), the miro (P. ferruginus), and the kahikatea (P. dacrydioides), all producing valuable timber; the tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides), a tall tree with leaf-like branches, the true leaves being fully developed only in the seedlings; and the silver pine (D. Colensoi), and yellow pine (D. intermedium), of bog-forests.

Ferns are the glory of the New Zealand forests. They are, of course, most in evidence in damp forests. Here the undergrowth in places may consist mostly of ferns. In addition, they may clothe most of the tree trunks and branches, and, as tree-ferns, take a part in the upper canopy of foliage. There are 145 species, distributed over 12 families, found in New Zealand.

The filmy ferns, family Hymenophyllaceae, are included in the genera Hymenophyllum, Trichomanes, and Cardiomanes. In moist forests a dozen or more species often may be obtained in a single locality. Their delicate leaves cover ground, logs, and trunks alike. They vary from the broad-leaved H. dilatatum, which may reach a height of 2 ft., to the minute H. minimum, less than 1 in. tall. One species, the kidney fern, Cardiomanes reniforme, has undivided, reniform leaves fringed with the spore-producing organs.

A single species, Loxsoma Cunninghamii, with the leaves whitish below, represents the family Loxsomaceae in New Zealand, where it is confined to the Auckland Province. The only other members of the family are found in tropical America.

The family Dicksoniaceae has three representatives in New Zealand, all belonging to the genus Dicksonia. All are tree-ferns, but in one species, D. lanata, the trunk usually lies along the ground. The wheki, D. squarrosa, is perhaps the most common tree-fern in New Zealand.

Another family of tree-ferns is Cyatheaceae. It includes the tall and stately black tree-fern or mamaku (Cyathea medullaris), and the smaller silver tree-fern or ponga (C. dealbata). In one species, Alsophila Colensoi, the trunk almost always is prostrate.

Most ferns belong to the family Polypodiaceae, which is represented in New Zealand by about 90 species. All the ordinary ferns, including the bracken, Pteridium esculentum, belong to this family. The most prevalent genera are Polystichum, Dryopteris, Asplenium, Blechnum, Hypolepis, Adiantum, Pteris, and Polypodium, all widely distributed. Only one genus of Polypodiacae, Leptolepia, is confined to New Zealand.

The king fern, Todea barbara, and two species of Leptopteris, with finely-divided filmy leaves, and hence called crape ferns, represent the family Osmundaceae in New Zealand. The horse-shoe ferns, family Marattiaceae, have a single representative, the para (Marattia fraxinea), in the North Island.

The lycopods, family Lycopodiaceae, include the New Zealand and Australian genus Phylloglossum containing only a single species, P. Drummondii, and twelve species of Lycopodium. A related family, Psilotaceae, contains the two species Tmesipteris tannensis and Psilotum triquetrum.

In a country with a greatly diversified land surface and considerable range in climatic conditions, one may expect a great variety in the nature of the plant covering. Such actually is the case in New Zealand, where the plant formations range from warm, temperate rain forest to alpine rock associations at the limit of plant growth.

When organized European settlement first began in New Zealand, about 1840, it has been estimated that 60 per cent. of the land surface was under forest. The forest has now been reduced to under 20 per cent., mainly by the clearing of kauri, podocarp, and broad-leaved lowland forests. The mountainous regions, where there is a preponderance of beech forests, naturally have suffered the least.

In a broad sense the forest may be divided into three main types: (1) Coniferous forests; (2) broad-leaved forests; (3) beech forests.

The coniferous forests fall into two groups—kauri and podocarp. Kauri forests are confined to the northern portion of the North Island. The occurrence of kauri resin in the ground in places now occupied by swamp or scrub indicates that in pre-European times this formation covered an area considerably greater than it does at the present day. Kauri forest occurs in patches, some of considerable size, among the broad-leaved forests, mainly taraire. The kauri is dominant and determines the physiognomy of the formation. Its immense heads of foliage in clumps and its greater height make the stands of kauri easily recognizable from a distance. The large trees associated with the kauri include the taraire, tawa, tawhero, northern rata, rimu, totara, hinau, and others. Underneath are tree-ferns, nikau palms, and various small trees, including the mairehau, neinei, kanono, and Alseuosmia macrophylla, while the large tussock sedge, Gahnia xantkocarpa, and especially the liliaceous tussock. Astelia trinervia, are conspicuous plants in the undergrowth.

Of the podocarp forests, that in which rimu is dominant or extremely common is the most frequent. A considerable mixture of trees, including other podocarps, such as matai and miro, and many kinds of broad-leaved trees, make up the main tier of the forest. Small trees, often with large leaves laxly disposed, form a second tier, while ferns often dominate the undergrowth. The totara, sometimes occurring as immense trees, dominates smaller areas than does the rimu, and prefers drier soil. At higher levels its smooth-barked ally, Podocarpus Hallii, replaces it. On wet ground, often growing in water, the principal podocarp is the kahikatea. Its straight mast-like trunks impress the visitor to-day as they did when viewed by Captain Cook and his botanists in 1769. In boggy places other podocarps, such as the silver pine or the yellow pine, may be dominant.

Broad-leaved forest covers wide areas in the North Island. In the north the taraire is the dominant tree. Elsewhere its congener, the tawa, takes the principal place. These forests in their interior are much like the podocarp forests, the associated trees, shrubs, and ferns being mostly the same species. Taraire forest interdigitates with kauri forest and the associated species are identical. Tawa forests south of 38° S. lat. lack many species which do not extend farther south than the taraire forest region. Other widely-distributed types of broad-leaved forests are those in which the kamahi and the southern rata are the principal trees. Southern rata forest is essentially a South Island community, and generally contains a considerable proportion of kamahi. In damp situations, as in deep gullies, the pukatea is the principal tree; on drier hillsides the northern rata is sometimes most in evidence. Its habit of strangling its host has the effect of its gradually replacing rimu forest.

The beech forests are characterized by the dominance of one or more species of Nothofagus. They are poorer in species than the coniferous or broad-leaved forests, while ferns and epiphytes are not such conspicuous features. They occur over wide areas of mountainous country in both the main islands, though curiously enough are absent from Mount Egmont, and from West-land between the Taramakau and Paringa Rivers. The mountain beech forms a rather dry type of forest, which occurs on both the wet but cold mountains and on the drier foothills, especially those east of the Southern Alps. The silver beech forms a distinctly moist forest, and mixes freely with podocarps, other species of beech, and broad-leaved trees. In appearance and in variety of associated species silver beech forest much resembles podocarp forest. The red beech, black beech, and hard beech occur mixed or individually dominating in extensive areas in both islands.

Taking the meaning of scrub in the ordinary sense—namely, a closed formation of shrubs—there are in New Zealand several kinds differing in both floristic and ecological composition. The most widely distributed of the scrubs is that in which manuka or kanuka is dominant, and, in places, almost the only shrub present. It occurs in swamps, bogs, poor pumice and clay lands; also on good fertile soil. Its ubiquity is due to the readiness of these two species quickly to take possession of unoccupied land, and its presence in the bettor-class soils is without doubt due to the fact that these areas were formerly occupied by forest which has disappeared before Maori or European. Given time, forest will again supersede the manuka or kanuka scrub. Sometimes species of Dracophyllum—for instance, D. subulatum on the Rangitaiki plains—are dominant in a scrub much resembling dwarf manuka scrub.

Coastal scrubs are best developed on islands, where some characteristic species form almost pure associations. Such are the pohutukawa and taupata in the north, the puheretaiko and tete-a-weka in the south, and Olearia Lyallii in the Southern Islands.

Above the forest-line on all the higher mountains a belt of scrub is found between forest and tussock. It is usually dense to the point of being impenetrable. The dominant species varies with exposure and district, but usually one or more of the following are conspicuous: Olearia Colensoi, Senecio elaeagnifolius, various species of Coprosma, Dracophyllum, and Hebe, Phyllocladus alpinus, Cassinia Vauvilliersii, Aristotelia fruticosa, and Suttonia divaricata.

On the mountain-sides above the dense scrub and tussock only scattered plants, both shrubs and herbs, occur in sheltered places. Here and in other open places a highly peculiar type of shrub is found. It takes the form of a dense cushion, the outer surface of which is the truncated tips of abbreviated tightly-packed branches with their dense clothing of woolly, scale-like leaves. The large species, some of which are 3 ft. or 4 ft. in diameter, are known as “vegetable sheep” (Raoulia eximia. Haastia Sinclairii).

Leaving aside the various associations of plants in water, bogs, swamps, near fumaroles, on sand-dunes, shingly river-beds, and so on this account may be closed by a reference to the tussock-grass lands of the Dominion. The area under tussock is now considerably larger than at the period of early European settlement, owing to the burning-off of scrub. Tussock occurs on all high mountains above the scrub-line, and also over vast areas east of the main divide in the South Island. Two main divisions may be recognized: one is dominated by Festucu Novae Zealandiae and Poa caespitosa, the other by the large tussocks of Danthonia Raoulii. With these are associated a few shrubs, various herbs, and here and there a fern. At the higher levels are grasslands composed of mat-forming species (Danthonia australis, Poa acicularifolia, Triodia exigua, and others) and various low-growing herbs.

Plants introduced to New Zealand during the period of European occupation now take such a prominent part in the plant covering that a few remarks must be made about them. About 600 species are sufficiently well established to be considered naturalized. They occur mostly in settled districts, but in clearings and along tracks far in the native forest a few exotic species are occasionally found. The introduced plants cannot establish themselves in unbroken forest, but, in the area under settlement, especially in the scrubs, grassland, and swamps, many have become permanent members of these formations, and, in places, certain exotic species such as gorse, broom, lupin, blackberry, and some others, dominate new communities.

For the guidance of those desiring further information on the flora and plant covering of New Zealand, the following works should be consulted: “Plants of New Zealand.” by R. M. Laing and E. W. Blackwell, ed. 3, 1927; “Manual of the New-Zealand Flora,” by T. F. Cheeseman, ed. 2, 1925; “The Trees of New Zealand.” by L. Cockayne and E. Phillips-Turner, 1928; “The Forest Flora of New Zealand,” by T. Kirk, 1889; “New Zealand Trees and Shrubs and how to Identify Them,” by H. H. Allan, 1928; “New Zealand Ferns,” by H. B. Dobbie, ed. 3, 1931: “New Zealand Plants and their Story,” by L. Cockayne, ed. 3, 1927; “The Vegetation of New Zealand,” by L. Cockayne, ed. 2, 1928; “The Cultivation of New Zealand Plants.” by L. Cockayne, 1923; “The New Zealand Nature Book,” Vol. 2, by W. Martin, 1929; and numerous articles published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute and of the Royal Society of New Zealand.


The following brief article on the fauna of New Zealand, originally prepared by Mr. James Drummond, F.L.S., F.Z.S., was revised by him in 1935:—

New Zealand's native fauna has attracted the attention of investigators in nearly all parts of the world. Its special interest lies in its manifold peculiarities, in the incongruous characters possessed by some of its members, and in the ancient types found in different classes.

Beginning with the mammalia, the Dominion is surprisingly inadequately represented. Its only land-mammals, except seals, are two bats. One of these, the long-tailed bat, belongs to a genus (Chalinolobus) which is found in the Australian and Ethiopian zoological region's, and to a species (morio) found in the south-east of Australia as well as in New Zealand; but the other, the short-tailed bat (Mystacops tuberculatus), belongs to a genus peculiar to this Dominion.

At one time it was believed that the Maori dog (Cards familiaris, variety maorium, the “kuri” of the Maoris) and the Maori rat (Mus exulans, the Maori “kiore”) were indigenous to New Zealand, but it is now generally believed that these two animals were introduced by the Maoris when they made their notable migrations from their legendary Hawaiki. The dog was highly prized as a domestic pet, and the rat as food. Both could easily be taken across the sea in the large canoes used in those days. The dog, without doubt, is extinct. It was small, with a pointed nose, pricked ears, and very small eyes. In colour it was white, black, brown, or parti-coloured, and it had long hair, short legs, a short bushy tail, and no loud bark, but only a whine. The Maoris lavished upon it an abundance of affection. When dead its flesh was used for food, its skin for clothing, and its hair for ornaments. Opinions differ in regard to the approximate date of its extinction, and investigations in this respect are made somewhat difficult by the fact that for some years “wild dogs,” as they were called—probably a cross between the Maori dog and dogs brought by Europeans—infested several districts in both the North Island and the South Island, and were confused with the Maori dog. It is probable that the pure Maori dog became extinct about 1885. The Maori rat, a forest-dweller, is not as plentiful as it was when Europeans first came to New Zealand, but it still lives in the forests.

The long-tailed species of bat was once fairly plentiful, especially in the forests, where it makes its home in hollow trees. Large numbers also at one time were found under old bridges across streams, notably at the River Avon, in Christ-church. It is not very rare now, and specimens sometimes are found in the forests and in caves. The short-tailed species probably is not extinct, but rare. Little is known of its habits.

The sea-lion, the sea-elephant, the sea-leopard, and the fur-seal are found on islands within the Dominion's boundaries. In the early days of colonization scaling was a great industry, and yielded large profits to some of the adventurous men who took part in it.

Amongst the sea-mammals whales are the most important. At one time extensive whaling was carried on in New Zealand' waters, three hundred vessels, chiefly from America, sometimes visiting the country in one year. The industry began about 1795, reached the height of its prosperity between 1830 and 1840, and then began to dwindle. In recent years an effort was made to revive the industry, but results were not encouraging. Only two Whaling-stations are established in New Zealand at present: both are on a small scale, and the catches have a low average. The older of the two stations is at Whangamumu, Bay of Islands; it takes hump-back whales near the coast. Southern right whales are taken there occasionally; these and blue or fin whales are rare at that station. The more modern station is in Tory Channel, Queen Charlotte Sound, where during the three months of winter hump-backs are taken and a few southern right whales.

By its strange behaviour a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) became famous under the title of “Pelorus Jack.” It made a practice of following steamers in the vicinity of Pelorus Sound. So much interest was taken in this dolphin by the public, zoologists, and learned societies that it was protected by an Order in Council issued in 1904 tinder the Sea-fisheries Act. Pelorus Jack has not been seen since 1916. It was the only member of the genus Grampus recorded in New Zealand waters.

In contrast with the species of land-mammals, the members of the next class, Aves, were remarkably plentiful when settlement began. Bush and grass fires, rats, cats, stoats, and weasels, and the ruthless use of the gun reduced their numbers, but they still stand as probably the most interesting avifauna in the world. They include a comparatively large number of absolutely flightless birds. No living birds in New Zealand are wingless, but the kiwi (Apteryx), the weka (Gallirallus), the kakapo parrot (Strigops), and the takahe (Notornis Hochstetteri)* cannot use their wings for flight, while a duck belonging to the Auckland Islands (Nesonetta) is practically in the same plight. There are several species of birds whose wings are so weak that they can make only short flights.

*Better known as Notornis Mantelli.

Other notable birds are the kea (Nestor notabilis), which is accused of killing sheep on stations in the South Island; the tui (Prosthemadera Novae Zealandiae), which affords one of the most beautiful sights in the New Zealand forests, and charms visitors with its silvery notes; the huia (Heteralocha acutirostris), the only species known in which there is a wide divergence in the shape of the bills in the two sexes, the male's being short and straight, while the female's is curved, pliant, and long; and the wry-hilled plover (Anarhynchus frontalis), the only bird known to possess a bill turned to one side. Cormorants or shags (Phalacrocorax) and penguins (Impennes) are exceptionally well represented in the avifauna. New Zealand may be regarded as the headquarters of the penguins, as all the genera except one are found within the boundaries of this Dominion. The oldest fossil penguin known is from the Eocene and Oligocene rocks of New Zealand. New Zealand probably was the centre from which penguins were dispersed to other countries.

Several species of shore-birds make remarkable migrations to New Zealand from regions around the North Pole. They nest there, but spend the spring and summer in New Zealand, leaving the Dominion for their northern homes in the autumn. A few miss the general migration and stay in New Zealand all winter. They probably join the outward-bound flocks in the following autumn. The most famous of these migrants, the bar-tailed or Pacific godwit (Limosa lapponica) known in New Zealand by its Maori name kuaka, nests on the tundras of Eastern Siberia and in Kamchatka and Western Alaska. The Hudsonian godwit (Limose haemastica), the Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis dominicus), the knot (Canutus canutus) and several species of sandpipers are on the list; and the parasitic jaeger or Arctic skua, which nests as far north as Greenland, Spitzbergen, and Franz Josef Land, sometimes spends the summer in New Zealand. Two species of cuckoos—the shining cuckoo (Lamprococcyx lucidus) and the long-tailed cuckoo (Urodynamis taitensis)—arrive in New Zealand from unknown northern homes, probably on Pacific, islands, in the spring, and leave the Dominion about April. Both are parasitical, imposing on small birds the duties of hatching and rearing young cuckoos. In seine respects the kiwi is the most remarkable bird in New Zealand. It is the only bird known with nostrils at the tip of the bill, instead of at, the base. Its plumage is hair-like in appearance. It lays an immense egg compared with the size of its body. Its structure is very generalized. Sir Richard Owen once suggested that it seemed to have borrowed its head from one group of birds, its legs from another, and its wings from a third.

The takahe (Notornis), a large, heavily built rail, is one of the rarest birds. Only four individuals have been recorded. Two of the skins are in the British Museum, one is in the Dresden Museum, and one remains in New Zealand in the Otago Museum, Dunedin. The fourth Notornis was caught by two guides (Messrs. D. and J. Ross) at Notornis Bay, Lake Te Anau, in 1898. There is reason to believe that this species still exists in the wild country of the southern sounds.

An eagle, a goose, and a large rail are amongst New Zealand's extinct birds. In this class are the moas. Dr. W. R. B. Oliver has divided them into twenty-one species. The tallest stood 12 ft. high. Their remains show that they were very plentiful. The cause and time of their extinction are still subjects of controversy. A mass of knowledge has been collected about them; all this with theories and Maori traditions has been recorded in Mr. T. Lindsay Buick's “The Mystery of the Moa” (1931). It should be read with Dr. Oliver's erudite essay on the moas in “New Zealand Birds” (1930).

Reptilian life is restricted to about fifteen species of lizards and to the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus). This is a lizard-like creature, the only surviving representative of the order Rhynchocephalia. The tuatara is found in no other country. It has been destroyed to a large extent by wild pigs, cats, and dogs, and is now seldom found except on a few islands off the coast of the mainland.

The amphibians are represented by two species of frogs. One, Liopelma Hochstetteri, has been recorded from only a few districts in the Auckland Province. The other, Liopelma Hamiltoni, has been recorded from only Stephen Island, a small island in Cook Strait, notable as one of the refuges of the tuatara.

About 310 species of fish have been found in New Zealand waters. Many of these are used for food. Several species, notably the mudfish (Neochanna apoda), which is sometimes discovered buried 4 ft. deep in clay in places where rivers have overflowed in flood, and in swampy places, are interesting. Some of the genera are peculiar to New Zealand, but some also occur in Australian and South American wafers.

Amongst the invertebrates one of the peculiarities is the fact that the Dominion has few butterflies, although it is well supplied with moths. It has a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa), named after the European species, which it resembles, and a copper butterfly (Chrysophanus), which is very plentiful. In the forests there is that strange growth, the “vegetable caterpillar.” The Dominion has native bees and ants, dragon-flies, sober-coloured beetles, and representatives of other orders of insects. The katipo spider, which lives mostly on or near the sea-beach, is well known locally. Amongst the mollusca there is a large and handsome land-snail (Paryphanta) and Amphibola, an air-breathing snail, peculiar to the Dominion, which lives in brackish water, mainly in estuaries. There are about twenty species of univalves and twelve of bivalves in the fresh-water shells, and many species in the marine shells, including the paper nautilus (Argonauta).

Perhaps the most interesting of all the invertebrates is Peripatus, an ancient type of creature which survives in New Zealand and in parts of Australia, Africa, South America, the West Indies, New Britain, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra. Zoologically, it belongs to the air-breathing divise the phylum Arthropoda, and has been placed in a special class, Prototrachea or Onychophora. It is about 3 in. long, has many feet, loves moisture, shuns light, and moves slowly.

On the arrival of Europeans the whole face of the fauna changed. The first European animal introduced was the pig, liberated by Captain Cook in Queen Charlotte Sound in 1773. With settlement, sheep, cattle, horses, and other domestic animals were brought, some for utility, some for pleasure, such as songbirds, and some for sport, such as deer, trout, pheasants, and quail.

Twenty-four species of introduced birds have established themselves. Some succeeded so well that they created a small-bird nuisance. In 1906 the German owl, little owl, or brown owl (Athene noctua) was successfully introduced to help to check the small introduced birds. It is accused of killing native small birds. New Zealand farmers regard the starling as the most useful introduced bird. They condemn the house-sparrow as the most destructive, and next to it the skylark. Many species of injurious insects have been accidentally introduced. The small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) appeared in 1930. It spread rapidly, and in 1935 a chalcid (Pteromalus puparum), which parasitises the butterfly's pupæ, was introduced to control it.

Acclimatization in New Zealand is marked by several great and irretrievable mistakes. The worst of these are the introduction of rabbits, stoats, and weasels.



WHEN New Zealand was discovered by Europeans in 1642 it was found to be inhabited by a race of Polynesians called Maoris, who had migrated to these islands many centuries previously. At what time the discovery of New Zealand was made by the Maoris, and from what country they came, cannot be stated accurately, for being an unlettered people they had only oral records of their history. The origins of the Maori people prior to their final migration are even more obscure, but in accordance with the general tradition of the Polynesian race, it would seem that from Asia they migrated eastward by way of Malaysia to the Pacific. According to their mythology their Pacific home was the island of Hawaiki—the position of which is now unknown—and from there, many generations ago, one of their chiefs, after a long voyage, reached the northern island of New Zealand. Returning to his home with a glowing description of the country he had discovered, this chief persuaded a number of his people to set out in a fleet of double canoes for the new land. This migration was followed by others, and from comparisons of the tribal legends it has been possible to obtain a definite knowledge of the subsequent division and history of the numerous tribes after their occupation of New Zealand. On their arrival the Maoris found inhabitants on the East Coast of the North Island of similar racial origins to themselves. Known to the Maoris as Morioris, “inferior people,” this race was driven to the South Island and to the Chatham Islands. Through absorption by the dominant Maoris, this race finally became extinct by the death of their last member during the last decade. Of their history nothing is known, and their origins remain a mystery.

Coming from tropical latitudes, the Maoris mainly confined themselves to the warmer North Island, and when discovered by Europeans were in a high state of neolithic civilization, with marked superiority in the arts of wood-carving and military engineering. Their principal social unit was the family group, which has been described as a “consanguineous subclan” (Best), and from combinations of the numerous groups were formed the subtribes and tribes. With highly developed social and ritualistic customs they were communistic within the subtribes, in their system of land-tenure, as well as in their methods of cultivation. Inter-tribal and intra-tribal warfare was common, and as individuals they displayed exceptional courage and intelligence.

The Maori language is a very pure dialect of the Polynesian—the common tongue of all the eastern Pacific islands.


On the 13th December, 1642, Abel Janszoon Tasman, a navigator of the Dutch East India Company, discovered the country to which he gave the name of “Staaten Land,” and which later became known as “Nieuw Zeeland.” Tasman had left Batavia on the 14th August, 1642, and, after having discovered Tasmania, he steered eastward and sighted the west coast of the South Island, described by him as a high, mountainous country. Sailing north, he had the misfortune to come into conflict with the Maoris at Golden Bay on the north coast of the South Island, so that though he continued his northward journey until he reached the northern tip of the country he did not again attempt to land. His exploration was, of necessity, very cursory, for having explored only part of one coast he had no knowledge of the country's extent or shape.

There is no record of any European visit to New Zealand after Tasman's departure until Captain Cook sighted land on the 6th October, 1768, at Young Nick's Head. On his first voyage Cook spent six months exploring the New Zealand coast-line, and he completely circumnavigated the North and South Islands. His activities can be best described by saying “he found New Zealand a line on the map, and left it an archipelago” (Reeves). Not only was Cook's ability shown by his cartographical accuracy, but also in his peaceful dealings with the truculent Natives. He returned to New Zealand again in 1773, in 1774, and in 1777.

Several other explorers also visited New Zealand during the latter portion of the eighteenth century, amongst whom may be mentioned M. de Surville (December, 1769). M. Marion du Fresne (1772), Captains Vancouver and Broughton (1791), Captain Raven (1792–93), Alejandro Malaspina and José de Bustamente y Guerra (1793). Lieutenant Hanson (1793).


So far as is known, the first instance of Europeans being left in New Zealand to their own resources occurred in 1792, when Captain Haven of the “Britannia” landed a sealing-party at Facile Harbour, on the west coast of the South Island, where they remained a little over twelve months before being called for.

In the years that followed, whaling-stations sprang up along the coast, and a trade with New South Wales begun, not only in whale-oil and seal-skins, but also in flax and timber—to say nothing of the disreputable traffic in dried tattooed heads. Attracted to the Islands were deserters from whaling-vessels and escaped convicts from Australia, who in the absence of any jurisdiction soon became notorious for their extreme lawlessness. In 1814 Samuel Marsden, chaplain to the Governor of New South Wales, obtained permission to send two of his proteges, Kendall and Hall, to the Bay of Islands to consider the desirability of establishing a mission-station. Later they returned to Sydney for Marsden, who arrived in New Zealand to preach his first sermon at the Hay of Islands on Christmas Day, 1814. Of the many admirable activities undertaken by the missionaries, their action in having the Maori language “reduced to a rational orthography” (Beaglehole) deserves special mention.

The immediate effect of European contacts on the Maoris was the outburst of a series of tribal wars waged with the more destructive musket. The advantage originally lying with coastal tribes, the wars continued until all tribes were equally well armed. Following representations for protection from Maori chiefs, the New South Wales Government appointed, in 1832, Mr. James Busby as British Resident at Russell. Owing to the failure to supply him with any means of exerting authority, his appointment was ineffective. Finally the disorder became so intolerable that even the missionaries, who were opposed to annexation, made representations for British sovereignty.


On the 29th January, 1840, Captain William Hobson, R.N., arrived at the Hay of Islands, empowered, with the consent of the Natives, to proclaim the sovereignty of Queen Victoria over the Islands of New Zealand, and to assume the government thereof. Hobson formally read his commissions at Kororareka on 30th January, 1840, and on 6th February of the same year a compact called the Treaty of Waitangi was entered into, whereby all rights and powers of sovereignty were ceded to the Queen, all territorial rights being secured to the chiefs and their tribes.

On 21st May, 1840, Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty in the case of the North Island by virtue of the Treaty of Waitangi, and in the case of the South Island and Stewart Island by right of discovery. New Zealand remained a dependency of New South Wales until the 3rd May, 1841, when it was created a separate colony by Royal Charter dated the 16th November, 1840.

Simultaneously with Hobson's arrival in Russell there had landed in Wellington a body of settlers brought out by the New Zealand Company. This company, whose moving spirit was Edward Gibbon Wakefield, was endeavouring to “systematize colonization” by transplanting sections of English society into virgin country. It was hoped that, by producing a proper balance of capitalists and artisans, self-contained communities could be successfully established. However, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the land-purchases, considerable difficulty was experienced in these initial settlements, and friction grew up not only between the settlers and the Natives, but also between the Governor and the settlers. Before his death in 1843 Hobson had transferred his capital from Russell to Auckland, but this transfer was of no assistance to the colonists, who had extended their settlements to Wanganui, New Plymouth, and Nelson. In 1865 the scat of government was removed to Wellington.

Following the death of Hobson, the existence of the colony became precarious for, through lack of funds and weak administration, Maori aggression became a real menace. To cope with the situation, the Colonial Office appointed Captain George Grey as Governor. Being well equipped with troops and funds, as well as being a man of vigour and perception, Grey soon restored order and confidence among both the settlers and the Natives. During Grey's term two further organized settlements were made. In co-operation with the New Zealand Company the Free Church of Scotland sponsored the Dunedin Settlement of 1848, and the Church of England the Canterbury settlement of 1850. These settlements—owing to their more favoured situations, their satisfactory land-purchase agreements, and their freedom from Native trouble—achieved a greater measure of success in carrying out the company's avowed aims.

Also during Grey's term steps were taken to draft a constitution for the colony. An Act granting representative institutions was passed by the Imperial Parliament on the 30th June, 1852, and was published in New Zealand by Proclamation on the 17th January, 1853. Under it the constitution of a General Assembly was provided for, to consist of a Legislative Council and a House of Representatives. Provision was also made for the division of the country into provinces, each province having an elected Council and an appointed Superintendent.


After Grey's departure the question of relationship with the Maoris again came to the fore through the land-purchasing activities of the settlers—a situation aggravated by subsequent lack of consideration for the Maori system of land-tenure. Following an incident at Waitara in the Taranaki district, where a dispute arose concerning land titles, war broke out in 1860 and lasted spasmodically till 1870. The recall of Grey did not solve the problem, as Grey, an autocrat, could not work with the elected Ministers, nor did his presence prevent the confiscation of land belonging to the Maoris, whether friendly or hostile. It was under the sympathetic administration of Sir Donald McLean as Native Minister that the dispute finally died down.

These hostilities were confined to the North Island; and, in the meantime, in 1861 large alluvial deposits of gold had been discovered in the South Island—leading to a tremendous influx of population and an alteration of the economic structure of the country. This discovery, by its increase in wealth, allowed the South Island to obtain a lead in commercial and political development which it long maintained. Moreover, with the subsequent agrarian expansion, especially in the development of the large pastoral holdings, the country ceased to be merely agriculturally self-sufficient, but began to develop a substantial export trade, mainly in wool.

These factors, together with freedom from strife with the Native population, led after 1870 to a quickening in political activities. Under the leadership of Sir Julius Vogel a policy of extensive borrowing for railway and road construction was begun, and the Provincial Assemblies, whose parochialism had frequently proved obstructive, were abolished. In 1877 the Education Act was passed, making education free, compulsory, and secular, and during that decade the first cable was laid between Australia and New Zealand. At this time party politics began to enter into the parliamentary system, and the slump conditions which prevailed in the “eighties” (due to a fall in the world price-level) intensified the political atmosphere. By the abolition of plural voting in 1889, and the introduction of female suffrage in 1803, the way was opened for a practical expression of political convictions by all adult members of the community.

In 1891 John Ballance, as leader of the Liberal party, became Premier, to be followed on his death in 1893 by Richard John Seddon, and during the next decade the legislative essays of this party evoked world-wide interest. The main aim of the legislation was social justice, and its principal manifestations were in land-division, the establishment of the Arbitration Court, and the introduction of old-age pensions. The policy of land-division aimed at closer land-settlement, and it was achieved by the compulsory subdivision of large estates, with subsequent loans to small independent farmers wishing to establish themselves, in inaugurating the Arbitration Court the object was to eliminate strikes by giving labour a recognized bargaining status; and the enactment was in accord with the enlightened code of labour legislation passed at that time.

With the commencement of the refrigerated trade in 1882, the policy of closer settlement progressed rapidly, since the production of frozen meat and dairy-produce for export encouraged more intensive farming. There thus arose a new farming class which in 1912, some six years after Seddon's death, was mainly responsible for the overthrow of the Liberal regime. In the meantime the country had ceased to be a colony and had been raised to the status of a Dominion, this change taking place from 26th September, 1907.

The policy of the succeeding Reform party, whose leader was William Ferguson Massey, was one favouring agricultural production. Farming interests were given constant encouragement by a series of enactments of which the extension of rural-credit facilities was typical. Two years after the advent of the Reform party the Great War broke out, leading to the formation of a Coalition Government and an Imperial commandeer of exports. The casualty lists in proportion to the population were heavy, while the cordiality of imperial relationship was greatly enhanced as a result of war activities. One noteworthy outcome of the war commandeer was the establishment, after the war of Control Boards to regulate the export of pastoral products.


Though the effects of the post-war depression during the period 1921–24 showed themselves in an increase in unemployment and slight wage-reductions, no drastic legislation was necessary to stabilize economic conditions. During the following years the price-level rose; and, from the administrative side, it was characterized by extensive public-works expenditure, with particular attention to hydro-electric schemes and highways.

Owing to the encouragement given to farming, pastoral production constantly expanded, so that New Zealand became one of the world's greatest exporters of pastoral produce. As a consequence, her national income was extremely sensitive to price-fluctuations of these products; so that, with the advent of the depression in 1930, her economic position became extremely vulnerable. In order to produce balanced budgets, both public and private, various legislative remedies were attempted. In particular, enactments were provided for unemployment relief, for the suspension of the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, for the establishment of a Reserve Bank, for a mortgage moratorium, for raising the exchange-rate, and for reductions in interest-rates and wages. With the recovery in price-levels and consequent general economic revival, amendments were made to several of these Acts, removing the more stringent measures. The election of the first Labour Government in 1935 has led to a change in administrative policy, the preoccupation at present being mainly with social problems. Further amendments have also been made to the emergency legislation, certain restrictive measures having been removed, while other adjustments have been put on a permanent footing.

Of the constitutional events in recent years the passing by the Imperial Parliament of the Statute of Westminster in December, 1931, was of major importance. The draft of this statute was submitted for the confirmation of the various Dominion Legislatures before its passage through the Imperial Parliament. The statute grants complete autonomy to the various Dominions, but it does not automatically apply. In other words, its operation in any Dominion requires specific adoption by the Legislature of that Dominion. Up to the present time (September, 1937) the statute has not been adopted by the New Zealand Parliament.

Due to limitations of space, the foregoing is but a brief résumé of New Zealand history. For detailed information, reference should be made to the many excellent books dealing with the subject, of which the more recent ones are listed in the General Bibliography rearing in Appendix C of this volume.


The powers, duties, and responsibilities of the Governor - General and the Executive Council under the present system of responsible government are set out in Royal Letters Patent and Instructions thereunder of the 11th May, 1917, published in the New Zealand Gazette of the 24th April, 1919 (p. 1,213). In the execution of the powers and authorities vested in him the Governor-General must be guided by the advice of the Executive Council, but, if in any case he sees sufficient cause to dissent from the opinion of the Council, he may act in the exercise of his powers and authorities in opposition to the opinion of the Council, reporting the matter to His Majesty without delay, with the reasons for his so acting.

In any such case any member of the Executive Council may require that there be recorded in the minutes of the Council the grounds of any advice or opinion that he may give upon the question.

The present Executive Council consists of thirteen members in addition to the Governor - General. Two members, exclusive of His Excellency or the presiding member, constitute a quorum.

Under the Civil List Act, 1920, His Excellency the Governor-General receives an honorarium of £5,000 per annum, an allowance of £2,000 per annum for the salaries and expenses of his establishment (exclusive of the Official Secretary), and an allowance of £500 per annum for travelling-expenses.

The Civil List Act, 1908, authorized salaries of £1,600 for the Prime Minister, £1,300 for the Minister of Railways, and £1,000 to each of six (increased in 1915 to eight and in 1917 to ten) other members holding portfolios. The Civil List Act, 1920, authorized salaries of £2,000 for the Prime Minister, and £1,300 to each of ten other members holding one or more ministerial offices.

A reduction of 10 per cent. was made in 1922, while Ministerial salaries were again reduced in 1931 (by 10 per cent.), and in 1932, when a further reduction of 15 per cent. was made. Restoration to the 1930 level was effected from 1st July, 1936. The present Government, shortly after assuming office, instituted a scheme whereby the services of all parliamentary representatives of the Government party might be co-opted to assist Ministers in bringing the Government's policy into effect. As part of this plan, Ministers are sharing a portion of their authorized salaries with other Government parliamentary representatives.

It is of service also to mention that, for the first time in the history of the New Zealand Parliament, provision has been made for the appointment of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. The authorizing statute is the Civil List Amendment Act, 1936, which, inter alia, provides for a salary of £000 per annum to any person holding office as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary. The Act also provides for the extension of the number of Ministers, other than the Prime Minister, from ten to eleven (without, however, increasing the aggregate amount which may be paid in Ministerial salaries).


The Imperial Act under which the earliest appointments were made to the Legislative Council under a system of responsible government provided that the first appointees should be not less than ten in number. The number actually summoned for the first session (held at Auckland from 24th May, 1854) was sixteen, of whom only fourteen attended. The number increased irregularly for thirty years. In 1885 and 1886 it stood at fifty-three, but has not since reached that limit. The number on the roll at present (September, 1937) is 38.

An Act of the Imperial Parliament in 1868 provided that future appointments of Councillors should be made by the Governor (not by the Sovereign). Until 1891 members were appointed for life, but since that year appointments have been made for seven years only, members, however, being eligible for reappointment. Prior to 1891 the Speaker was appointed by the Governor, but the Council now elects its own Speaker, who holds office for five years. The Chairman of Committees was formerly elected every session, but in 1928 the standing orders were amended to provide for a three years' term of office. Speaker and Chairman are both eligible for re-election.

Provision for an elective Legislative Council is contained in the Legislative Council Act, 1914, which may be brought into operation at a date to be specified by Proclamation.

The qualifications for membership of the Legislative Council are the same as for the House of Representatives, with the proviso that a person may not at the same time be a member of both Houses.

Before the year 1892 the honorarium of Councillors was understood to be for the session, not for the year, and formed the subject of a special vote every session, the amount varying in different sessions. By the Payment of Members Act, 1892, the honorarium was made annual, not sessional, and was fixed at £150 a year. The amount was raised in 1904 to £200, and in 1920 to £350, but was reduced in 1922 to £315, in 1931 to £283 10s., and in 1932 to £255 3s. In 1934 the salary was raised to £267 19s., in 1935 to £288 Is., and from 1st July, 1936, to £315 (the level ruling between 1922 and 1931). The Speaker now receives £720 per annum, and the Chairman of Committees £450. Besides the honorarium, members are allowed travelling-expenses actually incurred in going to and from Parliament at the opening and closing of each session.

Subject to certain exemptions, members not attending the Council are able to be fined.


The number of members constituting the House of Representatives is eighty—seventy-six Europeans and four Maoris. They are designated “Members of Parliament.” The number was originally fixed by the Constitution Act as not more than forty-two and not less than twenty-four, and the first Parliament called together in 1854 consisted of forty members. Legislation passed in 1858 fixed the number of European members at forty-one; in 1860, at fifty-three; in 1862, at fifty-seven; in 1865, at seventy: in 1867, at seventy-two; in 1870, at seventy-four; in 1875, at eighty-four; in 1881, at ninety-one; in 1887, at seventy; and in 1900, at seventy-six. By the Maori Representation Act, 1867, which is still in force, as embodied in the Electoral Act, 1927, four Maori members were added, three for the North Island and one for the South.

After each population Census the Dominion is divided anew into seventy-six European electorates, according to population distribution, with an allowance for rural population. The “country quota” is computed on the basis that 28 per cent. is added to the rural population, which for electoral purposes means population other than that contained in a city or borough of over 2,000 inhabitants or in any area within five miles of the chief post-offices at Auckland, Wellington, Christ-church, or Dunedin. The “country quota” first appeared in 1881, to the equivalent of an addition of 33⅓ per cent. to the country population. It was reduced in 1887 to 18 per cent., but was increased in 1889 to the present 28 per cent.

Quinquennial Parliaments, instituted under the Constitution Act, were abolished by the Triennial Parliaments Act, 1879, which fixed the term at three years General elections have been held at three-yearly intervals since 1881, with the exception that the term of the nineteenth Parliament was during the Great War extended to five years by special legislation, and that of the twenty-fourth Parliament to four years. The Electoral Amendment Act, 1934, provided for a permanent extension to four years.

Under the Electoral Act, 1927, every registered elector of either sex, but no other person, is qualified to be a candidate. It is provided, however, that a person shall not be so elected who is disqualified as an elector under any of the provisions of the Act, or is an undischarged bankrupt, or is a member of the Legislative Council, or is a contractor to the public service of New Zealand to whom any public money above the sum of £50 is payable, directly or indirectly (but not as a member of a registered company or incorporated body), in any one financial year. Under the Electoral Act public servants were prohibited from being elected, but this prohibition has been removed by the Political Disabilities Removal Act, 1936, which provided that if elected they immediately cease to be public servants.

The payment made to members of the House of Representatives is £450 per annum, subject to certain deductions for absence not due to sickness or other unavoidable cause. Travelling-expenses to and from Wellington at the opening and closing of each session are also allowed. The rate of payment for several years prior to 1920 was £300 per annum, but was increased in that year to £500, 10-percent. reductions, however, being made in 1922, 1931, and 1932, with restorations of 5 per cent. in 1934, 7½ per cent. in 1935, the rate being restored to £450—the 1922 level—from 1st July, 1936.

The election of a Speaker is the first business of a new House after the members have been sworn. A Chairman of Committees is elected as soon after as is convenient. Both Speaker and Chairman of Committees hold office until a dissolution, and receive payment until the first meeting of a new Parliament. The Speaker's remuneration is £900 per annum, plus sessional allowance of £100 and free sessional quarters, and that of the Chairman of Committees £675 per annum.

Twenty members, inclusive of the Speaker, constitute a quorum.


Since the abolition of plural voting in 1889 and the introduction of women's suffrage in 1893 every person twenty-one years of age or over has had the right to exercise a vote in the election of Members for the House of Representatives. To be registered as an elector a person must have resided for one year in the Dominion, and for three months in the electoral district for which he claims to vote. A system of compulsory registration of electors was introduced at the end of 1924.

There are, of course, slight exceptions to the foregoing, for, if a person is classified as one of the following, he or she is not entitled to register as an elector or to vote:—

  • An alien:

  • A mentally defective person:

  • A person convicted of an offence punishable by death or by imprisonment for one year or upwards within any part of His Majesty's dominions, or convicted in New Zealand as a public defaulter, or under the Police Offences Act, 1927, as an idle and disorderly person or as a rogue and vagabond, unless such offender has received a free pardon, or has undergone the sentence or punishment to which he was adjudged for such offence.

Maoris are qualified to vote only at elections of the four members representing the Maori race. A Maori half-caste may register on the roll of a European electoral district; and if so, may not then vote at an election of Maori members.

For the system of local-government administration a modified form of franchise exists, property qualification being necessary for the exercising of votes on financial issues.


A brief account of the history, functions, &c., of local-governing bodies is given in the section on Local Government (Section XXVII).



NEW ZEALAND was proclaimed a British Crown colony in 1840. Official statistical records of the country commenced with the following year, 1841, in the shape of reports compiled for the information of the Colonial Office, and known by immemorial custom as “Blue-books.” These reports, which continued until 1852, were prepared in manuscript form in triplicate, and consisted of a collection of tables, compiled by various Government authorities, and illustrating the work of their Departments.

Two factors retarded the development of the statistics of the blue-books: in the first place, they were not intended for general publication; secondly, there appeared a lack of co-ordination between the Departments furnishing the returns and the office collating and ultimately issuing them.

It was not long, however, before the need of authoritative statistics was felt both for present use and also as a record of the development of the country and its various provinces and settlements. Accordingly, in 1849, “Statistics of New Munster,” compiled under the superintendence of Alfred Domett, were printed by Order of the Legislative Council. Again, “Statistics of Nelson,” covering the period 1843–54, were issued in 1855. Various other publications were issued dealing with some individual province or settlement. In the year 1853 a constitution granted by the Imperial Parliament came into force, and from this date the fragmentary and inchoate statistical works find a new complexion. Five years later the Registrar-General, who had been entrusted with the task of compiling annually statistics of the whole colony, produced a volume dealing with the years 1853, 1854, 1855, and 1856.


One of the many ways in which statistics may be classified is as to source from which obtained, and in this respect they divide naturally into two classes—i.e., as to whether they are compiled from the records (obtained primarily for some other purpose) of a Government Department or other similar authority, or from data collected by questionnaire from individual persons, &c.

As indicated above, the statistics included in the early blue-books belong in the main to the first of these two categories. Certain items, however, notably population figures, would be more correctly placed in the second category, though the system of collection was exceedingly crude and the scope of inquiry very limited. As a matter of fact, the population figures prior to 1851 appear to have been compiled in each settlement by the local Resident Magistrate by the simple method of ascertaining from the head of each house the number of persons in the household. From such small beginnings, however, has grown the Dominion's present comprehensive system of collection of statistical data.

The proper collection of statistics from the public on the voluntary basis which appears to have existed in the “forties” could be maintained only with a very small population, and with the simplest of inquiries. With the increase of population and the desire to obtain fuller information than in the past, it was found advisable as early as 1851 to pass an Ordinance providing for the collection of statistics in the form of recurrent censuses.

Following the passing of the Census Ordinance of 1851 by the General Government, several of the provinces into which New Zealand was divided passed Census Ordinances of their own, the necessity for which is not apparent, as other provinces took censuses under the authority of the 1851 Ordinance.

This Ordinance gave way in 1858 to the Census Act of that year, which was amended in 1860, 1867, 1873, and 1876, and was in its turn repealed in 1877, when a new Act was passed, consolidating and extending the law relating to census-taking. The Act of 1877 was amended in 1880 and again in 1890; also, in effect, in 1895, when the Agricultural and Pastoral Statistics Act was passed, making provision for the annual collection of agricultural and pastoral statistics, which had formerly been collected quinquennially under the Census Act. In 1908 the Census Act and amendments and the Agricultural and Pastoral Statistics Act were consolidated in the Statistics Act, 1908, as part of the general consolidation of statutes. The Statistics Act, 1908, was replaced two years later by the Census and Statistics Act, 1910, which was amended in 1915 by the Census and Statistics Amendment Act of that year. The Act of 1910 was superseded by the Census and Statistics Act, 1926, which with slight amendments contains the present law on the subject of statistical inquiry.

Considerations of space prevent the tabulation of the various alterations to and extensions of statistical services involved in the foregoing enactments; but amendments to the legislative basis on which the Department is founded followed as a natural consequence of the growth of the world-wide realization of the importance and value of statistics.

The Census and Statistics Act, 1920, provides not only for the taking of the quinquennial population census, but also for the collection of statistical information under numerous specific heads, and contains a general authority to the Governor-General to extend the system of collection to cover any other items in respect of which statistical information may be found necessary or advisable.

The Census Postponement Act of 1930, an economy measure, dispensed with the statutory requirement that a census be taken in the year 1931. The first census under the 1926 Act was thus postponed until 1936, ten years distant in time from the previous census.


The early blue-books appear to have been compiled by the Colonial Secretary. After the granting of responsible government, the Registrar-General was entrusted with the collection of statistics, a function which he retained until 1910. The Census and Statistics Act, 1910, provided for the appointment of a Government Statistician, who has since been the authority charged with the administration of the Act. The 1910 Act laid down that the Government Statistician was to be an officer of the Registrar-General's Department, but this proviso was cancelled in 1915 by the amending Act of that year, whereupon the Census and Statistics Office came into existence as a separate branch of the Department of Internal Affairs. In 1931 the Office became a branch of the Department of Industries and Commerce, and in 1936 it was created a separate Department.

Ministerial control of the Census and Statistics Office was by the Census and Statistics Act, 1910, placed in the Minister of Internal Affairs. By the Finance Act (No. 2), 1931, the definition of “Minister” in the Census and Statistics Act was altered to mean the Minister of Industries and Commerce. From September, 1931, however, there has been a separate Minister in charge of Census and Statistics, and this position was given legislative recognition by section 45 of the Finance Act, 1936.


Until comparatively recent years there was very little statistical collection apart from the quinquennial census, the annual collection (on legislative authority) of the agricultural and pastoral statistics, the collection on a voluntary basis of returns of private schools, savings-banks, &c., and the obtaining of statistical information from other Government Departments. It should be noted, however, that the census was formerly the means used for the collection of certain data (as, for instance, concerning factory production), now obtained annually.

Since the passing of the Census and Statistics Act in 1910, and more especially since the formation of the Census and Statistics Office in 1915, the system of statistical collection has expanded considerably, not only in regard to the regular activities of the Department, but also for the obtaining of data required for some special purpose. During the war and post-war periods, for instance, the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act were utilized for the collection of information as to stocks, consumption, requirements, &c., of numerous commodities, including flour, wheat, oats, coal, oils, wire, iron, steel, copper, twine, turnip-seed, and medical requisites.

The range of subjects concerning which statistical data are regularly collected by the Census and Statistics Department is indicated by the following list:—

  1. By direct questionnaire: Population census; agricultural and pastoral statistics (main collection); areas sown in wheat, oats, barley, and potatoes; threshings of wheat and oats; potato-yields (post-harvest collection); stocks of flour, wheat, and oats; detailed statistics of live-stock; stocks of wool; detailed statistics of commercial orchards; eggs and egg-pulp in cool store; factory production; electric tramways; electric power; fire insurance; life insurance; accident insurance; finances and loans of local-governing bodies; building-permits; building and constructional operations; forestation and plantation operations; building societies; port cargo statistics; banks of issue; private savings-banks; wholesale, retail, and share prices; private assignments; employment, short time, and overtime in factories; consumption and stocks of coal; hospital patients; benevolent institutions.

  2. From or through other Government Departments in the form of individual returns, cards, &c.; Births; marriages; deaths; orphanhood; migration; inquests; civil and criminal cases in Courts; prisons; divorce; bankruptcy; port shipping returns; deceased persons' estates; sheep returns; State advances to local bodies; totalizator investments, &c.; deposits with building and investment societies and trading companies; incomes and income-tax; land transfers and mortgages; industrial disputes; industrial accidents; award rates of wages; and joint-stock companies.

The list quoted above refers only to sources of data from which both primary and secondary tabulations are made by the Census and Statistics Department. In addition to the sources mentioned, statistical returns compiled by other Government Departments—e.g., statistics of trade, public finance, &c., are utilized by the Census and Statistics Department for further analysis and for correlation with other branches of statistical inquiry.


When New Zealand ceased to be a Crown colony in 1853 the annual despatch of the blue-books to the Colonial Office in London was discontinued. During the next few years several volumes of statistical tables appeared, compiled by various Provincial Governments, and in 1858 the Registrar-General published a volume for the colony as a whole, covering the years 1853, 1854, 1855, and 1856. This volume was the first of a regular annual series which were issued with gradual expansion, formerly by the Registrar-General's Department, and from 1915 to 1920 by the Census and Statistics Office. As indicating the expansion of the country and of its statistical organization it may be mentioned that, while the statistics of the four years 1853–56 were contained in a single volume, the statistics for 1920, the last year of publication in the old form, occupied four volumes aggregating nearly 1,200 pages.

Closely allied to the annual volumes of Statistics were the volumes of Census Statistics which were regularly compiled and published after each census of New Zealand from 1858 to 1916, for the first four occasions as part of the Statistics, but later (commencing with 1871) as separate publications.

With each volume of Statistics, commencing with that for 1853–56, went a brief report on the statistics presented. Developing slowly at first, the ultimate result was a fairly comprehensive report on the statistics, not only those presented, but the whole statistics (so far as compiled) of the colony. A similar report on census matters was included in each volume of Census Statistics.

Parallel with the statistical reports came, in 1875, an issue of another type—“The Official Handbook of New Zealand, a Collection of Papers by Experienced Colonists on the Colony as a Whole, and on the Several Provinces,” edited by Julius Vogel, C.M.G. (afterwards Sir Julius Vogel, K.C.M.G.), at that time Premier of the colony. The purpose of this book differed from that of the statistical reports. Its aim was to give “a New Zealand view of New Zealand to those who may think of making the colony their homes or the theatre of business operations.” Its well-written articles, generously illustrated with woodcuts and photographs, made this early volume interesting reading. Printed in London, it was circulated largely in England.

In 1884 a new and revised edition of this handbook was compiled by Mr. William Gisborne, and edited by the Agent-General of the day (Mr. F. D. Bell, afterwards Sir Francis Bell). The purpose of this edition was similar to that of its predecessor, although in form it approximated more closely to the modern type.

Another example of a handbook composed for some special purpose was that of Dr. Hector, issued for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880.

By the year 1889 the annual report on the statistics had reached considerable proportions, and it was decided by the Registrar-General to issue it as a separate publication. He remarks in the preface to the 1889 volume of Statistics as follows: “The report has now reached about the size of the original Victorian Year-Book, and it has been deemed desirable to publish it in octavo size to make it more convenient for general reference.” A similar decision, it may be added, was made in regard to the quinquennial Census Report.

For 1889 and 1890 the Report on the Statistics was accordingly issued as a separate publication with several new features. The following year (1891) was a census year, and the place of the usual statistical report for that year was taken by a separate “Report on the Results of a Census of the Colony of New Zealand taken for the Night of the 5th April, 1891,” the first of a series of reports which have been published after each census since.

In 1892 the Report on the Statistics reappeared, remodelled and considerably enlarged, and under the title of the “New Zealand Official Handbook.” The Handbook achieved a very considerable success, and the Government gave instructions for the preparation annually of a similar volume, to be called the “New Zealand Official Year-Book.” The compilation remained in the hands of the Registrar-General until 1910, when on the passing of the Census and Statistics Act of that year the Year-Book and other statistical publications came under the control of the Government Statistician.

The demy octavo size adopted in 1889, when the Report on the Statistics was first issued as a separate publication, was retained for the Official Handbook, and, up to the 1920 number, for the Year-Book. This size, however, was not altogether satisfactory from the point of view of economy of space or for the display of tabular matter, and in the next issue gave way to the royal octavo size.

A change was also made at the same time in the year-number of the book. Formerly the book had been designated by the year of compilation, though in recent years it had not appeared until early in the following year. The book now bears the year of publication.

A new policy adopted in 1921 in regard to the publication of the Annual Statistics involved the reintroduction of the report to accompany the tabular matter. In lieu of presenting the statistics in one comprehensive publication, these now form the tabular matter for eight separate annual reports, each covering a definite branch of statistical inquiry, and including introductory and explanatory letterpress in addition to the tables.

A similar policy is also now followed in the case of the census results. In addition to the complete report published separately after the completion of the census tabulation, each volume of tables contains also an introductory discussion of the results disclosed.

The full list of the regular publications of the Census and Statistics Department is as follows:—

Title.Periodicity of Issue.
New Zealand Official Year-BookAnnual.
Annual Statistical Reports— 
  Population and BuildingsAnnual.
  Vital StatisticsAnnual.
  Trade and Shipping (Part I)Annual.
  Trade and Shipping (Part II)Annual.
  Agricultural and Pastoral ProductionAnnual.
  Factory and Building ProductionAnnual.
  Miscellaneous (Prices, Wage-rates and Hours of Labour, Unemployment, Industrial Accidents, Tramways, Banking, Building Societies, Bankruptcy, Commercial Afforestation, Incomes and Income-tax, Statistical Summary)Annual.
Local Authorities Handbook of New ZealandAnnual.
Monthly Abstract of StatisticsMonthly.
Volumes of Census ResultsNormally quin-quennial.
Published in New Zealand Gazette 
  Estimated Yields of Wheat, Oats, and BarleyAnnual.
  Estimated Areas under Wheat, Oats, Barley, and PotatoesAnnual.
  Stocks—Flour, Wheat, and OatsAnnual.

The principal publication of the Census and Statistics Department is the New Zealand Official Year-Book, which, as its title implies, is the official book of general reference on the different branches of the Dominion's activities and the various aspects of its social and economic characteristics and progress. Necessarily, much of the information given in the Year-Book is of a condensed character, owing to the wide range of subjects covered. The Local Authorities Handbook, the annual Statistical Reports, and the census publications contain much more detailed information on the particular subjects they deal with, while the Monthly Abstract of Statistics contains the latest statistical information available on a variety of subjects, giving monthly or quarterly figures in most cases, together with letterpress discussion on the principal features and articles presenting new annual matter as it becomes available.


The various publications of the Census and Statistics Department—notably the New Zealand Official Year-Book—contain summaries of statistical information collected from various governmental and other sources, as well as data compiled de novo by the Department.

The detailed publication of statistics in these volumes is, however, confined to the statistics actually compiled by the Census and Statistics Department, so that the list of publications contained under the preceding heading is by no means a complete bibliography of sources of statistical information. A wealth of statistical data is contained in the various departmental reports presented to Parliament, while other governmental and semi-governmental institutions regularly publish statistical matter illustrative of their activities.

The regular publication of original statistics by universities, private organizations, or firms is not developed in New Zealand to anything like the same extent as in some other countries, notably the United States of America, and it would appear that New Zealand as a nation is not statistically conscious. Reviews and interpretations of official and other statistics, however, find a place in several periodicals, the regular series of bulletins issued by the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and the interpretations of official economic statistics included in the Journal of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce being notable examples.

Following are lists (not claimed to be exhaustive) of official and other publications of importance from a statistical point of view.



* In four parts.

Meteorology, seismology, geological survey, &c.H.–34Report of Scientific and Industrial Research Department.
Public health, hospitals, &c.H.-31Report on Public Health. Hospitals, and Charitable Aid.
 H.-7Report on Mental Hospitals.
EducationE.-1Report of Minister of Education.
 E.-2Report on Primary and Post-primary Education.
 E.-3Report on Education of Native Children.
 E.-4Report on Child Welfare, State Care of Children, Special Schools, and Infant-life Protection.
 E.-7Report on Higher Education.
JusticeH.-16Report on Police Force.
 H.-20Prisons Report.
 H.-20AReport of Prisons Board.
 H.-20BReport on Offenders' Probation.
DefenceH.-19Report of General Officer Commanding.
 H.-5Report on New Zealand Naval Forces.
External tradeH.-44Report of Department of Industries and Commerce.
ShippingH.-15Report of Marine Department.
RailwaysD.-2Railways Statement.
 D.-1Public Works Statement.
Roads and road transportD.-1Public Works Statement.
 H.-40Report of Transport Department.
Air transportH.-40Report of Transport Department.
Postal and telegraphicF.-1Report of Post and Telegraph Department.
BroadcastingF.-3Report of Broadcasting Service.
 F.-1Report of Post and Telegraph Department.
LandsH.-3Report of Land Transfer and Deeds Registration Department.
 C.-1AReport on Surveys.
 C.-4Report on Swamp Drainage.
 C.-6Report on Scenery Preservation.
 C.-8Report on Drainage Operations in Hauraki Plains.
Crown landsC.-1Report on Settlement of Crown Lands.
 C.-5Report on Land for Settlements Act.
 C.-9Report on Discharged Soldiers' Settlement.
 C.-14Report on National Endowments.
Native landsG.-9Report on Native Land Courts, &c.
 G.-3, 4Accounts of East Coast Native Trust Lands.
 G.-10Report of Board of Native Affairs.
Agricultural and pastoral productionH.-29Report of Department of Agriculture.
 H.-23Annual Sheep Returns.
 H.-34Report of Scientific and Industrial Research Department.
ForestryC.-3Report of State Forest Service.
 C.-12Report on Kauri-gum Industry.
FisheriesH.-15Report of Marine Department.
 H.-22Report of Internal Affairs Department.
MiningC.-2Mines Statement.
 C-2AReport on State Coal-mines.
 C.-12Report on Kauri-gum Industry.
 H.-34Report of Scientific and Industrial Research Department.
Factory productionH.-44Report of Department of Industries and Commerce.
Public financeB.-1*Public Accounts.
 B.-2Report and Accounts of Public Debt Commission.
 B.-6Financial Statement (Budget).
 B.-7Appropriations chargeable on Consolidated Fund and other Accounts.
 B.-7AAppropriations chargeable on Public Works Fund.
 B.-10Public Securities held.
 D.-1Public Works Statement.
State advancesB.-13Report of State Advances Corporation.
 B.-14Report of Rural Intermediate Credit Board.
PensionsH.-18Report of Pensions Department.
SuperannuationH.-26Report of Public Service Superannuation Board.
 E.-8Report on Teachers' Superannuation Fund.
 D.-5Report on Government Railways Superannuation Fund.
National Provident FundH.-17Report of National Provident Fund Board.
Local bodiesH.-22Report of Internal Affairs Department.
BankingB.-15Balance-sheet of Bank of New Zealand.
 B.-16Report of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
 F.-1Report of Post and Telegraph Department.
InsuranceH.-8Report of Government Insurance Commissioner.
 H.-6Report of State Fire Insurance Office.
 H.-6AReport of Accident Insurance Branch of the State Fire Insurance Office.
 H.-12Report on Fire Brigades.
Friendly societiesH.-1Report of Registrar of Friendly Societies.
Trade-unionsH.-11Report of Labour Department.
UnemploymentH.-11Report of Labour Department.
Industrial disputesH.-11Report of Labour Department.
Industrial accidentsH.-11Report of Labour Department.
 D.-2Railways Statement.
 C.-2Mines Statement.
Electric-powerD.-1Public Works Statement.
Public Trust OfficeB.-9, 9AReport and Accounts of the Public Trust Office.
Patents, designs, and trademarksH.-10Report of Commissioner of Patents, &c.
Inspection of machineryH.-15Report of Marine Department.
DependenciesA.-3Report on Cook Islands.
 A.-4Report on Western Samoa.
 A.-6Report on Niue Island.
Public ServiceH.-14Report of Public Service Commissioners.


B.-3Report of the Economic Committee.
B.-4 and 4AReport of the National Expenditure Commission.
A.-6Statement on the (World) Monetary and Economic Conference, London.
B.-3Report of the Monetary Committee. (NOTE.—A separate appendix contains evidence heard by and statements presented to the Committee.)
H.-28Report of Tariff Commission.
H.–28AStatement on Customs Tariff.
H.-30Report of Dairy Industry Commission.
H.-30Report of Departmental Committee on National Compulsory Super-annuation and Health Insurance.
I.-13AReport on Commercial Trusts Amendment Bill by Industries and Commerce Committee, together with Minutes of Evidence.
H.-33AVoting at General Election, 1935.
H.-33BVoting at Local Option and National Prohibition Polls, 1935.
H.-44AReport on Cook Islands Fruit Industry.

A list of regularly issued reports, periodicals, &c., containing original statistical data, follows:—

Subject.Title of Publication.Periodicity of Issue.Produced by or under Authority of.
Meteorology, seismology, geological survey, &c.Meteorological ObservationsAnnualDepartment of Scientific and Industrial Research.
 New Zealand Journal of Science and TechnologyMonthlyDepartment of Scientific and Industrial Research.
 New Zealand Journal of AgricultureMonthlyDepartment of Agriculture.
Public-health, hospitals, &c.Appendix to the Annual Report of the Department of HealthAnnualDepartment of Health.
External tradeNews BulletinPeriodicallyDepartment of Industries and Commerce.
 Quarterly BulletinQuarterlyDepartment of Industries and Commerce.
Agricultural and pastoral productionNew Zealand Journal of AgricultureMonthlyDepartment of Agriculture.
 New Zealand Journal of Science and TechnologyMonthlyDepartment of Scientific and Industrial Research.
 Report of New Zealand Dairy BoardAnnualNew Zealand Dairy Board.
 Report of New Zealand Meat-producers BoardAnnualNew Zealand Meat-producers Board.
 Report of New Zealand Fruit-export Control BoardAnnualNew Zealand Fruit-export Control Board.
 Dalgety's Wool Review for Australia and New ZealandAnnualDalgety and Co., Ltd.
 Produce NotesMonthlyEconomic Section, Department of Agriculture.
 Annual ReviewAnnualPyne, Gould, and Guinness, Ltd.
Public financeAbstract of the Revenue and Expenditure of the Public AccountQuarterlySupplement to the New Zealand Gazette.
Prices, &c.Dairy Produce CircularWeeklyPrimary Products Marketing Department.
 New Zealand Meat-producers Board Press CommuniqueWeeklyNew Zealand Meat-producers Board.
 Meat and WoolMonthlyNew Zealand Pastoral and Stud Stock Industries.
 Official Record of the Stock Exchange of New ZealandMonthlyStock Exchange Association of New Zealand.
DependenciesTrade, Commerce, and Shipping of the Territory of Western SamoaAnnualCollector of Customs, Samoa.
GeneralNew Zealand in a Nutshell—Facts and FiguresAnnualDepartment of Industries and Commerce, Tourist and Publicity.
 New Zealand Gazette.  
 Assets and Liabilities of Reserve BankWeekly. 
 Assets and Liabilities of Trading Banks.Monthly. 
 Abstract of Railways Working AccountFour-weekly. 



POPULATION censuses were taken during 1936 in New Zealand and in all its inhabited dependencies. For New Zealand proper the census related to the night of Tuesday, 24th March, 1936, and recorded a total of 1,573,810, inclusive of 82,326 Maoris. The annexed Kermadec Islands had a population of 2. For the Cook Islands and Niue Island the effective date of the census was 30th April, 1936, and the population was 16,350 (Cook Islands, 12,246; Niue Island, 4,104). The Tokelau Islands, where a census was taken by the Western Samoan Administration for 4th November, 1936, had a population of 1,170. The same date was selected by the Administration for its census of Western Samoa, the population being recorded as 55,946. All the outlying islands (vide page 1) are uninhabited at present, as is also the huge Ross Dependency situated in Antarctic regions. The total population of New Zealand and dependencies at the 1936 censuses was, therefore, 1,047,278.

Further 1936 census figures will be found later in this section or in other portions of this volume, but for details it will be necessary to refer to the census volumes published separately. The following summary gives, where available, figures more recent than those of the census.


* Not available.

New Zealand proper (exclusive of Maoris)31 Mar., 1937762,111740,6261,502,737
Maoris31 Mar., 193743,90040,57484,474
Totals, New Zealand proper31 Mar., 1937806,011781,2001,587,211
Kermadec Islands31 Mar., 19377 7
Cook Islands and NiueCensus, 19368,3677,98316,350
Tokelau IslandsCensus, 19365686021,170
Mandated Territory of Western SamoaCensus, 1936**55,946
Total   1,660,684


In common with almost all countries, the chief instrument in compiling population data in New Zealand is the census, which in this country is taken quinquennially. The minutiæ of the distribution of population, together with analyses of various population characteristics, compiled from census data will be found in the official publications compiled after each census.

The basis adopted for the census, and virtually throughout population statistics in New Zealand, is that of the population present, which may be defined as the population present at the place of enumeration and at the time of the enumeration.

Intercensal figures of total population are based on the customary equation:—Population = Population (census) + Births and immigration — Deaths and emigration.

The comparative shortness of the interval between the census enumerations, combined with New Zealand's insular position and the completeness of her registration system, prevents serious intercensal errors in statements of the total population of New Zealand. Paucity of data regarding internal movements of population permits of occasional significant errors in the estimates of the population of towns, provincial districts, &c. Though such errors rarely attained serious dimensions prior to the last decade, the omission of the 1931 census, combined with the disturbance of population resulting from the unprecedented economic depression, inevitably resulted in more significant errors during this period.

The fact that all migration to and from the Dominion must be waterborne over lengthy distances, and that it centres in a few ports, facilitates the compilation of accurate statistics of external migration. Records of passenger traffic by sea and air between the North and South Islands are also maintained.

Residents of the Cook Islands, Niue, Western Samoa, and the Tokelau Group are not included in the population statistics quoted throughout this section, except in the first table. Further information will be found in the section relating to dependencies.

Separate statistics of the Maori population are given towards the end of this section


The outstanding note of the history of population movement in New Zealand is that of unbroken growth. That it has not been invariably regular is well attested by the accompanying table, and by the fifty years' record shown in the later section of this edition entitled “Statistical Summary.”

Date of Census.Population (excluding Maoris).Numerical Increase.Percentage Increase.Average Annual Percentage Increase.

* See letterpress.

NOTE.—The census due to be taken in 1931 and proclaimed for 21st April of that year was abandoned owing to financial stringency.

December, 185126,707   
December, 185859,41332,706122.4612.14
December, 186199,02139,60866.6718.70
December, 1864172,15873,13773.8620.54
December, 1867218,66846,51027.028.15
February, 1871256,39337,72517.255.11
March, 1874299,51443,12116.825.32
March, 1878414,412114,89838.368.43
April, 1881489,93375,52118.225.58
March, 1886*576,52486,59117.673.32
April, 1891624,47447,9508.321.60
April, 1896701,10176,62712.272.33
March, 1901770,31269,2119.871.91
April, 1906886,000115,68815.022.79
April, 19111,005,589119,58913.502.60
October, 19161,096,22890,6399.011.57
April, 19211,214,677118,44910.812.31
April, 19261,344,469129,79210.692.05
March, 19361,491,484147,01510.931.05

Commencing with the 1926 census all half-caste European-Maoris were included with the Native population in lieu of the previous practice of treating as Europeans such half-castes as were living in European fashion, and as Maoris those half-castes who were living in Native fashion. The figures in the above table have been corrected from 1886 onwards, to accord with the present practice. Lack of data prevents adjustment for years prior to 1886. The increase from 1881 to 1886 is, therefore, very slightly understated.

The “European” population now looks in retrospect down a vista of well over one hundred years. At the opening of the nineteenth century there existed a more or less fluctuating population of perhaps one hundred; by 1839 it had swelled to a total of about a thousand whalers, sealers, traders, missionaries, adventurers and settlers. Activities of the colonizing companies and societies in the “forties” brought rapid changes and swiftly rising numbers, to be enhanced in the “sixties” by the gold rushes of the period.

The most significant period is possibly that of the “seventies,” marked by a vigorous developmental policy of public works and assisted immigration. The record year 1874, which saw a rise in population of 46,000 (including 32,000 assisted immigrants), was, and still is, the high-water mark of population gains. Both 1874 and 1875 showed a ratio of growth far in advance of any level subsequently attained.

In the late “eighties” and early “nineties” came economic depression and, consequently, comparative stagnation in population. In the four “March” years 1887–88, 1888–89, 1890–91, and 1891–92, and also in 1927–28 emigrants exceeded immigrants, these being the only such occasions in the history of the country, until the recent depression, when departures exceeded arrivals in 1931–32 and subsequent “March” years. The exodus during 1936–37 was very small (an excess of 353 departures) and may be attributed to persons proceeding to England for the Coronation.

From the middle “nineties” rising world prices and the new frozen-meat trade brought a return of prosperity and moderate, but steady, increase of population. Development of secondary industries and the remarkable expansion of dairying provided an economic foundation for increasing numbers.

The average annual population increment during the ten immediate post-war years exceeded 30,000, while for the next eight years the average per annum was under 13,000. Apart from war years, which were affected by movements of troops, the year 1934–35 showed the lowest absolute increase since 1891, and the lowest relative increase ever recorded. Some improvement, however, has been recorded during 1935–36 and 1936–37.

Up to the “seventies” New Zealand was dependent on migration for the greater portion of her increase of population, but since then natural increase—i.e., excess of births over deaths—has been the principal factor.

A table is appended showing for each five-yearly period from 1861 the excess of births over deaths and of immigration over emigration. Maoris are not included, nor, prior to 1921, are crews of vessels. Figures for years later than 1920 have not been adjusted consequent upon the censuses. While there thus exist discrepancies with total population increases given elsewhere, such discrepancies do not impair the use of the table.

Period.Excess of Births over Deaths.Excess of Arrivals over Departures.Total Increase.
Males.Females.Both Sexes.Males.Females.Both Sexes.Males.Females.Both Sexes.

* Decrease.

† Departure and return of troops of Expeditionary Force not included in migration figures.

Totals, 1861–1936455,037503,573958,610299,152199,251498,403754,189702,8241,457,013

The table shows clearly the irregularity of the migration increase and the comparative steadiness of the natural increase. With a stable birth-rate the natural increase would show mounting numbers, whereas actually the peak occurred in 1911–15 and the shrinking birth-rate has reduced numbers accruing from this source.


The trend of population movement in past decades has been in the direction of a decline in the rate of population increase, the decline quickening in recent years. There appears no indication at present of any radical alteration in the trend, and it has become of the greatest moment to consider, in general terms at least, what a continuance of this trend would mean. Baldly stated, it implies that New Zealand is facing at only a few years' distance the possibility of a stationary, and even of a declining population. Remarks under this head apply, it should be observed, to population other than Maori.

This prospect would present entirely novel features to New Zealand, where unbroken growth has been recorded in every year from the settlement of 1840. There have been, it is true, variations in the rate of increase—for example, from the high levels of the gold rushes in the “sixties” and the assisted immigration and public-works measures of the “seventies” to the lower strata reached in the depression-caused outflow of 1888–91—yet the numbers of the population at the end of the year have always been some thousands, at least, in excess of those at the year's beginning.

It is inevitable that much of the economy of New Zealand has been planned on the assumption of steadily increasing numbers, and it is unnecessary to indicate the vast and widespread effect of the removal of the “safety-valve” which continued growth affords. A secondary yet highly important factor is the redistribution of the population in major age divisions.

Apart from the question of annexation of territory, or alteration of nationality, or other laws affecting the determination of population, there are only two sources from which increase in the population of the State is possible—viz., excess of births over deaths (natural increase) and excess of overseas arrivals over departures (net migration increase). Except in the earliest stages of a country's development, or in exceptional circumstances—such as those of the recent vast immigration of Chinese into Manchuria—the former is naturally the more important source. It is also, for numerous reasons, the more desirable source. Since 1875, three-fourths of the increase in New Zealand's population (other than Maori) has come from excess of births over deaths, and one-fourth from the net migration increase.

The natural-increase ratio was formerly unusually high in New Zealand, the annual average, for instance, reaching 29.41 per 1,000 of mean population in the quinquennium 1876–80 (see subsection relating to “Births”). Comparison with the 1936 figure of 7.89 per 1,000 is sufficiently striking. The erstwhile favourable ratio of natural increase in New Zealand was due to its exceptionally low death-rate, now and for very many years the lowest in the world. It is out of the question to expect further considerable fails in the death-rate; in fact, with the less favourable age-constitution of the population a potential rise must be envisaged.

The nominal natural-increase ratio of the past year (7.89 per 1,000 of mean population in 1936) gives the impression of a still substantial margin of increase in population. While this is correct in one sense, it yet obscures the more important aspect, which is that the proportions at reproductive ages are not being maintained. Based on expectation-of-life figures calculated for 1931, an “equilibrium” birth-rate of over 15 per 1,000 of mean population is required to maintain even a stationary population, and should the death-rate increase a higher birth-rate would be necessary. It is clear that even the nominal margin of increase is precariously low, and will vanish in a few years if the present trend continues. With economic improvement during 1936 there has come a small rise in the birth-rate; it remains to be seen whether this heralds a substantial recovery during the next few years. Calculations by the Kuczynski technique, using the female population and female births of the year 1936, give a gross reproductive rate of 1.044, which on the basis of a life-table compiled for the year 1931, reduces to a net reproduction rate of 0.967. The position is thus that in 1936 the rate of reproduction was insufficient to maintain the population at its 1936 level.

That the net migration has during 1931–35 been a debit to the population does not in itself appear of great significance, but would seem to have been a temporary phase associated with unfavourable economic conditions. A similar reversal of the normal trend in migration occurred during the years 1888–91—a depression period. The calendar year 1936 shows a small surplus of arrivals. The question of the resumption of immigration has many problems which need not be discussed here. No serious attempt has ever been made to calculate an “optimum” population for New Zealand. It is not, in fact, practicable within the limits of our present knowledge. It is, however, a very generally accepted proposition that New Zealand can ultimately maintain with benefit a considerably larger population than she has at present. Concepts are necessarily either vague or without serious foundation: a common tendency, particularly of those who work from the dubious territory of comparisons of population and gross area, is to exaggerate the potential population capacity.

In the past the population of New Zealand has been derived almost wholly from the British Isles, whether directly or indirectly, and upon resumption of immigration the same preferences would undoubtedly exist. It has, however, become clear that this source of recruitment of additional population—upon anything over a small scale—may within a few years be no longer available.

In Britain, as in New Zealand and, indeed, in many other countries, the rate of growth of population has slackened, and, unless some drastic changes in migration occur, a declining population is imminent. Statisticians agree that, subject to certain qualifications, the population of England and Wales is now almost at its peak and must decline. One authority* places the population of England and Wales in 1976 as 28,500,000 (it is now 40,900,000); another has placed the 1976 figure several millions in excess of the former estimate. These estimates are admittedly subject to the maintenance of certain conditions, and long-term forecasts of population indeed serve only limited purposes. That the population of England, however, will decline in the near future, possibly to a considerable extent, seems inevitable. The consequences to New Zealand, both from the viewpoint of a failure as a recruiting source of population (for migration from England is probably unlikely to receive encouragement if the population falls) and from that of declining consumption by the principal export customer of New Zealand, are sufficiently obvious in their more immediate implications.


The following table is interesting as showing the early excess of males and the gradual equalization of the sexes in New Zealand. The figures quoted are exclusive of Maoris, and have not been adjusted as has the second table in this section.

Census Year.Males.Females.Females to 1,000 Males.

The preponderance of males in the early years of New Zealand was doubtless due to the fact that the difficulties of pioneering and the remoteness of the country from Europe were such as to deter female immigration to a greater extent than male. This was accentuated by the character of the early industries. Gold-mining and coal-mining, for instance, would attract large numbers of men but few women. The effect of this early preponderance of males no doubt still exists, but in an ever-diminishing degree, its gradual elimination being effected by the passing of the earlier settlers.

*Dr. G. Leybourne.

† Dr. E. C. Snow.

Of the two sources from which the Dominion's population has been recruited—viz., migration and natural increase—the effect of the former has hitherto been to give in the aggregate a considerable preponderance of males, and of the latter to give a regular preponderance of females. In the period 1921–36 the gain through external migration provided 8,500 more males than females; hut in the same period natural increase was responsible for 20,000 more females than males. The surplus of males at present, exclusive of the Native population, is 21,485.


As already noted, the intercensal statements of total Dominion population prepared from the records of vital statistics and of external migration have been by virtue of the favourable position of the Dominion in this respect relatively accurate, and the 1936 census results have afforded a further demonstration of this. The same degree of accuracy does not persist, however, for Maori and European elements. Results for the censuses of 1921 and 1926 suggested that numbers of Maori-European children of at least half Maori blood have been counted in birth statistics as Europeans. In consequence, the Maori population had been slightly understated, and the European population overstated to a corresponding degree. The 1936 census results afforded further support to this view. Accordingly the statements of population at intercensal dates, 1921–36, have been revised and the four tables following give revised figures. For fuller details of revised statements (including the annual estimates of population of towns, provincial districts, &c.) reference should be made to the 1936–37 edition of the annual “Statistical Report on Population and Buildings.”

Year ended 31st March,Population (excluding Maoris) at End of Year.Increase during Year.Mean Population for Year.
Males.Females.Total.Numerical.Per Cent.

As population figures for the calendar year are in demand for numerous purposes, figures are given also for years ending 31st December.

Calendar Year.Population (excluding Maoris) at End of Year.Increase during Year.Mean Population for Year.
Males.Females.Total.Numerical.Per Cent.

The figures given in the two preceding tables show the population exclusive of Maoris. The following table shows the population inclusive of Maoris:—

Population (including Maoris) at End of Year.Mean Population for Year.
Years ended 31st March.
Years ended 31st December.


Statistics of external migration have been recorded in New Zealand since 1860. Since 1st April, 1921, they have been compiled from individual statements obtained from each person entering or leaving the Dominion.

Commencing with the year 1933–34, the year ending 31st March has been adopted as a standard for the statistical expression of external migration in place of the calendar year formerly in use. The principal reason for the change is the avoidance of the partition of a season's migration movement into two statistical years as was inevitable with the calendar year ending in the middle of the summer flow of tourists and immigrants.

Including crews of vessels, 88,872 persons from overseas arrived in New Zealand during the year ended 31st March, 1937, which, compared with 1935–36, shows an increase of 7,387. During the same period 89,292 persons departed. This figure, compared with the corresponding one for 1935–36, shows an increase of 6,639.

In addition to the above, there were also 9,861 “through passengers” who called at a port of New Zealand en route to their destination, and 5,949 “tourists on cruising liners.” These latter, as the term indicates, were persons who visited New Zealand in the course of a cruise, the length of stay being only a few days.

Migration in 1936–37, therefore, continued to show an excess of departures, the excess amounting to 420 as compared with 1,168 in 1935–36. A considerable portion of the exodus towards the end of 1936—37 was undoubtedly due to the Coronation ceremonies in England.

The numbers of arrivals and departures during the last ten years are given in the table following. Crews of vessels, through passengers, and tourists on cruising liners have not been taken into account in this table.

Year ended 31st March.Arrivals.Departures.Excess of Arrivals over Departures.

* Excess of depart urea.


The excess of “crew” arrivals over “crew” departures, neither of which are included above, provides an annual increment of several hundred to the population of New Zealand.

The monthly figures for 1935–36 and 1936–37 are as follows, the excess of passenger arrivals or of passenger departures for each month being also shown:—

Month.Arrival.DeparturesExcess of Arrivals.Excess of Departures.
April2,0421,7473,2012,991  1,1591,244
May1,4101,6212,6603,160  1,2501,539
June1,1421,3641,7792,073  637709
July1,6251,8862,1791,928  55442
August1,4002,1711,5641,848 323164 
February3,3983,1442,6703,450728  306
March2,3822,8904,6135,104  2,2312,214
    Totals26,93631,67028,05032,023  1,114353

In general, arrivals exceed departures in the spring and summer months, while the contrary holds for the autumn and winter periods.


The following table gives an analysis of the various classes of passenger arrivals during the last five years. It is, therefore, exclusive of crews of vessels, a source from which conies a steady increment of population. The average annual excess of crew arrivals over departures in the five years 1932–33 to 1936–37 was 206 and in the preceding five years 752.

In these tables, as has been noted above, “through” passengers and tourists on cruising liners have not been included.

Immigrants intending permanent residence1,4941,4281,5791,9152,807
New Zealand residents returning from abroad9,1398,42012,09112,19414,027
Persons on commercial business9481,0341,1371,2671,395
Persons visiting the Dominion in connection with entertainments, sports, &c.353297392552569
Others (officials, &c., of other countries)258316371305566
Persons in transit488711895755908
No information available5040582150

The New Zealand Government suspended from early in 1927 the major portion of its scheme of granting assisted passages to migrants from the British Isles, and this is partly responsible for the diminished number of immigrants, since govern-mentally assisted immigrants in years preceding 1927 formed more than half of the total. There were 11 assisted immigrants in 1936–37, as against none in 1935–36 and 11,239 in 1926–27; while the numbers of those who migrated to New Zealand without State assistance amounted to 2,796, 1,915, and 6,898 for the years 1936–37, 1935–36, and 1926–27 respectively.

The succeeding table gives an analysis of passenger departures, and thus furnishes the reverse of its predecessor:—

New Zealand residents departing permanently2,9503,1603,5924,3313,972
New Zealand residents departing temporarily8,7179,29313,53111,63014,148
Visitors to the Dominion departing9,5409,53110,88412,04613,854
No information available10138444349


The following table gives the age-distribution of immigrants and emigrants for the twelve months ended 31st March, 1937:—

Age, in Years.Permanent Arrivals.Permanent Departures.Excess of Departures over Arrivals.

* Excess of arrivals over departures.

60 or over6871139123181304165


Of the 2,807 new immigrants during the year 1936–37 intending to settle in the Dominion, the vast majority (2,468, or 88 per cent.) came from British countries, mainly from the British Isles, Australia, Canada, Fiji, and India. The majority of immigrants from foreign countries came from China, Yugoslavia, the United States of America, and Germany.

The following table shows for each of the last five years the principal countries whence arrived for new immigrants who intended permanent residence in the Dominion:—

Country of Last Permanent Residence.1932–33.1933–34.1934–35.1935–36.1936–37.
British Isles449468491653892
Union of South Africa211451024
Other British countries13111193128178
Denmark2118 2
Germany5  538
United States of America4244512549
Other foreign countries and unspecified6736426573

Of the New Zealand residents who left the Dominion permanently, the great majority (94 per cent.) went to British countries. Foreign countries, other than China and the United States of America, recorded only very small figures.


Of the total of 2,807 new immigrants intending permanent residence who arrived during 1936–37, 375 (males 212, females 163) were of foreign nationality. The chief nationalities represented among the alien immigrants were as follows (total figures for the five years preceding being given in parentheses): United States, 43 (108); Yugoslavia, 95 (130); Italy, 10 (65); China, 73 (37); Germany, 53 (48); Poland, 16 (45); and France, 10 (26).

The number of foreign nationals among New Zealand residents departing permanently during the year ended March, 1937, was 172 (136 males and 36 females), or 4.3 per cent. of the total.

A noticeable feature in regard to foreign nationals is the relative disparity of the sexes as between arrivals and departures. Of the arrivals 57 per cent. were males and 43 per cent. females, whereas of the departures 79 per cent. were males and 21 per cent. females.


Although race aliens comprise comparatively small proportions of the total arrivals and departures, they are by no means unimportant. The principal race aliens with whom New Zealand is concerned are Chinese, Indians, and Syrians, and the first two are shown separately from other race aliens. The definition of the term “race alien,” as used in connection with these statistics, is “a person of other than European race.”

Permanent arrivals of race aliens in 1936–37 comprised 58 Indians, 73 Chinese, and 60 of other races. Departures were 34 Indians, 90 Chinese, and 29 of other races. In the last ten years permanent arrivals have aggregated 139 Chinese, 373 Indians, and 217 others; and the permanent departures 433 Chinese, 98 Indians, and 177 others.

It should be noted that the figures quoted above include all persons of mixed European and race alien origin.

The total arrivals and departures of race aliens during each of the last ten years are as follows:—

Year ending 31st March,Arrivals.Departures.


The general scheme of Governmental assistance to immigrants, which has been restricted in varying degrees since May, 1927, is based on nomination by a person who is already domiciled in New Zealand, and who undertakes to find employment for his nominee and guarantees that such nominee will reside at least five years in New Zealand. Further details will be found in the 1931 or preceding issues of the Year-Book.

Various systems of assisted immigration have been in force since 1871, with the exception of the period 1892 to 1903 (inclusive). The numbers of assisted immigrants during each of the last ten calendar years are as follows:—


The total to 31st December, 1936, is 226,238, of which number all have come from the United Kingdom with the exception of 3,909 from the Continent of Europe, spread over the five years 1874 to 1878 (inclusive).

In the following analysis of migration increase the figures given are annual averages for the periods quoted:—

Period.Governmentally assisted Immigrants.Immigrants not Governmentally assisted.Total Net Migration Increase.
1909–133,479 7,095



With certain specified exceptions, no person over the age of sixteen years may land in New Zealand unless in possession of a passport or some other document satisfactorily establishing his or her nationality and identity. Exemption from this requirement (which is additional to the requirements of the Immigration Restriction and Undesirable Immigrants Exclusion Acts) may be granted by the Minister of Internal Affairs.

In the case of a person coming from a foreign country the passport must, with certain exceptions, have been issued or vised by the British Ambassador or a British Consul in that country, and in the case of a person coming from any part of the British dominions the issue or visé must have been by some public official duly authorized in that behalf.

Certain exceptions are made with respect to persons coming to New Zealand from the Cook Islands and Western Samoa. In their case the only requirement is the possession of a permit to visit New Zealand granted by the Resident Commissioner of the Cook Islands or the Administrator of Samoa, as the case may be. The regulations, further, do not apply to a British subject arriving in New Zealand as the master or a member of the crew of the vessel in which he arrives, or to a British subject arriving from the Commonwealth of Australia.


With the exception of British subjects travelling to the Commonwealth of Australia, the Cook Islands, or Western Samoa, all persons travelling to places beyond the seas are required to be in possession of a passport or similar document to facilitate landing thereat. British passports are issued, under the direction of His Excellency the Governor-General, by the Department of Internal Affairs. They are valid for five years and may be renewed for any number of years not exceeding five. Subject to the Immigration Regulations in force in the various countries of the Empire, they are valid for travelling anywhere within the British Empire, including territories under British protection or mandate, but not Palestine or Transjordan, for which the passport must be specially endorsed, or the Aden Protectorate, for which both an endorsement and a visa are required.


The legislation respecting the restriction of immigration into New Zealand is contained in the Immigration Restriction Act, 1908, and its amendments, and the Undesirable Immigrants Exclusion Act, 1919. It is administered by the Customs Department.

Subject to certain exemptions, the following classes of persons are prohibited from landing in New Zealand:—

  1. Persons not of British birth and parentage, unless in possession of permits issued by the Customs Department. (Note.—A person is not deemed to be of British birth and parentage by reason that he or his parents or either of them is a naturalized British subject, or by reason that he is an aboriginal Native or the descendant of an aboriginal Native of any dominion (other than New Zealand), colony, possession, or protectorate of His Majesty.)

  2. Idiots or insane persons.

  3. Persons suffering from contagious diseases which are loathsome or dangerous.

  4. Persons arriving in New Zealand within two years after the termination of a period of imprisonment for a serious offence.

  5. Persons who are considered by the Attorney-General to be disaffected or disloyal, or of such a character that their presence in New Zealand would be injurious to the peace, order, and good government of the Dominion.

  6. Aliens of the age of fifteen years or over who refuse or neglect to take an oath (or make an affirmation) of obedience to the laws of New Zealand.

Provision is made in the law to permit persons covered by clause (1) above to pay temporary visits to New Zealand for the purposes of business, pleasure, or health. Temporary permits are normally restricted to a period not exceeding six months, but may be extended if the proper authorities consider that the circumstances warrant such action. A deposit of £10 is required in respect of such temporary permits, and is returned on the departure of the visitor if the conditions of the temporary permit are complied with. The Collector of Customs may also require, if he so decides, a deed to be entered into by some person or persons resident in New Zealand approved by him guaranteeing to pay all expenses that may be incurred by the Crown or any public body for the visitor's maintenance, relief, arrest, or detention in New Zealand or his deportation therefrom.

Provision is also made whereby, under certain conditions, students may be allowed to enter New Zealand temporarily.


When persons arrive in New Zealand who are lunatic, idiotic, deaf, dumb, blind, or infirm, and are likely to become a charge upon the public or upon any public or charitable institution, the master, owner, or charterer of the ship by which such persons come to New Zealand may be called on to enter into a bond for £100 for each such person, guaranteeing payment of any expenses which may be incurred for his support and maintenance by or in any such institution within a period of five years.


Every person of and over the age of fifteen years who lands in New Zealand must, unless exempted by the Minister of Customs, make and deliver to an officer of Customs a declaration giving the following particulars: Name, age, nationality, race or people to which he belongs, residence, particulars of children under fifteen years of age arriving with him, and (if not domiciled in New Zealand) occupation, and places of birth of himself and father.


The British Nationality and Status of Aliens (in New Zealand) Act, 1928, which was reserved for Royal assent, came into force on the 1st July, 1929. This Act made important alterations in the naturalization law of New Zealand, and made provision for the adoption of Part II of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914 (Imperial). A fairly detailed account of its effects will be found on pp. 92–95 of the 1931 issue of the Year-Book.

The British Nationality and Status of Aliens (in New Zealand) Amendment Act, 1934–35, was assented to on 26th March, 1935. This Act does two things: In the first place, it brings the New Zealand law into conformity with the law of the United Kingdom by the formal adoption as part of the law of New Zealand of section 10 of the Imperial Act of 1914 (as re-enacted by the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1933).

The provisions of section 10, as re-enacted in 1933, and containing modifications incidental to its application in New Zealand, are quoted:—

  • “10. (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to be a British subject, and the wife of an alien shall be doomed to be an alien.

  • “(2) Where a woman has (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) married an alien, and was at the time of her marriage a British subject, she shall not, by reason only of her marriage, be deemed to have ceased to be a British subject unless, by reason of her marriage, she acquired the nationality of her husband.

  • “(3) Where a man has, during the continuance of his marriage, ceased (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) to be a British subject, his wife shall not, by reason only of that fact, be deemed to have ceased to be a British subject unless, by reason of the acquisition by her husband of a new nationality, she also acquired that nationality.

  • “(4) Where a man ceases, during the continuance of his marriage, to be a British subject and, by reason of his acquisition of a new nationality, his wife also acquires that nationality, she may, whether her marriage is still continuing or not, at any time within the period of twelve months from the date on which she so acquired that nationality, or at such later time as the Minister of Internal Affairs may in special circumstances allow, make a declaration that she desires to retain British nationality, and thereupon she shall be deemed to have remained a British subject.

  • “(5) Where, after the end of the year nineteen hundred and thirty-four, a certificate of naturalization is granted to an alien, his wife, if not already a British subject, shall not be deemed to be a British subject, unless, within the period of twelve months from the date of the certificate, or within such longer period as the Minister of Internal Affairs may in special circumstances allow, she makes a declaration that she desires to acquire British nationality.

  • “(6) Where an alien is a subject of a State at war with His Majesty, it shall be lawful for his wife, if she was at birth a British subject, to make a declaration that she desires to resume British nationality, and thereupon the Minister of Internal Affairs, if he is satisfied that it is desirable that she be permitted to do so, may grant her a certificate of naturalization.”

In the second place, the New Zealand Act referred to goes further than the Imperial Act. It allows to a woman who has lost her British nationality by reason of her marriage to an alien, the right while she remains in New Zealand to claim the same privileges as if she had remained a British subject. The legislation does not seek to alter the fact that such a woman has in law ceased to be a British subject: it merely says that upon making the prescribed declaration she is while she remains in New Zealand, entitled to all the rights and privileges and is subject to all the duties and obligations of a natural-born British subject.

During 1936, 18 women took advantage of section 3 of the Act and made the necessary declaration. The nationalities of the husbands were as follows: Norwegian, 4; Polish, German, and Swiss, 2 each; and Swedish, Danish, Latvian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and United States, 1 each.

During the year 1936 certificates of naturalization in New Zealand were granted to 230 persons of the undermentioned birthplaces, as compared with 116 in the previous year. In addition, 45 children were included in the certificates of their parents, and certificates under the 1928 legislation were issued to 3 males previously naturalized in New Zealand. The birthplaces of these were Syria, United States, and Yugoslavia.

Country of Birth.Males.Females.Total.Children.*

* Children Included in certificate of parent; additional to preceding figures.

Scotland1 1 
Norway10 10 
Iceland1 1 
Finland2 2 
Latvia1 1 
Poland7 76
Holland3 3 
Belgium 22 
Spain1 1 
Switzerland1 1 
Italy32 3217
Czechoslovakia2 2 
Hungary1 1 
Austria1 1 
Greece5 5 
Syria 33 
Palestine1 1 
Arabia1 1 
China1 1 
United States7 7 
New Caledonia 11 
Society Islands2 2 
Western Samoa2 2 

There were also fifty-four cases in which declarations were made by wives of naturalized British subjects who desired to acquire British nationality.

In the ten years 1927–36 1,259 subjects or citizens of other nations obtained certificates of naturalization in New Zealand. The following table exhibits the principal countries involved:—

Country of Birth.No.
United States38
Western Samoa10
Other countries66



In 1858 the North Island had a larger population than the South', this position being reversed at the succeeding enumerations until 1901, in which year the North Island was found to have slightly the larger total, a position which it has since considerably improved upon. The Maori War which broke out in 1860 retarded settlement in the North, while a largo area of land reserved for the Maoris was for many years a serious hindrance to the development of this portion of the Dominion. The South Island was practically free from Maori troubles, and settlement was more rapid, though much of the land was disposed of in large areas. The discovery of gold in Otago in 1861 and on the West Coast in 1864 attracted to these localities considerable numbers of miners.

Census Year.Population (excluding Maoris).Proportions per Cent.
North Island.South Island.*Total.North Island.South Island.*

* Including Stewart Island and Chatham Islands.


The natural increase of European population (i.e., excess of births over deaths) for the South Island during the 1926–36 intercensal period was 47,181, but the total net increase was only 39,889. For the North Island the natural increase was 92,130, and the total net increase 107,120. Allowing for the fortuitous presence in the South Island in 1926 of 2,000 or 3,000 North Island residents visiting the Dunedin Exhibition the margin is reduced, but the existence of a northward drift of population is still evident.


Statistics of passenger migration between the North and South Islands are compiled from returns supplied by Collectors of Customs and are of use in the compilation of population estimates. The following table shows inter-Island migration for ten years ending 31st March. These figures have not been adjusted to give effect to corrections indicated by the 1936 census.

Year.Arrivals in North Island.Arrivals in South Island.Excess in favour of North Island.

Of the 144,832 passengers from the South Island in 1936–37, 144,796 landed at Wellington, including 110,624 from Lyttelton, 20,050 from Nelson, and 14,122 from Picton.

The 141,101 passengers who landed in the South Island for the same period included 107,238 at Lyttelton, 19,825 at Nelson, and 14,038 at Picton, the passengers in these instances all arriving from Wellington. One-day inter-Island excursion (return) trips are not included in the above figures.

In addition to the above sea-borne passengers, a considerable number of persons were carried by two air services operating between the North and South Islands. For the year ended 31st March, 1937, the arrivals in the North Island were 8,475 and in the South Island 8,101. A certain number of passengers are carried by private aeroplanes or by aeroplanes belonging to aero clubs, but particulars of these are not available.


The approximate areas and the populations, inclusive of Maoris, of the various provincial districts are as follows:—

Provincial District.Area (Square Miles).Census Population.Estimated Population as at 1st April, 1837.

* Including certain Maori wives of Europeans, provincial district not specified.

Hawke's Bay4,26039,60463,62870,35376,96877,600
  Otago portion14,050125,782137,062149,921151,213150,700
  Southland portion11,17048,01662,43965,52972,85672,900

The foregoing table illustrates the wide disparities in the size of the provincial districts, whether measured by area or by population. The 1926 to 1936 growth of population is given below both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the 1926 totals. The figures include Maoris.

 Numbers.Per Cent.
Hawke's Bay6,6159.40

Between 1906 and 1926 Auckland's ratio of growth was higher than that of any other provincial district, and in the period reviewed above it is surpassed only by two relatively small districts. The Auckland increase absorbed 47 per cent. of the total increase of population in the Dominion. Of its total of 78,000, 12,000 was credited to North Auckland, 25,000 to Auckland City with its suburbs and neighbouring counties, 20,000 to the Waikato and southern districts, 8,000 to the Thames-Tauranga area, 10,000 to the Taupo - Bay of Plenty area, and 3,000 to the East Coast.

In the Hawke's Bay Provincial District growth was more marked in the north (6,000) than in the south (1,000).

Northern Taranaki increased its population by 4,000, and the southern portion by 2,000, this giving a rather higher rate of increase to the north.

The percentage increase for Wellington was a little over the Dominion level, hut was not evenly distributed. The total gain of 35,000 was derived mainly from the 30,000 increment to Wellington City with its suburbs and neighbouring counties. Manawatu-Horowhenua contributed 6,000 and Wairarapa-Bush under 1,000. Wanganui-Rangitikei nominally declined by over 1,000, although virtually the population was about stationary, since the 1926 figures were temporarily swelled by a Maori gathering.

Marlborough recorded a population almost stationary, as it did also at the preceding census. In the fifty years 1886–1936 the population of Marlborough has increased by only 60 per cent.

To Nelson fell the second highest rate of growth of any provincial district between 1926 and 1936. Some part of this appears to be due to the revival of gold-mining, caused by the high price-level of gold. To a minor extent the 1936 figures were swelled by fruit and hop pickers. Its gain of 9,000 was derived as follows: North, 6,000; west, 2,000; and east, 1,000.

The smallest of the provincial districts, West-land, disclosed the greatest relative growth between 1926 and 1936, in part due to revived interest in gold-mining. In common with all gold-mining areas, Westland has experienced vicissitudes in population, and had in 1936 a population only 16 per cent. greater than in 1886. In recent years steady growth has been made.

In Canterbury the major portion (15,000) of the decennial gain of 19,000 belonged to Christchurch City with its suburbs and the adjoining counties. North Canterbury increased by 1,000, central by 1,000, and south by 2,000.

Otago, as apart from Southland, showed an almost stationary population. In 1926, however, several thousand visitors to the Exhibition were included in the population, and with allowance for these the increase would rise to about 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. The Exhibition visitors affect only Dunedin City and environs, which showed a nominal decline of 3,000; whereas the Otago West and North area gained 4,000 (largely through mining operations), and Otago South remained stationary.

Southland was one of the three districts (the others were Westland and Nelson) to average a greater annual rate of growth 1926 to 1936 than in 1921 to 1926. The eastern portion increased by 6,000 and the western portion by 1,000.


On 24th March, 1936, somewhat over one-third (38.5 per cent.) of the population of the Dominion (excluding Maoris) was included in the four principal urban areas—Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin—and over one-half (51.7 per cent.) in these or in the ten secondary urban areas. In the following table urban population means the population in cities and boroughs, while rural population covers counties, all town districts, and extra-county islands. The continuance of urban drift is noticeable, but with a marked slackening in pace.

Census.Population.Per Cent.

* Figures exclude military and Internment camps.

Excluding Maoris—      
Including Maoris—      

Another conception of urban and rural population is presented in the next table, which covers the last seven censuses. Maoris are omitted, as data are not available over the whole period. The great bulk of Maoris inhabit rural communities. In the case of the larger centres there are numerous suburban boroughs and town districts; consequently, as regards the fourteen urban areas the centre has been taken as including all cities, boroughs, and town districts within the territory of the present urban area. In other instances the “centre” is a borough or town district.

Centres of1901.1906.1911.1916.1921.1926.1936.
25,000 or over214,098254,138302,943349,271401,710472,603531,568
  Total urban336,861416,577509,071588,744690,607794,167887,060
  Grand total (excluding migratory)768,956884,1061,003,4601,087,2621,213,6821,337,3841,486,812
   Per Cent.    
25,000 or over27.8528.7430.1932.1233.1085.3335.76
  Total urban43.8147.1250.7354.1556.9059.3859.66
  Grand total (excluding migratory)100.00100.00100.00100.00100.00100.00100.00

The comparison is not an exact one, but is sufficiently accurate to indicate the general trend of urbanization. For instance, it is noticeable that in 1901 29 per cent. of the population were in towns of 10,000 population or over; by 1936 the proportion had become 47 per cent.

An important characteristic of the distribution of urban population in New Zealand is what may be termed its decentralization. In place of one great metropolis containing a huge proportion of the population, as in the case of the Australian States—e.g., Victoria, whose capital city (Melbourne), contains over 50 per cent. of the total population of the State—the more highly urbanized portion of the community is localized in four widely separated centres. These four centres have always existed more or less on the same plane, a fact which has played no small part in the development of the country. An interesting feature is the wide gap which has long existed between the four major centres and the next largest towns.

Urban and rural communities are not evenly distributed. The South Island, for example, contains proportionately more rural population than does the North Island.

New Zealand is not alone in experiencing the modern tendency towards urban aggregation: it is, in fact, occurring in almost all countries.


Urban areas afford the best basis of comparison of population-growth in the case of the largest towns, since their boundaries are stable and, of greater significance, they include the suburbs as well as the central city or borough. The following table excludes Maoris—data being lacking in earlier years—but their numbers are too small to exercise any significant effect.

Urban Area.1911.1910.1921.1926.1936.
New Plymouth8,6009,79512,64515,93118,194
Palmerston North11,90014,00616,88519,70923,953

In the remaining observations under this head the population is inclusive of Maoris.

In the decade 1926–36 the greatest absolute increase (28,000) was shown by Wellington urban area. Not only the city, but also all its suburbs, recorded marked growth. The city increased by 17.00 per cent., Lower Hutt by 100.45 per cent. (the greatest rate of any town during the decade), Petone by 17.45 per cent., Eastbourne by 23.52 per cent., and Johnsonville by 33.13 per cent.

Auckland, the largest centre of population in New Zealand, increased its population by 18,000, but with marked disparities in the records of the numerous local-governing districts which make up the urban area. For the city the increase was only 5.87 per cent. Suburban local districts showing the greatest relative growth were: Mount Roskill (50.90 per cent.), New Lynn (28.71), Otahuhu (27.41), One Tree Hill (21.22), and Takapuna (19.67). Newmarket, Devonport, and North-cote receded slightly in population.

Christchurch urban area added 14,000 to its population in the decade. The city increased by 10.66 per cent., Riccarton by 17.77 per cent., New Brighton by 16.61 per cent., and Sumner by 4.87 per cent.; but Lyttelton showed a 12 per-cent. decline.

Dunedin urban area shows a nominal decline of 3,000 in the period 1926–36. Actually, however, the population showed a very slight increase when allowance is made for the abnormal number of visitors to the Exhibition which swelled the 1926 totals. Adjusted figures would give Dunedin City an increase of under 1 per cent., St. Kilda also under 1 per cent., Green Island about 10 per cent., and West Harbour and Port Chalmers declines of 4 per cent. and 15 per cent. respectively.

Of the secondary urban areas, the greatest growth was recorded by Hastings and Palmerston North. Wanganui afforded the unusual feature of a slight decline.

Of boroughs outside the urban areas, the greatest relative movement was shown as under:—

Increases.Increase per Cent.
Upper Hutt35.54
Te Awamutu33.17
Decreases.Decrease per Cent.

As is natural, the preceding cases are chiefly these of the smaller boroughs. Of the towns of the second class (i.e., ranking next to the fourteen urban areas) Greymouth (19.76 per cent.), Gore (18.39 per cent.), Whangarei (12.75 per cent.), Ashburton (11.89 per cent.), and Masterton (11.47 per cent.) had the highest proportionate growth.

It will be noted that the above table does not contain merely one type of town, but includes ports, farming centres, mining towns, and a semi-suburban town. The figures for Rotorua and Motueka are swelled by the presence in 1936 of more non-residents than is usual.

Town districts, through their relatively small size, are subject to more rapid movements in population. These exhibiting the highest rate of growth during 1926–36 were: Ohura (66.91 per cent.), Tahunanui (49.91), Kaitaia (49.14), Papatoetoe (48.16), Warkworth (44.16), and Howick (40.61). These declining in population included Rangataua (-34.98 per cent.), Kohukohu (-26.76), Rawene (-15.48), Manunui (-15.02), and Wyndham (-14.96).

Of the 26 dependent (i.e., forming parts of counties) town districts, 12 increased in population during 1926–36, 12 lost population, and in 2 cases no precise figure can be given.

Independent town districts are larger bodies than the dependent, and of the 1936 total of 38, 25 gained population, 11 lost population, 1 could not be accurately measured, and 1 remained exactly stationary.

Of the 124 boroughs 96 gained population and 28 (14 in each Island) lost population during 1926–36.

During the same intercensal interval 11 of the North Island's 76 counties and 13 of the South Island's 53 counties lost population, the remainder gaming in numbers. The following observations refer to counties, exclusive of boroughs and town districts within their limits.

In the Auckland Peninsula all counties showed increases, mostly at a rate well over the Dominion average (11.77 per cent.). The highest rates were these of Waitemata (42.14 per cent.), Whangaroa (37.66 per cent.), Hokianga (35.49 per cent.), and Bay of Islands (34.58 per cent.). The Waikato also showed heavy gains, particularly Otorohanga (39.77 per cent.), Raglan (34.69 per cent.), Waikato (33.59 per cent.), and Waipa (32.35 per cent.). In the King-country gains were substantial, though relatively less than in the Waikato. Further north, Piako (33.61 per cent.) and Tauranga (25.20 per cent.), showed the highest ratios of increase; but all counties in this area increased at a rate above the Dominion average. To the east Taupo (67.08 per cent.) and Whakatane (61.95 per cent.) developed remarkably. On the East Coast, Waiapu (25.74 per cent.) and Matakaoa (22.04 per cent.) increased substantially (through gains to the Native population), but other counties moved more slowly, Waikohu (-6.65 per cent.) actually declining.

In Hawke's Bay, movement ranged from 23.38 per cent. increase in Wairoa to a decline in Weber of 11.27 per cent.

Egmont (19.21 per cent.) disclosed the highest rate of growth in Taranaki, while three counties recorded decreased population.

In Wellington only Hutt County (29.12 per cent.), which contains some suburban population, increased at a rate above the Dominion level, while six counties lost population, the most noticeable being Waimarino, where a decrease of 25.58 per cent. took place owing mainly to the closing-down of sawmills.

Of Marlborough's four counties, three showed a low rate of growth, while the fourth (Sounds, -8.05 per cent.) declined.

All counties in Nelson gained population, notably Murchison (37.56 per cent.) and Waimea (36.35 per cent.).

Westland Comity (32.14 per cent.) showed more growth than Grey (13.08 per cent.).

In Canterbury the suburban counties of Heathcote (21.48 per cent.) and Waimairi (20.17) showed the most growth apart from Chatham Islands (24.91 per cent.). Seven counties lost population, the greatest relative declines being Akaroa (-6.46 per cent.) and Selwyn (-5.69 per cent.).

For Otago, the gold-mining revival placed Lake (56.72 percent.) and Vincent (32.81 per cent.) in pride of place. Three counties, including Waihemo (-7.89), retrogressed.

Southland and Wallace counties showed moderate gains, but Stewart Island (-2.53) lost population.


The population of each of the fourteen urban areas (cities or boroughs, plus their suburbs), as estimated for 1st April, 1937, was as follows:—


Urban Area.Population (including Maoris).

* Excludes a small area which, though part of the borough, is not within the urban area.

Auckland City103,000
  Birkenhead Borough3,430
  Northcote Borough2,370
  Takapuna Borough7,350
  Devonport Borough9,770
  New Lynn Borough3,540
  Mount Albert Borough19,900
  Mount Eden Borough18,650
  Newmarket Borough2,980
  One Tree Hill Borough8,140
  Onehunga Borough11,200
  Otahuhu Borough5,550
  Ellerslie Town District2,710
  Remainder of urban area15,610
  Wellington City116,700
  Lower Hutt Borough16,500
  Petone Borough11,000
  Eastbourne Borough2,340
  Johnsonville Town District1,750
  Remainder of urban area3,410
  Christchurch City92,700
  Riccarton Borough5,440
  New Brighton Borough5,270
  Sumner Borough3,260
  Lyttelton Borough*3,180
  Remainder of urban area23,350
  Dunedin City64,900
  St. Kilda Borough7,740
  Green Island Borough*2,280
  West Harbour Borough1,860
  Port Chalmers Borough2,130
  Remainder of urban area3,190
  Hamilton Borough17,100
  Remainder of urban area2,800
  Gisborne Borough13,700
  Remainder of urban area2,300
  Napier Borough15,500
  Taradale Town District1,220
  Remainder of urban area2, 180
  Hastings Borough13,000
  Havelock North Town District1,160
  Remainder of urban area4,140
New Plymouth. 
  New Plymouth Borough16,900
  Remainder of urban area1,900
  Wanganui City23,200
  Remainder of urban area2,600
Palmerston North. 
  Palmerston North City22,550
  Remainder of urban area1,850
  Nelson City11,300
  Tahunanui Town District860
  Remainder of urban area1,540
  Timaru Borough17,500
  Remainder of urban area1,400
  Invercargill City21,500
  South Invercargill Borough1,160
  Remainder of urban area3,340


(NOTE.—“Administrative Counties” do not include boroughs or town districts independent of county control, but include dependent town districts.)

Administrative County.Population (including Maoris).Approximate Area, in Square Miles.
North Island—  
  Bay of Islands10,210820
  Great Barrier Island460110
  Hauraki Plains4,880231
  Hawke's Bay16,0201,673
  Waimate West2,80083
  Wairarapa South2,990440
South Island—  
  West land5,6004,410
  Mount Herbert44066
  Chatham Islands710372
  Stewart Island500670
      Grand total647,050102,818


Borough.Population (including Maoris).Approximate Area, in Acres.
North Island—  
  New Lynn3,5401,395
  Auckland (City)103,00018,259
  Mount Eden18,6501,476
  Mount Albert19,9002,430
  One Tree Hill8,1402,450
  Te Awamutu2,3001,162
  Te Kuiti2,5201,668
  Te Aroha2,4002,783
  Te Puke9701,047
  New Plymouth16,9004,070
  Wanganui (City)23,2005,726
  Palmerston N. (City)22,5504,851
  Upper Hutt3,9702,165
  Lower Hutt16,5003,706
  Wellington (City)116,70016,289
South Island—  
  Nelson (City)11,3004,966
  Christchurch (City)92,70010,363
  New Brighton5,2701,651
  Port Chalmers2,130500
  West Harbour1,8602,020
  Dunedin (City)64,90015,227
  St. Kilda7,740462
  Green Island2,290861
  Invercargill (City)21,5005,627
  South Invercargill1,1602,257
      Grand total899,360265,974


Town District.Population (including Maoris).Approximate Area, in Acres.

* Constituted a borough from 20th May, 1937.

* Parent county shown in parentheses.

(a) Town Districts not forming Parts of Counties.
North Island—  
  Glen Eden1,3001,265
  Mount Maunganui540935
  Havelock North1,160835
South Island—  
  Pleasant Point570730
      Grand total35,07038,808
(b) Town Districts forming Parts of Counties.*
North Island—  
  Kohukohu (Hokianga)3801,020
  Rawene (Hokianga)350280
  Russell (Bay of Islands)3901,066
  Kawakawa (Bay of Islands)520280
  Onerahi (Whangarei)430990
  Mercer (Franklin)3101,000
  Raglan (Raglan)380428
  Te Kauwhata (Waikato)3601,290
  Ohaupo (Waipa)2701,283
  Kihikihi (Waipa)330523
  Kawhia (Kawhia)240470
  Turua (Hauraki Plains)2701,263
  Te Karaka (Waikohu)350700
  Patutahi (Cook)2801,275
  Ormondville (Dannevirke)2701,255
  Kaponga (Eltham)410558
  Normanby (Hawera)350260
  Rongotea (Manawatu)250218
South Island—  
  Havelock (Marlborough)260210
  Takaka (Takaka)470585
  Southbridge (Ellesmere)410531
  Outram (Taieri)390886
  Clinton (Clutha)440930
  Edendale (Southland)440696
      Grand total8,55017,997


The following adjacent islands not attached to any county were inhabited at the census of 1936:—

Island.Population (including Maoris)

* Included in Waitemata County from 28th May, 1936.

Little Barrier213
Brown's5 5
Moturekareka1 1
Great Mercury235
Tata1 1
Quarantine2 2

Adjacent to the main Islands are many smaller islands, some of which are of considerable area and are under cultivation; others are but islets used as sites for lighthouses, while others, again, are barren and unfitted for human habitation. Some of these islands are included within the boundaries of counties, and their populations are included in the county figures.


The total area of the Dominion of New Zealand is approximately 103,934 square miles. Omitting the annexed islands and certain uninhabited outlying islands, the area of the land-mass remaining is 103,415 square miles. This calculation, it should be explained, includes all inland waters—viz., lakes, rivers, harbours, estuaries, &c. It should be noted also that there is a great deal of high mountainous country in New Zealand, particularly in the South Island, while there are also great areas of broken, swampy, or hilly country either incapable of effective use or which can be used profitably only for pastoral purposes, afforestation, or the like.

Using the latter figure as a base, the density of population in 1937 may be quoted as 15.35 persons to the square mile.

The area and population of individual towns and counties will be found in preceding tables in this section. At the 1936 census density of population in the various provincial districts was—

 Persons per Square Mile.
Hawke's Bay18.07

Attention must be drawn to the necessity for the exercise of discretion in the use of data concerning density of population, particularly in comparing one country with another. Areas may be calculated in many ways, while area itself may have little relationship to potentiality of use. In the case of urban population, it is impossible to obtain the aggregate area of sites actually in occupation by business promises, residences, &c. Many boroughs contain within their boundaries largo reserves which, with farming and other unbuilt-on land, tend to disguise the actual relation of population to area.


A record of early statistics of Maoris is given in Vol. XIV of the 1926 Census Results. The first official general census was taken in 1857–58, and others occurred in regular sequence from 1874 onwards. Owing to inherent difficulties the earlier census records make no pretence towards complete accuracy, and oven some later enumerations hardly claim to be more than approximations which approach the truth as nearly as possible.

Available statistical evidence points to a decline in the numbers of the Native race since the advent of Europeans, but this decline was commonly exaggerated by early writers. Of later years an unmistakable increase has been noted. This gain, however, has been accompanied by a very considerable dilution of blood.

The Maori population recorded at the census of 24th March, 1936, was 82,326, which is an increase of 18,656 on the 1926 total. The percentage increase was 29.30, equivalent to an average annual increase of 2.60 per cent. These percentages, it will be noted, are considerably higher than the corresponding figures for the European population—viz., 10.93 per cent. and 1.05 per cent. For the year 1936–37 the net increase of the Maori population was 2.56 per cent., which compares with 0.75 per cent. for the European population.

The census record is as follows:—


* Includes half-castes, vide second page of this section


Of the 82,326 Maoris at the census of 24th March, 1936, 79,097 were in the North Island. Auckland Provincial District contains the bulk (59,215), particularly in the Auckland Peninsula and Poverty Bay regions. Hawke's Bay contains 6,633; Taranaki, 4,280; and Wellington, 8,969. In the South Island Maoris do not attain any numerical significance.

The 1926 Census Results, of which Volume XIV is devoted to a more comprehensive statistical survey of the characteristics of the Maori population than was previously possible, show that a total of 69,780 persons possessed some degree of Maori blood. Of these, 45,429 were classed as of full Maori blood, this term including all persons ranging from over seven-eighths Maori blood to unmixed Native descent. As noted in the Census Results, the degree of miscegenation is probably understated, and the number of Maoris of pure Maori descent is unlikely to exceed 50 per cent. of the total. The 1926 census analysis is as follows:—

Counted in the Maori population— 
    Full Maori45,429
    Maori-European, n.o.d.303
Counted in the non-Maori population— 


The sources of the data quoted herein comprise official publications, bulletins issued by the League of Nations, publications of the International Institute of Statistics, and the Statesman's Year-Book. So far as can be ascertained with some pretension to comparative accuracy—the various estimates of the population of the Chinese Empire, for instance, vary to the extent of considerably over 100 millions—the world population is 2,095 millions. The inhabitants of the Dominion therefore comprise about one thirteen-hundredth part of the population of the world. Details for continents as given in the Statistical Year-Book of the League of Nations are:—

North America134,000,000178,000,000
South America56,000,00086,000,000

As a useful indication of the comparative size of various countries, the following index of population has been prepared:—

Country.Population (000 omitted).Year.Index of Population (New Zealand = 1).

* According to the Chinese Ministry of the Interior. Some authorities consider the population is probably not in excess of 350,000,000, and is stationary.

England and Wales40,839193626
Northern Ireland1,28019370.8
Irish Free State2,96619362
India (including Native States)370,5001936233
Union of South Africa9,53119366
New South Wales2,68919372
South Australia58819370.4
Western Australia45319370.3
New Zealand1,58719371
Russia (Soviet Union)173,0001936109
United States128,429193681




REGISTRATION of births in New Zealand dates from 1848, consequent upon the passing, in 1847, of a Registration Ordinance which made provision for a record of births and deaths being kept by the State. Under this Ordinance many registrations were effected, some of births, as far back as 1840. Compulsory registration did not, however, come into force until 1855.

The law as to registration of births is now embodied in the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 19–4, a consolidation of the then existing legislation. The provisions generally as to registration are that a birth may be registered within sixty-two days without fee. After sixty-two days and within six months a birth is registrable only after solemn declaration made before the Registrar by the parent or some person present at birth, and on payment of a late fee of 5s., which may, however, be remitted at the discretion of the Registrar-General. When six months have elapsed a birth may be registered with a Registrar of Births within one month after conviction of one of the responsible parties for neglect, but an information for such neglect must be laid within two years of date of birth. Power is given by the Act of 1924 for the Registrar-General to register an unregistered birth which occurred in New Zealand, irrespective of the time that may have elapsed, a fee of 5s. being payable and satisfactory evidence on oath and such other proof as the Registrar-General may deem necessary being required.

Registration of still-births, previously not provided for, was made compulsory from the 1st March, 1913.

Although sixty-two days are allowed for the registration of a birth, it is compulsory to notify the birth to the Registrar within a much shorter interval—viz., forty-eight hours if in a city or borough and twenty-one days in every other case.

Particulars now required to be registered are: Date and place of birth; name and sex of child; names, ages, and birthplaces of parents; occupation of father; maiden name of mother; date and place of parents' marriage; and ages and sex of previous issue (distinguishing living and dead) of the marriage. The father of an illegitimate child is not required to give information or to be registered. A child born out of New Zealand but arriving before attaining the age of eighteen months may be registered within six months of arrival.


In the successive Registration Acts special provision was made for exemption from the necessity of registration in the case of births and deaths of Maoris, though registration could be effected if desired. Section 20 of the Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act, 1912 (now section 60 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1924), empowered the making of regulations to provide for the registration of births and deaths of Maoris. Regulations were made accordingly, and Maori births and deaths became registrable as from the 1st March, 1913. The number of Registrars of Maori Births and Deaths in the Dominion is over 200, most of these being in the North Island, where the great majority of the Maori population is located. Every Native settlement of any size is within easy reach of one of these Registrars. Maori registrations are entered in a separate register, and the figures of births given in the following pages do not include these of Maoris, which are dealt with at the end of this subsection.

Birth statistics are compiled from the records of the Registrar-General. The births covered by a year's statistics are these registered during the year irrespective of the year of birth. The figures do not include still-births, except in the special classification on pages 94 and 95.


After fifteen years of successive declines in the birth-rate, a small increase was recorded for the year 1936. Since more prosperous times began to be experienced a few years ago, the marriage-rate has shown a substantial annual acceleration, and this, no doubt, has been the principal factor in establishing a reversal in trend of the birth-rate for 1936.

The numbers and rates of births (children born alive) for each of the last twenty years are as follows:—

Year.Number.Rate per 1,000 of Population.

There is a most noticeable fall in the rate in the later years of the period covered by the table, as compared with the earlier. The fall of 9.05 per 1,000 of population between 1917 and 1936 is equivalent to a decline of 35 per cent. in the birth-rate. The following diagram shows, inter alia, the marked decline in the birthrate since about 1880:—

Comparisons of birth-rates over a series of years or between different countries are usually made on the basis of the “crude” rates—i.e., the number of births per 1,000 of the mean population, irrespective of sex or age.

The “crude” rates do not permit of allowance being made for variations in the proportion of women of the child-bearing ages, and it is advisable and of interest to supplement the table of “crude” rates with a computation of the legitimate birth-rate per 1,000 married women between 15 and 45 years of age, or the total birth-rate per 1,000 of all women of these ages. The following table gives both rates for New Zealand in each census year from 1878 to 1926:—

Year.Number of Women 15 and under 45.Number of Births.Birth-rate per 1,000 Women 15 and under 45.

The legitimate rate per 1,000 married women between the ages of 15 and 45 is seen to have fallen by over 50 per cent. between 1878 and 1926, while an even greater fall is shown for the total rate on the basis of all women of the ages mentioned. The greater fall in the latter rate than in the former is due to the fact that among women of the child-bearing ages the proportion of married women is considerably lower nowadays than in the earlier years covered.

A greater proportion of women formerly married at younger ages than they do at present, and a study of the figures for successive censuses reveals considerable changes in the age-constitution of married women within the child-bearing ages. As the birth-rate varies with age, the change in age-constitution over the period is a factor which should be taken into account. This was done in the computation of index-numbers of birth-rates published in the 1933 (page 80) and earlier issues of the Year-Book.


The decline of the birth-rate in New Zealand has been accompanied by a decrease in the death-rate. Nevertheless, the nominal rate of natural increase of population has fallen from 31.19 per 1,000 of mean population in 1870 to 7.89 in 1936. Acceptance of this figure without consideration of the effect of the changing age-constitution will give an erroneous view of the present margin of increase and of the probable trend of population growth in the future. (See section on Population.)

Period.Annual Rates per 1,000 living.
Births.Deaths.Natural Increase.

New Zealand's position in the following table is much higher on the basis of natural-increase rate than it would be on that of the birth-rate.


Country.Quinquennium.Annual Rates per 1,000.
Births.Natural Increase.

* Registration urea.

South Africa1931–3524.114.3
New Zealand1932–3616.68.3
United States*1931–3517.26.3
Northern Ireland1931–3519.85.6
Irish Free State1931–3519.25.3
England & Wales1931–3515.03.0


With the exception of one year (1800), there has always been a preponderance of males in the number of children born in New Zealand. The proportions are usually shown by stating the number of births of male children to every 1,000 female births. This number has been as high as 1,113 (in 1859), and as low as 991 (in 1860).

But little significance can be attached to any figures prior to 1870, on account of the comparatively small number of births. The period preceding 1870 exhibits violent fluctuations in the proportion of males, which tend to disappear as the total of births grows larger. The extreme range since 1870 has been from 1,016 male per 1,000 female births in 1878 to 1,081 in 1923.

Year.Number of Births ofMale Births per 1,000 Female Births.Year.Number of Births ofMale Births per 1,000 Female Births.

The gradual increase in the proportion of males born is illustrated by taking the average ratios of successive decennial periods. The apparent cessation in the increase, as shown by the figures for the period 1916–25 as compared with the preceding, is due to the low masculinity recorded in the last two war years, when (it may be remarked in passing) the proportion of first births to total births was abnormally low.

Period.Male Births to 1,000 Female Births.

It would appear that the proportion of males is somewhat higher for first births than for the general average of all children. Of 81,693 legitimate first births registered during the ten years 1927–36 (excluding plural births), 42,075 were of males and 39,618 of females, the proportion of males per 1,000 females being 1,062.

The sexes of first-born for various age-groups of the mother for the aggregate of the ten years 1927–36 are as follows:—

Age of Mother, in Years.Males.Females.Females per 1,000
Under 203,7023,4561,071
20 and under 2516,99715,8151,074
25 and under 3013,60213,1161,035
30 and under 355,4625,0401,083
35 and under 401,8311,7031,075
40 and over481488985

In the ten years covered there were 678 cases of twin first births, in 229 cases the children were both males, in 244 both females, and in the remaining 205 of opposite sex. Four cases of triplets (in one case, all females; in two cases, two females and one male; and in the other, two males and one female) were recorded as first births during the period.

Further light on the question of sexes of children may be thrown by some figures extracted from the records of births registered in the ten years 1927–36 in cases where the child was shown to be the fourth-born of a family in which the three previously born children were still living. In the following statement showing the sex-nativity order up to the fourth child, families in which plural births occurred among the first four children have been excluded.

First-born.Second-born.Third-born.Fourth-born.Number of cases.

Of the 18,328 families covered, in 9,491 the first child was a male and in 8,837 a female, the number of males per 1,000 females being thus 1,074. The proportion is reduced for subsequent births. The figures are as follows:—

Child.Males.Females.Males per 1,000 Females.

The fact that there is a higher masculinity rate among first-born children than among later issue serves to explain the increasing masculinity of births in successive decennia referred to previously, when it is remembered that the average number of children to a family has fallen heavily during the period, and the proportion of first-born children correspondingly increased.

The sex-proportions of illegitimate births are generally supposed to be more nearly equal than these of legitimate births. However, although little reliance can be placed on the figures for New Zealand by reason of the small numbers represented, it may be stated that the average for the period 1927–36 was 1,058 males per 1,000 females.


The number of cases of multiple births and the proportion per 1,000 of the total (living births only) during the last ten years were—

Year.Total Births.Total Cases.Cases of Twins.Cases of Triplets.Multiple Cases per 1,000 of Total Cases.

* Including one case of quadruplets.


Counting only cases where both children were born alive, there were 225 cases of twin births (450 children) registered in 1936. There were also two cases of triplets.

The number of accouchements resulting in living births was 24,608, and on the average one mother in every 108 gave birth to twins (or triplets).

When still-births are taken into account, however, the total number of accouchements for the year 1936 is increased to 25,298, and the number of cases of multiple births to 269. On this basis the proportion of mothers giving birth to twins or triplets is increased to one in 94.

The following table shows the sexes in individual oases of twin births for the same decade:—

Year.Total Cases.Both Males.Both Females.Opposite Sexes.

During the ten years 1927–36 there wore nineteen cases of triplets. In three cases all three children were males, in six cases all were females, in two cases there were two males and one female, and in eight cases two of the three children were females.


On 6th March, 1935, quadruplets were born in Dunedin, one child being a male and the remaining three females. A previous case of quadruplets occurred at Ngaruawahia in 1919, all being males. In earlier years no specific note would have been made of such instances, and it is impossible to state whether the above represents all quadruple births which have occurred in New Zealand.


Information as to the relative ages of parents of legitimate living children whose births were registered in 1936 is shown in the following table:—

Age of Mother, in Years.Age of Father, in Years.
Under 21.21 and under 25.25 and under 30.30 and under 35.35 and under 40.40 and under 45.45 and under 50.50 and under 55.55 and under 65.65 and over.Total

* Including thirty-three cases where plural births would have been registered had not one child been still-born.

Single Births.
Under 211166765141353513424 1,499
21 and under 25601,1862,492948240521911615,015
25 and under 3093143,2402,86997022484391427,765
30 and under 351305582,2251,530554175882455,190
35 and under 40  433261,1006963961258492,779
40 and under 45  128119349269119497941
45 and over    15362210 74
Multiple Births.
Under 21112       4
21 and under 25171431     26
25 and under 30 43030431   72
30 and under 35 11337254411 86
35 and under 40   31167   27
40 and under 45    12311 8
    Totals213597342151522 223
    Grand totals1882,2196,9076,6044,0371,9089984081932423,486*


Information as to the previous issue of the existing marriage, required in connection with the registration of births in New Zealand, is useful not only for record purposes, but also as providing valuable data for statistical purposes. Tables are given in the annual “Report on Vital Statistics” containing detailed information as to number of previous issue in connection with (1) age of mother, and (2) duration of marriage. The former table for the year 1936 is here summarized.

Age of Mother.Number of Previous Issue.Total. and under 10.10 and under 15.15 and over.

* This number represents 23,263 single cases and 223 multiple cases.

Under 211,200260349     1,503
21 and under 252,9211,399514156465   5,041
25 and under 303,1342,3251,256635306109711 7,837
30 and under 351,2211,3601,07868542922126715 5,276
35 and under 403774654864583202444025312,806
40 and under 457293122113119115241731949
45 and over83478112111174

In computing previous issue, multiple births have been given their full significance, the numbers at the head of the columns relating to children born alive. In the following table this procedure has been followed not only for the previous issue but also for children covered by the 1936 registrations, who are also taken into account in the computation of the averages.

Age of Mother, in Years.Total Mothers.Total Issue.Average Issue.
Under 211,5031,8621.24
45 and over744916.64

It should be stressed that the averages are no more than they purport to be—viz., the average number of children (including these registered in 1936) born up to the present time to these mothers of legitimate children whose births were registered during the year. They do not purport to represent, nor do they represent, the average issue of all women of the ages shown. Furthermore, they represent issue born to the existing marriage only. The averages for the last five years were as follows: 1932, 2.75; 1933, 2.75; 1934, 2.69; 1935, 2.64; and 1936, 2.55. This falling trend in the average issue of mothers giving birth to children is a measure of the tendency towards smaller families. The acceleration in the decline for 1936, however, is the result of the abnormal proportion of first births registered during that year.

The serious effect of a steadily declining birth-rate upon the population of a country is now receiving increasing attention, not only in New Zealand but in many other countries where a similar state of affairs is being experienced.

While there are manifold aspects of the problem, the birth statistics compiled annually in New Zealand do not furnish adequate data for a comprehensive study and, indeed, the quantity of material that it is possible to utilize is, as regards many aspects, insufficient to permit reliable conclusions to be drawn therefrom.

Nevertheless, in view of the increasing importance now attaching to this phase of the Dominion's vital statistics, an attempt has been made to analyse the birth statistics for 1936 a little more fully than it has been found possible to do previously. As a result, some light may be thrown upon several important questions relating to the reproductivity of the country's population.

It has already been shown that the average issue of married women in New Zealand is definitely declining. It is of value, however, to discover what sections of the population are contributing most to this decline. Certain indications are obtainable from statistics of average issue of parents who had issue born to them during 1936, analysed according to the occupation of the father. A similar analysis was made for the year 1925, and a summary of the results obtained for the two years is given in the following table;—

Occupations of Fathers in Industrial Groups.Average Number of Children.
Fishing and trapping3.952.53
Agricultural and pastoral farming3.232.76
Mining and quarrying3.392.75
Processes relating to minerals2.582.74
Processes relating to chemical, animal, and vegetable products3.232.78
Processes relating to metals, machines, conveyances, &c.2.662.19
Processes relating to fibrous materials, textiles, and dress2.752.27
Processes relating to food, drink, and tobacco2.912.24
Processes relating to wood, basketware, and furniture2.512.16
Processes relating to paper, stationery, printing, &c.2.362.01
Construction and repair of buildings, roads, &c.2.952.62
Transport and communication2.832.60
Commerce and finance2.732.15
Public administration, clerical, and professional2.312.02
Entertainment, sport, and recreation2.802.67
Personal or domestic service2.622.40
Dependent on public or private support1.501.00
Other and indefinite occupations3.252.89

There has been a general decrease in the average for every industrial group except that of processes relating to minerals. While the decline has been small, the general trend appears to have been to reduce the higher averages recorded in 1925 to a level more equal to the average for all occupations in 1936.

The figures of average number of issue quoted above are not by any means a criterion of the average number of children in a New Zealand family, representing, as they do, only the average family to date of these parents who had children born to them during 1925 or 1936. The figures for the latter year, in fact, are somewhat vitiated by the abnormal proportion of first births registered during the year. Nevertheless, they may serve as a legitimate index for a comparison of the relative reproductivity of different industrial groups and occupations.

An analysis of the 1936 figures by individual occupations reveals some interesting variations, though the differences are somewhat small. The general average number of issue for all fathers of children whose births were registered in 1936 was 2.55, but amongst the individual occupations are found the following instances with figures higher than the general average: Trainer, 3.87; engine-driver, 3.07; dairy-farmer, 3.5; surfaceman, 3.32; railway guard, porter, 3.23; watersider, 3.20; caretaker, 3.10; bush sawmiller, 2.99; motor mechanic, 2.97; drover, 2.97: labourer, 2.90; and conductor, motorman, 2.93. Among the low averages, on the other hand, may be found the following: Watchmaker and jeweller, 1.77; civil engineer, 1.81; chemist, 1.84; journalist, 1.89; compositor, 1.91; clerk, 1.92; solicitor, 1.95; civil servant, salesman, telegraph operator, and garage hand, 1.97; plasterer, 4.98; and insurance manager, printer and publisher, joiner, and accountant, 2.00. These figures, when considered in conjunction with wage-rates and other economic factors, make interesting reading. Due allowance, of course, most be made for the probable average-age factor of the father in any particular group of occupations. Care has been exercised to select only these occupations where there were sufficient eases in the group to permit of a reliable comparison being made.

It would appear from figures extracted of births registered during the year 1936 that there is undoubtedly some considerable difference in the reproductivity rate of mothers of various nationalities. Unfortunately, for many nationalities, there is hardly a sufficient number of cases of births occurring in one year to possess enough positive significance for inclusion in these pages.


Of a total of 115,370 accouchements resulting in legitimate births during the five years 1932–37, the issue of no fewer than 40,644, or 35 per cent., were firstborn children, and in 18,658 of these cases, or 46 per cent., the birth occurred within twelve months, and in 29,590, or 73 per cent., within two years after the marriage of the parents. In the remaining 27 per cent. of cases where there was any issue to the marriage, two years or more had elapsed before the birth of the first child.

In view of the abnormal conditions operating during the last few years, and particularly as a result of the heavy increase in the number of marriages during each of the three years 1934 to 1936, it is not surprising to find the proportion of first births for both 1935 and 1936 showing a definite increase. In fact, the proportion of first births to total births in 1936 was phenomenal, and attained a level greatly in excess of that for any other year. The proportion of first births occurring within one year of the marriage of the parents, however, was lower in 1936 than for many years past. The high rate of depression-postponed marriages mentioned above would naturally produce this effect. The figures for each of the last five years are:—

Year.Total Legitimate Cases.Total Legitimate First Cases.Proportion of First Cases to Total Cases.First Cases within One Year after Marriage.First Cases within Two Years after Marriage.
Number.Proportion to Total First Cases.Number.Proportion to Total First Cases.
   Per Cent. Per Cent. Per Cent.
Totals for five years115,37040,64435.2318,65845.9129,59072.80

During the five years there were 8,790 cases of legitimate births within seven months after marriage, a period which may be regarded as a minimum in a consideration of extra-marital conception; also 5,680 cases of illegitimate births were registered, and if these latter are all regarded as first births (which is not entirely the case), the following position is shown:—

Year.Total Legitimate First Cases. (a)Illegitimate Cases. (b)Legitimate Cases within Seven Months after Marriage. (c)Proportion of (c) to (a). (d)Proportion of (b) + (c) to Total of (a) + (b). (e)
    Per Cent.Per Cent.
Totals for five years40,6445,6808,79021.6231.24

The figures quoted in the above table indicate a continued decrease in the proportion of extra-maritally conceived cases.

Apart from the tendency to restrict the size of families (already commented upon), it would appear that postponement of the birth of the first child is becoming a feature of modern times. Statistics of first births over a number of years indicate that the proportion occurring within one year of marriage is gradually declining. The following table illustrates this point.


Duration of Marriage in Years.Proportion per Cent. of Total First Births.
Under 1 year52.9550.0646.2544.57
1 and under 2 years28.6226.6426.7928.49
2 and under 3 years9.0210.4310.2411.73
3 and under 4 years3.435.516.165.42
4 and under 5 years1.883.033.963.19
5 and under 10 years3.263.365.495.52
10 years and over0.840.971.111.08

The proportions for 1936 are, no doubt, slightly affected by post-depression influences. For the years covered by the foregoing table the average duration of marriage before the birth of the first child was—1914, 1.63 years; 1924, 1.76 years; 1934, 1.85 years; and 1936, 1.84 years.

The following table showing the average duration of marriage before the birth of the first child in conjunction with the occupational grouping of the father, is of interest.


Occupations of Fathers in Industrial Groups.Total Fathers.Average Duration of Marriage in Years.

(NOTE.—Cases where the duration of marriage was ten years or over have been omitted from the above calculations.)

Fishing and trapping301.11
Agricultural and pastoral farming1,8671.61
Mining and quarrying1481.58
Processes relating to minerals151.40
Processes relating to metals, machines, conveyances, &c.5901.83
Processes relating to fibrous materials, textiles, and dress1061.75
Processes relating to food, drink, and tobacco2351.04
Processes relating to wood, basketware, and furniture1331.50
Processes relating to paper, stationery, printing, &c.851.85
Processes relating to chemical, animal, and vegetable products552.03
Construction and repair of roads, buildings, &c.7891.76
Transport and communication8291.71
Commerce and finance1,0221.89
Public administration, clerical, and professional1,0712.21
Entertainment, sport, and recreation, etc.331.57
Personal and domestic service1901.70
Other and indefinite occupations1,5501.49

The greatest average elapsed time before the birth of the first child according to the above statistics was recorded for the public administration, clerical, and professional group. The “Other and Indefinite Occupations” group, which contains a great number of fathers of the general-labourer category, indicates a relatively short period of elapsed time before the advent of issue after marriage.

Another item of interest extracted from the 1930 birth statistics is a table of first births occurring to mothers in different age-groups expressed as a proportion per cent. of the total first births. A comparison has also been computed on the same basis with the years 1914, 1924, and 1934.


Age of Mother.First Births, Proportion per Cent. at each Age-group to Total First Births.
Under 206.737.558.907.91
20 and under 2535.8938.1640.3938.22
25 and under 3035.0132.5932.7935.08
30 and under 3515.6114.6813.1013.67
35 and under 405.525.333.794.22
40 and under 451.161.590.990.81
45 and over0.

First births are now occurring in greater proportions at the younger ages of mothers. The trend in this direction was slightly interrupted in 1936 by the inclusion in the figures for that year of a large proportion of births to mothers whose marriage had been unduly postponed on account of economic factors. The figures of average ages of mothers for the above years are as follows: 1914, 26.55; 1924, 26.39; 1934, 25.90; and 1936, 2604.


The births of 1,126 children (601 males, 525 females) registered in 1936 were illegitimate. The numbers for each of the last ten years, with the percentages they bear to the total births registered, are as follows:—

Year.Number.Percentage to Total Births.

While the proportion of illegitimate to total births has fluctuated considerably during the last decade, the trend for the latter half of the period appears to be definitely towards a decline, the average proportion for 1932–36 being 4.65 as against an average of 5.01 for the period 1927–31. Probably a better criterion of the trend in the illegitimate birth-rate is afforded by the movement in the proportion of illegitimate births per 1,000 unmarried women—i.e., spinsters, widows, and divorced women—at the reproductive ages. The figures for each census from 1891 to 1926 are as follows:—

Year.Unmarried Women aged 15–45 Years.Illegitimate Births.Illegitimate-birth Rate per 1,000 Unmarried Women.

Included in the total of 1,126 illegitimate births in 1936 were four cases of twins, the number of accouchements being thus 1,122, including one case registered with the Registrar-General. From the following table it will be seen that of the 1,122 mothers 374, or 33 per cent., were under twenty-one years of age.


Years. Years. Years. 

The Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act, 1930, directs the omission of the word “illegitimate” from the register when the birth of an illegitimate child is registered. The word “illegitimate” appearing in any entry made prior to the passing of the Act is deemed to be expunged and deleted, and must also be omitted from any certified copy of an entry.


An important Act was passed in 1894 and re-enacted in 1908, intituled the Legitimation Act. Under this Act any child born out of wedlock whose parents afterwards intermarry is deemed to be legitimized by such marriage on the birth being registered in the manner prescribed by the Act. For legitimation purposes a Registrar must register a birth when called upon to do so by any person claiming to he the father of an illegitimate child; but such person is required to make a solemn declaration that he is the father, and must also produce evidence of marriage between himself and the mother of the child.

Prior to the passing, on the 6th February, 1922, of the Legitimation Amendment Act, 1921–22, legitimation could he effected only if at the time of the birth of the child there existed no legal impediment to the intermarriage of the father and mother, but the legal-impediment proviso was repealed by that amendment.

The amendment of 1921–22 also provides for legitimation by the mother in the event of the death of the father after the intermarriage of the parents. In such a case the application for legitimation is heard by a Magistrate, and upon his certifying that it has been proved to his satisfaction that the husband of the applicant was the father of the child, the child is registered as the lawful issue of the applicant and her husband.

The number of legitimations in each of the last ten years, and the total since the Act of 1894 came into force, are:—

Year.Number of Children legitimized.
Previously registered.Not previously registered.Total.
Totals to 19365,7572,7298,486


The Births and Deaths Registration Act contains provision for the registration of adopted children. The Clerk of the Court by which any adoption order is made is required to furnish to the Registrar-General particulars of the order, including the full name and place of birth of the child, as well as the full names and addresses of both the natural and the adopting parents. If the child's birth has been registered in New Zealand a note of the adoption order is made on it, and a new entry is made in the prescribed form in the register of births, particulars of the adopting parents being substituted for those of the natural parents.

During the year 1936 the registration of 413 adopted children (206 males and 207 females) was effected, as compared with 340 in 1935, 338 in 1934, 332 in 1933, and 337 in 1932.


The registration of still-births was made compulsory in New Zealand as from the 1st March, 1913. A still-born child is defined as one “which has issued from its mother after the expiration of the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy and which was not alive at the time of such issue.” Still-births are not included either as births or as deaths in the various numbers and rates shown in this subsection and in that relating to deaths.

The registrations of still-births during each of the last ten years are as follows:—

Year.Males.Females.Total.Male Still-births per 1,000 Female Still-birthsPercentage of Still-births to
Living Births.All Births.

Masculinity is in general much higher among still-births than among living births, though an exception to the rule occurred in 1928. The figures for the ten years covered by the above table show the rate for still-births to have been 1,260 males per 1,000 females. The rate for individual years has ranged between 1,726 (in 1914) and 1,022 (in 1928).

Tabulation of the relative ages of the parents of the still-born children in 1936 does not appear to disclose any significant features. The median age of the mothers was 30, as compared with 28 in the case of living births. The percentage of illegitimates among still-born infants (6.01) was higher than among infants born alive (4.43).

Of the living legitimate births registered in 1936, 38 per cent. were first births, while of legitimate still-births no less than 45 per cent. were first births. It would thus appear that there is a considerably greater probability of still-births occurring to mothers having their first accouchement than those having subsequent accouchements.

The following table, based on the figures for the five years 1932–36, indicates that this is so, and further demonstrates the effect of the increasing age of the mother in the causation of still-births. While for women between 20 and 25 the proportion of still-births to living births was 2 per cent. for all births and a little higher for first births, for women aged forty and over it was 6½ per cent. for all births and 11 per cent. for first births.


Age of Mother, in Years.All Births.First Births.Percentage of Still to Living.
Living.Still.Living.Still.All Births.First Births.
Under 204,093903,474832.202.39
20 and under 2527,76455616,0793952.002.46
25 and under 3037,39694513,7255142.533.74
30 and under 3525,8028115,2532953.145.62
35 and under 4014,6145891,6751334.037.94
40 and over5,701371438486.5110.96

The next table shows the percentage of still-births to living births according to nativity order of legitimate births registered in the five years 1932.36. The column for mothers of all ages shows a fairly definite gradation, the second child having the best chance of being born alive, and the probability of a still-birth increasing thereafter.


Nativity Order.Living Births.Still-births.Percentage of Still to Living.
Mothers of All Ages.Mothers aged 35–40.Mothers of All Ages.Mothers aged 35–40.Mothers of All Ages.Mothers aged 35–40.

It will be observed that the rates shown in the column for mothers aged 35–40 are, in most instances, materially higher than the rates for all mothers. This circumstance in itself suggests that the age of the mother is probably a more important factor contributing to the still-birth rate than the number of previous accouchements. The cause of the steady increase noted in the case of mothers of all ages—from the second child upwards—is to be found in the fact of increasing age rather than the number of previous issue. The special risks that attend a first birth account for the relatively high figures shown for first births, while the influence of increasing age is particularly assertive in respect of first births to mothers aged 35–40.


The number of births of Maoris registered with Registrars of Maori Births and Deaths during 1936 was 3,535 (1,764 males, 1,771 females). The births of forty-eight males and forty-seven females recorded as of Maori race were registered under the main Act, and the total of 3,630 represents a rate of 44 per 1,000 of Maori population, a figure nearly three times as high as the general (i.e., non-Maori) birth-rate for the year. Registrations in each of the last five years were as follows:—

Year.Number of Births.Rate per 1,000 of Mean Population.

There is reason to believe that the number of Maori births is somewhat understated, and that both number and rate are actually higher than shown above. For population purposes, half-castes and persons between half and full blood rank as Maoris; but it is not always possible to ensure that this practice is followed in the registration of births (and of deaths).



MARRIAGE may be solemnized in New Zealand only on the authority of a Registrar's certificate, either by a person whose name is on the list of officiating ministers under the Marriage Act, or before a duly appointed Registrar or Deputy Registrar of Marriages. Marriage by an officiating minister can be solemnized only between 8 o'clock in the forenoon and 8 o'clock in the evening. Marriage before a Registrar can be celebrated at any time during the hours the office of the Registrar is open for the transaction of public business. Prior to the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act, 1920, the limits in all cases were 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Notice of intended marriage must be given to a Registrar of Marriages by one of the parties to the proposed marriage, and one of the parties must have resided for three full days in the district within which the marriage is to be solemnized. In the case of a person under twenty-one years of age, not being a widow or widower, the consent of parent or guardian is necessary before the Registrar's certificate can be issued. A schedule to the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1926, sets out the person or persons whose consent is required in various circumstances. In cases where double consent is required, section 8 provides for dispensing with the consent of one party if this cannot be obtained by reason of absence, inaccessibility, or disability. In similar cases where the consent of only one person is necessary, consent may be given by a Judge of the Supremo Court. Consent of the Court may also be given in cases of refusal by any person whoso consent is required.

If a declaration is made in any case that there is no parent or lawful guardian resident in the Dominion, then a certificate may be issued by the Registrar (without the necessity of Court proceedings) after the expiration of fourteen days following the date on which the notice of intended marriage was given.

The system of notice and certificate has obtained in New Zealand since 1855. Officiating ministers and Registrars are required to send to the Registrar-General returns of all marriages solemnized, and as the returns come in they are checked off with the entries in the Registrars' lists of notices received and certificates issued. In case of the non-arrival of a marriage return corresponding to any entry in the list of notices, inquiries are made as to whether solemnization has been effected.

The marriage of a man with his deceased wife's sister was legalized in New Zealand in the year 1881, and the marriage of a woman with her deceased husband's brother in 1901. Marriage with a deceased wife's niece or a deceased husband's nephew was rendered valid in 1929.

An important provision is contained in section 7 of the Marriage Amendment Act, 1920, which reads as follows:—

  1. Every person commits an offence against this Act, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred pounds, who—

    • Alleges, expressly or by implication, that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married; or

    • Alleges, expressly or by implication, that the issue of any lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock.

  2. “Alleges” in this section means making any verbal statement, or publishing or issuing any printed or written statement, or in any manner authorizing the making of any verbal statement, or in any manner authorizing or being party to the publication or issue of any printed or written statement.

  3. A person shall not be deemed to make an allegation contrary to the provisions of this section by reason only of using in the solemnization of a marriage a form of marriage service which at the commencement of this Act was in use by the religious denomination to which such person belongs, or by reason only of the printing or issue of any book containing a copy of a form of marriage service in use at the commencement of this Act by any religious denomination.

An amendment to the Marriage Act in 1933 prohibited the marriage of persons under the age of sixteen years, and also made provision enabling women to become officiating ministers for the purposes of the Marriage Act.

Particulars regarding divorce will be found at the close of this subsection.


The movement of the marriage-rate since 1855 is shown by the diagram on p. 81. The numbers and rates of marriages during each of the last twenty years are here given:—

YearNumberRate per 1,000 of Population.

The low rates for 1931 and 1932 are indicative of the effect of the period of financial stringency and depression. The partial recovery in 1933 probably reflects an acceptance of the unlikelihood of an early return to prosperity and an adjustment to the changed conditions. The recovery continued in 1934, accompanying an improving trend in economic conditions. In 1935 the future outlook was very much brighter, and consequently a further impetus was given to the marriage-rate, while in 1936 the highest rate ever recorded in New Zealand, with the exception of the postwar year 1920, was established. The number of marriages during 1936 creates a new record for the Dominion and represents an increase of 13 per cent. over the previous year.


Since the age-constitution of the population alters considerably over a period of years the actual marriage-rate based on the total population does not necessarily provide a proper comparison. A complementary method is to ascertain the rate among unmarried females in each age-group and to standardize the results on the basis of the distribution of the unmarried female population in a basic year.

Year.Rate per 1,000 of Total Population.Rate per 1,000 Unmarried Females aged 15 Years and over.


A comparison of the latest available rates in various countries is given in the next table.

Country.Quinquennium.Average Yearly Rate.
Union of S. Africa1931–359.35
England and Wales1931–358.07
New Zealand1932–367.81
Northern Ireland1931–356.10
Irish Free State1931–354.62


Annual averages for the decade 1927–36 give marriages as follows: March quarter, 2,527; June quarter, 3,131: September quarter, 2,389; December quarter, 3,006.

The Easter and Christmas seasons are apparently regarded as the most suitable times of the year for entering the matrimonial state, and, judging by the quarterly figures for an average year, Faster would appear to predominate slightly.

The marriages contracted in each month of 1936, commencing with January, were as follows: 955, 1,031, 864, 1,913, 830, 1,324, 939, 964, 1,000, 1,129, 949, 1,010, total for year, 13,808.

The 1936 proportions per cent. of the total marriages for the various days of the week were: Sunday, 0.5: Monday, 10 6; Tuesday, 12.3; Wednesday, 28.8; Thursday, 12 2; Friday, 50; Saturday, 30 6.


The total number of persons married during the year 1936 was 27,616, of whom 25,407 were single, 1,245 widowed, and 964 divorced. The figures for each of the last ten years, but showing the sexes separately, are given in the table following:—

Year.Single.Widowed.Divorced.Total Persons married.

The position is more easily seen by studying the percentages given in the next table:—

 Per CentPer Cent.Per CentPer Cent.Per CentPer Cent.

During the period 1927–36 the number of divorced persons remarrying increased from 30 per 1,000 persons married to 35, an appreciable advance. The fall in the number of widowed persons remarrying—from 57 per 1,000 persons married in 1927 to 45 per 1,000 in 1936—is due probably to the high figure in the earlier year having been an indirect outcome of the war and, to a certain extent, of the influenza epidemic.

The relative conjugal condition of bridegrooms and brides for each of the last ten years is next given:—

Year.Marriages between Bachelors andMarriages between Widowers andMarriages between Divorced Men and
Spinsters.Widows.Divorced Women.Spinsters.Widows.Divorced Women.Spinsters.Widows.Divorced Women.

Taking the whole period covered by the foregoing table, it is found that, while 3,425 divorced men remarried, the corresponding number for women was 3,867. In the case of widowed persons, however, in spite of the fact that widows greatly exceed widowers, only 4,415 widows remarried, as compared with 6,940 widowers. It would appear that in the case of divorced persons, women are more likely to remarry than men, while in the case of the widowed the converse holds.

Included amongst the widows in 1936 were sixteen women, and amongst the widowers fifteen men, who elected to go through the form of marriage with other persons under the protection of the provisions of section 224, subsection (5), of the Crimes Act, which reads: “No one commits bigamy by going through a form of marriage if he or she has been continually absent from his or her wife or husband for seven years then last past, and is not proved to have known that his wife or her husband was alive at any time during those seven years.”

During the last ten years the numbers of persons married under the protection of the above subsection was 254, comprising 84 men and 170 women.


Of the 27,616 persons married in 1936 2,649, or 9 per cent., were under twenty-one years of age; 8,831, or 32 per cent., were returned as twenty-one and under twenty-five; 8,996, or 33 per cent., as twenty-five and under thirty; 4,971, or 18 per cent., as thirty and under forty; and 2,169, or 8 per cent., as forty years of age or over. The following table relates to the year 1936:—

Age of Bride, in Years.Age of Bridegroom, in Years.Total Bride-grooms.
Under 21.21 and under 25.25 and under 30.30 and under 35.35 and under 40.40 and under 45.45 and over.
Under 21233122114   370
21 and under 251,1081,851483429 13,494
25 and under 306972,4521,83229841915,330
30 and under 351736559054491011512,299
35 and under 4040171290228133439914
40 and under 451551771061076727450
45 and over133568101139135460951
    Total brides2,2795,3373,6661,22853026949913,808

There have been some considerable changes in the proportions of men and women marrying at the various age-periods. To illustrate the extent to which these figures have varied since the beginning of the century, a table is given showing the proportions of men and women married at each age-period to every 100 marriages in quinquennia from 1900 to 1934, and also for the years 1935 and 1936:—

Period.Under 21.21 and under 25.25 and under 30.30 and under 35.35 and under 40.40 and under 45.45 and over.Total.

A perusal of the above table reveals the fact that greater proportions of marriages are now being celebrated at both the younger and the older age-groups. The 1935 and 1936 figures, however, illustrate the forced postponement of a number of marriages in the earlier years of the depression, resulting in a proportion of marriages falling in later groups than would normally have been the case.

For many years the average ago (arithmetic mean) at marriage for both males and females, more particularly the latter, showed a tendency to increase. However, after reaching its maximum in the three years 1917, 1918, and 1919, the average age has since decreased considerably. For reasons already mentioned, the average age is tending to increase again in more recent years. The figures for each of the last ten years are given.



The average ages of bachelors and spinsters at marriage are considerably lower than those shown in the preceding table, which covers all parties and is naturally affected by the inclusion of remarriages of widowed and divorced persons. The average ages of grooms and brides of the various conditions in each of the last five years were:—


The foregoing figures give the average age at marriage, but these do not correspond with the modal or popular age, if the age at which the most marriages are celebrated may be so termed. For several years prior to 1918 age 26 held pride of place for bridegrooms and age 21 for brides. The latter has continued right through to 1936 without alteration, but in the case of bridegrooms the most popular age has varied, and for 1936 stands at 24.


Of every 1,000 men married in 1935, 27 were under twenty-one years of age, while 165 in every 1,000 brides were under twenty-one.

In 233 marriages in 1936 both parties were given as under twenty-one years of age, in 2,046 marriages the bride was returned as a minor and the bridegroom as an adult, and in 137 marriages the bridegroom was a minor and the bride an adult.

Year.Age in Years.Total. per 100 Marriages.
1932  28441152183873.91
1933   438892093403.24
1934  24261162033513.12
1935   735992063472.85
1936   4431182053702.68
1932 9672064035416731,89919.19
1934  731953985687181,95217.34
1935  862034095837952,07617.03
1936  871994396928622,27916.51

The continuous decline in the proportions of minors married (both brides and bridegrooms) illustrated in the foregoing table is probably, to some extent, a depression phenomenon. It will be observed that the number of marriages of minors shows a material increase in 1936; but that the rate per 100 marriages fell still further.


Of the 13,808 marriages registered in 1936, Church of England clergymen officiated at 3,604, Presbyterians at 3,720, Methodists at 1,456, and Roman Catholics at 1,609, while 2,368 marriages were celebrated before Registrars.

The following table shows the proportions of marriages by ministers of the principal denominations in the last ten years:—

Denomination.Percentage of Marriages.
Church of England27.6827.0327.1826.0325.8225.5425.4725.5226.0726.10
Roman Catholic11.1911.4511.3411.0610.7310.8111.0611.5011.4011.65
Other denominations5.575.264.845.165.535.846.287.928.397.61
Before Registrars19.0619.5819.3220.4922.6220.9119.9417.9816.9217.15

The foregoing figures must not be taken as an exact indication of the religions of the parties married, as it does not necessarily follow that one or both of the parties are members of the Church whose officiating minister performed the ceremony, and persons married before Registrars may belong, in greater or lesser proportion, to any or none of the denominations.


The number of names on the list of officiating ministers under the Marriage Act is (August, 1937) 2,172, and the denominations to which they belong are shown hereunder:—

Church of England470
Presbyterian Church of New Zealand432
Roman Catholic Church363
Methodist Church of New Zealand304
Salvation Army114
Associated Churches of Christ37
Congregational Independent33
Seventh-day Adventist11
Latter-day Saints22
Lutheran Church2
Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Conference4
British Israel Church7
Church of Christ5
Hebrew Congregation5
Catholic Apostolic Church2
Liberal Catholic Church7
Assemblies of God16
Spiritualist Churches of New Zealand13
Ratana Church of New Zealand147
Ringatu Church48
Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah2

The Ringatu Church, the Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah, and the Ratana Church of New Zealand are Maori denominations.


In cases where both parties to a marriage are of the Native race there is no necessity under the Marriage Act to comply with the provisions of that Act, though the parties are at liberty to take advantage thereof. Considerable inconvenience, however, was found to exist on account of the non-registration of Maori marriages, and a section was inserted in the Native Land Act, 1909, and re-enacted in 1931, whereby it was laid down that Maori marriages must be celebrated either under the provisions of the Marriage Act or in the presence of a registered officiating minister, but without complying with the other requirements of the Marriage Act. Ministers solemnizing the latter class of marriages must send returns to the Registrar-General.

Returns of 640 marriages in which both parties were of the Native race were received during the year 1936. The figures for each of the last ten years are as follows:—

Year.Under Native Land Act.Under Marriage Act.Total.

Maori marriages are not included in the numbers shown elsewhere in this subsection, nor are they taken into account in the computation of marriage-rates.


The provisions as to dissolution of marriage are contained in the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act, 1928, which consolidated and amended the then existing legislation on the subject.

A brief historical account of divorce legislation will be found in the 1931 issue of the Year-Book; the present position is outlined in the following résumé.

Any married person, domiciled in New Zealand for two or more years at the time of filing the petition, may obtain a divorce on one or more of the following grounds:—

  1. Adultery.

  2. Wilful desertion for three years.

  3. Habitual drunkenness for four years, coupled with (wife's petition) failure to support or habitual cruelty, or with (husband's petition) neglect of, or self-caused inability to discharge, domestic duties.

  4. Sentence of seven years' imprisonment for attempting to murder, or for wounding or doing actual bodily harm to petitioner or child.

  5. Murder of child of petitioner or respondent.

  6. Insanity and confinement as a lunatic for seven out of ten years preceding the petition.

  7. Insanity for seven years, and confinement for three years preceding the petition.

  8. Failure to comply with a decree of Court for restitution of conjugal rights.

  9. Parties have separated under an agreement, written or verbal, which has been in force for three years.

  10. Parties have been separated by a decree of judicial separation or a separation order which has been in force for three years. (An amendment in 1930 removed the restriction imposed by the principal Act (which permitted only New Zealand decrees or orders) and extended the provision to cover similar decrees or orders made in any country.)

  11. Husband guilty of rape, sodomy, or bestiality since marriage.

A deserted wife whose husband was domiciled in New Zealand at the time of desertion is considered, for the purpose of the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act, 1928, as retaining her New Zealand domicile. Where a wife petitions on grounds (i) and (j), her New Zealand domicile is retained if her husband was domiciled in the Dominion at the date of the agreement, decree, or order.

The amending Act of 1930 establishes a New Zealand domicile for a wife petitioning for divorce where she has been living apart from her husband for three years, has been living in New Zealand for three years preceding the petition, and has the intention of residing in New Zealand permanently.

Figures showing the operations of the Supreme Court in its divorce jurisdiction during each of the last ten years are as follows:—

Year.Dissolution or Nullity of Marriage.Judicial Separation.Restitution of Conjugal Rights.
Petitions filed.Decrees Nisi.Decrees Absolute.Petitions filed.Decrees for Separation.Petitions filed.Decrees for Restitution.
19298437186352 130107
19308397246201 9679
19338046836481 11877
1934839762683 19789
19358677426531 9480

In 998 of the 1,099 cases covered by divorce petitions filed during 1936 the parties had been married in New Zealand.

The next table gives the grounds (dissolution or nullity cases) of petition, Decrees may relate to petitions filed prior to 1936.

Grounds.Petitions filed.Decrees Nisi granted.Decrees Absolute granted.
Husbands' Petitions.Wives' Petitions.Husbands Petitions.Wives' Petitions.Husbands' Petitions.Wives' Petitions.
Drunkenness, with cruelty, failure to maintain, &c.251312
Malformation1 1   
Non-compliance with order for restitution of conjugal rights703265255725
Separation for not less than three years232353183333149310

The figures shown for decrees nisi include oases where both nisi and absolute decrees were granted during the year, while those for decrees absolute cover all such granted during the year whether the antecedent decree nisi was granted in 1936 or in a previous year. The fairly substantial overall increase of 27 per cent. over the 1935 total is recorded in 1936. The principal increases were, according to grounds for divorce, insanity (69 per cent.), and separation (33 per cent.). The total figures for insanity, however, are rather small to permit of comparison.

In 345 of the 1,099 cases where petitions for dissolution were filed during 1936 there was no living issue of the marriage. The number of living issue was 1 in 324 cases, 2 in 197 cases, 3 in 106 cases, and 4 or more in 127 cases.

The table which follows shows the duration of marriage in all cases for which petitions for dissolution were filed in the last five years:—

Duration of Marriage, in Years.Husbands' Petitions.Wives' Petitions.
Under 558495650734053504554
5 and under 10103106114123159128126128143197
10 and under 1580959986122124102116109129
15 and under 2037566462785463798187
20 and under 3054644052737365577581
30 and over17141430311711221115

The number of children concerned in the divorce petitions of their parents during each of the last five years was as follows: 1932, 1,177; 1933, 1,221; 1934, 1,216; 1935, 1,286; and 1936, 1,667.


COMPULSORY registration of deaths was instituted in New Zealand in 1855. As in the case of births, a system of non-compulsory registration had obtained since 1848.

Until the year 1876 the only information provided for in the death-registration entry was the date, place, and cause of death, and the name, sex, age, and occupation of deceased. The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1875, required information to be recorded as regards parentage, conjugal condition, and issue of deceased. Particulars as to burial had also to be entered, as well as more detailed information regarding cause of death. Subsequent amendments to the Act have made it requisite to give additional information concerning issue, and, in the case of married males, age of widow.

Every death occurring in New Zealand is required to be registered within three days alter the day of the death if in a city or borough, or seven days in any other case. There is a penalty up to £10 for neglect, the undertaker in charge of the funeral being solely responsible for registration. Prior to 1913 the undertaker was primarily looked to for registration, but, in addition, the occupier of the house and every other person present at the death were also responsible parties.

The law does not impose any limit of time after which a death may not be registered as it does in the case of a birth. It is not necessary to effect a death-registration entry in the case of a still-born child, though an entry must be made in the register of births.

Any person burying, or permitting or taking part in the burial of, the body of any deceased person without a certificate of cause of death signed by a duly registered medical practitioner, a Coroner's order to bury the body, or a Registrar's certificate of registration of the death, renders himself liable to a fine of £10.

Prior to 1937 a medical practitioner was required to give the certificate of cause of death to the person required to give information for the purpose of registering the death (the undertaker or other person in charge of the burial). By section 11 of the Statutes Amendment Act, 1936, however, the medical practitioner is now required to deliver the certificate forthwith direct to the Registrar of the district in which the death occurred. It is now the duty of the medical practitioner, on signing a certificate of cause of death, to give written notice of the signing to the undertaker or other person having charge of the burial.

In the new form of medical certificate outlined by this amendment, provision is made for an additional statement to be filled in by the medical practitioner in any case where, in his opinion, the death has occurred in any circumstances of suspicion. The practitioner is required to report such case forthwith to the Coroner, and an indication that this has been done must he made in the space provided on the certificate.


The following table shows the number of deaths and the death-rate per 1,000 of the mean population during each of the last twenty years:—

Year.Number.Rate per 1,000.

A long-range review of the death-rate is afforded by the graph at page 81.

The death-rate has been maintained at a remarkably low level for the last decade. It gradually climbed during the three years 1927 to 1929, reaching its maximum since 1923 in the latter year. The years following have witnessed a distinct reversal of that trend, until in 1933 the lowest death-rate in the history of the Dominion was recorded. It should be noted as a probable contributing factor that epidemics of the principal infectious diseases were conspicuously absent during these years. The 1936 record of deaths registered is not so favourable. With the exception of 1918, the year of the influenza pandemic, there has never been such a high total of deaths registered in the Dominion in one year. Nevertheless, the death-rate still remains on a comparatively satisfactory low level, being little above the average rate for the last ten years—8–75 as compared with 8.42.

The fall in the birth-rate (resulting in fewer infants at risk relatively to total population) combined with the fall in the rate of infant mortality, is also partly responsible for the position disclosed by the death-rate figures.

The death-rates of males and females for the last ten years are shown separately in the next table.

Year.Deaths per 1,000 of Population.Male Deaths to every 100 Female Deaths.Male Rate expressed as Index Number of Female Rate (=100).


An examination of the total number of deaths registered in each quarter of the decade 1927–36 gives the following annual averages: March quarter, 2,666; June quarter, 2,931; September quarter, 3,489; and December quarter, 3,031.

A classification according to month of death shows that in 1936 the most deaths occurred during August, July, October, and June, with totals of 1,261, 1,242, 1,213, and 1,179 respectively. Excluding December, a proportion of deaths occurring in that month not being registered till January, February had the least number of deaths (887), followed by January and March, with 966 and 976 respectively.

The least number of deaths on any one day, again excluding December, was 19, this number occurring on the 30th March. The greatest number (59) occurred on the 18th July.


The deaths registered during the year 1936 are tabulated below according to age:—

Under 1 month309245554
1–2 months423173
3–5 months233154
6–11 months414788
1 year5946105
2 years222648
3 years321850
4 years221941
5–9 years9675171
10–14 years7046116
15–19 years10069169
20–24 years175126301
25–29 years133150283
30–34 years138132270
35–39 years189165354
40–44 years225189414
45–49 years335253588
50–54 years456361817
55–59 years6314651,096
60–64 years7174981,215
65–69 years7866621,448
70–74 years7416521,393
75–79 years7686301,398
80–84 years5925211,113
85–89 years328298626
90–94 years98117215
95–99 years193453
100 years1 1
1022 2

The following table indicates the changes that have occurred over a period of fifty years in the age-distribution of persons dying:—

Ages, in Years.Number of DeathsPercentage to Total.
Under 11,8991,4391,5061,44676930.9522.3718.0613.655.89
1 and under 55934143596162449.676.434.315.811.87
5 and under 102601851743131714.242.882.092.951.31
10 and under 151681301251641162.742.021.501.550.89
15 and under 202052572282351693.343.992.732.221.29
20 and under 252533133063013014.124.873.672.842.31
25 and under 302522793693762834.114.344.423.552.17
30 and under 352562303154162704.173.583.783.922.07
35 and under 402602493394793544.243.874.074.522.71
40 and under 452662483044574144.343.863.644.313.17
45 and under 502782893274595884.534.493.924.334.50
50 and under 553003073804878174.894.774.564.600.26
55 and under 602374264245251,0963.866.625.084.968.39
60 and under 652314055356111,2153.776.306.425.779.31
65 and under 701983897147111,4483.236.058.566.7111.09
70 and under 751783087318501,3932.904.798.778.0210.67
75 and under 801642815999601,3982.674.377.189.0610.71
80 and over1342836041,1902,0102.184.407.2411.2315.39
Unspecified3    0.05    

Some remarkable changes in the age-distribution of persons dying have occurred during the last fifty years. The total deaths in 1936 were more than twice as numerous as in 1886, but the number of deaths under one year in 1936 was less than half of the corresponding number recorded in 1886. This is an eloquent tribute to the efficacy of the steps taken to preserve infant fife (a subject which is dealt with later on in this subsection), as over the fifty-year period the annual number of births increased by 29 per cent.

The enormous reduction in deaths from the principal epidemic diseases of early childhood over a long period of years has resulted in a greater proportion of children surviving to adult life. A similar, though not quite so pronounced, decline in the fatal incidence of tuberculosis, which is largely confined to early and middle adult life, has also tended to ensure a greater proportion of persons attaining old age.

The movement in the proportions of deaths occurring at the different age-groups is very striking. The results of two main factors are illustrated. First, the health measures, already commented upon, which have achieved an immense saving of young life; and, second, the exposure of a greater proportion of the population to the diseases of old age.

There appears to be little likelihood of any further drastic reduction in the death-rate from the diseases of infancy and early adult life; and, unless public-health measures meet with more success in the prolongation of the human life-span through the amelioration of the degenerative diseases of old age, the time cannot be far distant when the death-rate will begin to advance fairly rapidly.

The next table shows that the fall in the death-rate during recent years has been common to all ages, except age 85 and over, and to both sexes.

The table is further of interest as showing that the female rate for the various age-groups is almost invariably lower than the male rate. The rapid increase in the death-rate at successive age-groups is well exemplified.


Year.Under 1.1 and under 5.5 and under 15.15 and under 25.25 and under 35.35 and under 45.45 and under 55.55 and under 65.65 and under 75.75 and under 85.85 and over.
Both Sexes.

The average (arithmetic mean) age at death of persons of either sex in each of the last ten years was as follows:—



For reference to, or records of, the various series of life-tables constructed on New Zealand's mortality experience, ranging from 1880 to 1922, recourse may be had to issues of the Year-Book for 1915, 1926, and 1927, and to the General Report on the Census of 1921. The following data on expectation of life or average after-lifetime, which are quoted by courtesy of the compilers, are from a life-table constructed by L. I. Dublin, Ph.D and A. J. Lotka, D.Sc., of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. of New York, U.S.A., and published in the Statistical Bulletin of that company. The table is based upon New Zealand experience of the year 1931, data regarding deaths and age-constitution of the population having been supplied by the Census and Statistics Department. As the 1931 census was not taken, details of age-distribution were derived from the annual inter-censal age-estimates with a consequent potentiality of error.


Expectation of life at age 0 is steadily increasing in New Zealand, and is, so far as is known, higher than that of any other country. Brief figures are quoted:—



Examination of data of universal character shows that New Zealand has the lowest death-rate in the world, the Netherlands ranking second in this respect. Rates for certain of the principal countries are quoted below.

Country.Quinquennium.Average Rate per 1,000.

* Registration area.

New Zealand1932–368.3
Union of South Africa1931–359.8
United States*1931–3510.9
England and Wales1931–3512.0
Irish Free State1931–3513.9
Northern Ireland1932–3614.2


For the purpose of ascertaining the true movement of the death-rate in New Zealand, a system of standardization was introduced some years ago the age- and sex-constitution of the population as disclosed at the census of 1911 being taken as the basis. The population and deaths of each year are divided, each sex separately, into five-yearly groups of ages (with one group only for ages 80 and over), and the rates for the various age-groups ascertained and weighted according to the proportion which the respective groups bore to the total population at the census of 1911. The following table gives both recorded and standardized death-rates.

Year.Recorded Rates.Standardized Rates.

For purposes of international comparisons, a standard population, based on the age-distribution of the population of 19 European countries at their censuses nearest to the year 1900, has been compiled by the International Institute of Statistics, and is used in the following table of New Zealand rates.

Year.Recorded Rates.International Standardized Rates.
Males.Females.Both Sexes.Males.Females.Both Sexes.
Without Distinction between Sexes.With Distinction between Sexes.

An interesting point brought out by the use of this method in New Zealand is that the male standardized rate has now for a number of years been actually lower than the corresponding recorded rate. In 1934 the standardized death-rate for females also reached for the first time a lower level than the recorded rate, which position also held in 1935 and 1936.


The table following shows the number of living issue left by married men or widowers whose deaths were registered during the ten years 1927–36, the information being given according to age of father and of issue.

Number of Issue left by Fathers, aged—
Under 30.30 and under 40.40 and under 50.50 and under 60.60 and under 70.70 and under 80.80 and over.Totals.
Age of issue, in years—        
  Under 55331,3581,30550311612 3,827
  5 and under 101111,5062,5421,45137776146,077
  10 and under 1547473,1223,0281,051232348,218
  15 and under 2131353,0055,0023,46596217013,642
  21 and over 11,14011,19728,451143,70836,031120,528
  Unspecified  732  12
Married men or widowers who died—        
  Leaving issue3891,5813,4726,1558,4189,5897,09036,694
  Without, leaving issue1864037881,2361,5451,5269426,626

Taking all deaths of married men or widowers, whether leaving issue or not it is found that the average living issue is 3.52, as compared with 3.80 for the period 1917–26.

Average numbers of issue left by married men or widowers during the decade 1927–36 were: Fathers aged under 30, 1.13; aged 30–39, 1.89; 40–49, 2.61; 50–59, 2.99; 60–69, 3.36; 70–79, 4.05; 80 or over, 4.51. Averages are universally lower than in the preceding decade.

In 1936, among men who left any issue under age 16, the average number of such issue was 2.10. The average for all married men or widowers who died during the year was, however, only 0.40.

Of 943 cases where issue under 16 years of age was left by married men or widowers during 1936, a widow was also left in 912 cases, the aggregate children under 16 in these 912 cases being 1,916, and the average per widow 2.10. By the deaths of their fathers, children under 16 to the number of 57 were left without either parent, and for 4 children there was no information as to whether the mother was alive or dead.

The foregoing figures and table all refer to children partially or completely orphaned in the case of families where only the father died during the year 1936 or the decade 1927–36. An attempt has now been made, however, for the first time in New Zealand to tabulate similar information for families of which the mother died during the year 1936. Altogether 4,430 married women or widows died during 1936, leaving a total issue of 15,009, or an average living issue of 3.39. Considering only these mothers who left issue, the average issue left was 4.04. The average issue under 16 years of age left by all married women or widows who died during the year 1936 was 0.36.

The following summary tables of the numbers and ages of issue under the age of 16 years left by married men, widowers, married women, and widows during the year 1936 are of considerable interest:—


Age of Issue.Numbers of Is left at Ages specified by
Married Men.Widowers.Married Women.Widows.Total Married Men and Widowers.Total Married Women and Widows.Total Widows and Widowers.
044 59 4459 
165 39 6539 
263 46263482
  Under 161,920571,262601,9771,322117
  16 and over9,9424,5229,9883,69914,46413,6878,221
  Unspecified1   1  
  Grand totals11,8634,57911,2503,75916,442115,0098,338


Number of Issue.Families under Sixteen Years of Age left by
Married Men.Widowers.Married Women.Widows.Total Married Men and Widowers.Total Married Women and Widows.Total Widows and Widowers.
620118 21131
74 6 46 
83 4 34 
92   2  

From section (a) of the above table it will be seen that during 1936 no fewer than 1,920 children under 16 years of age were left fatherless, although their mother was still alive at the time of the father's death; 1,262 were left without a mother, but with their father living: thus a total of 3,182 were loft with only one parent. By the death of their father 57 children, and by the death of their mother 60 children, were left without either parent, making a total of 117 true orphans under 16 years of age during 1936. In this total, of course, there might possibly be a few cases where both the father and the mother died during 1936, and in any such cases the number of children left would be duplicated, as they would be included in the figures of issue left upon the death of each parent.

Section (b) of the table indicates that in a total of 60 families there were 117 children under 16 years of age left as true orphans during 1936, equivalent to an average of 1.95 per family. The average number of children under 16 years of age left fatherless per family was 2.10; motherless, 2.06; and in all cases with only one parent, 2.09. These averages, of course, relate only to these families in which there were any children under 16 years of age.


Of the 43,320 married men or widowers whose deaths were registered during the ten years 1927–36, 11,121 were shown to have been widowers and 31,683 to have left widows, while in the remaining 516 cases there was no information on the point. Of the married men leaving widows, 27,010 had living issue also at time of death, and 4,673 had no living issue. In 9,431 cases widowers left issue, and in 1,690 cases no issue. In 253 of the 516 cases where no information was given as to whether a widow was left, there was living issue, and in 263 cases there was no living issue.


New Zealand has the lowest rate of infant mortality in the world, a fact attributable partly to such matters as climate, virility of the race, comparative absence of densely settled areas, &c., and partly to legislative and educative measures, the latter conducted by the State as well as by various organizations.

The following table, giving infant mortality rates in various countries for the latest available quinquennial period, clearly shows the favourable position occupied by New Zealand:—

Country.Quinquennium.Deaths under One Year per 1,000 Births.

* Registration area.

New Zealand1932–3632
United States*1931–3559
England and Wales1932–3661
South Africa1932–3663
Irish Free State1932–3669
Northern Ireland1932–3679
British India1931–35170

Not only has New Zealand had for many years the lowest rate of infant mortality in the world, but the rate for the Dominion has shown steady and rapid improvement, more particularly during the last twenty years. Much of the success achieved has been due to the activities of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children. Founded at Dunedin in 1907, this society has since extended its Plunket system throughout New Zealand, and its methods are being adopted to an ever-increasing extent in other countries.

The deaths of infants under one year of age for each of the last ten years are shown in the following table:—

Year.Number.Rate per 1,000 Births.

The favourable reputation of New Zealand's infant-mortality rate was further enhanced during 1936, when after a stabilizing period of four or five years, the characteristic downward trend was resumed with the creation of a new low record.

The pronounced fall in New Zealand's infant mortality rate during the last two decades has not been accompanied by an increase in the death-rate of children between the ages of one and ten years. There has, on the contrary, been a substantial fall, as is shown by the following figures. The numbers and rates given refer to annual averages for the quinquennia mentioned.

Quinquennium.1 and under 5.5 and under 10.
Number of Deaths.Rate.*Number of Deaths.Rate.*

* For 10,000 children at ages shown.

1934–1936 (3 years)2452515412

The increase in 1914–18 as compared with 1909–13 is due to the fact that during the latter period New Zealand experienced several minor epidemics, principally of diphtheria. The influenza epidemic in 1918 also somewhat affected the rate.

Since 1921 a distinction has been made between legitimate and illegitimate children in the New Zealand statistics of infant mortality. The proportion of illegitimate infants among these dying within the first year of life has been found to be greater (in some years substantially so) than the proportion of illegitimate births to total births, in spite of the fact that legitimations and adoptions would tend to reduce the number which would be termed illegitimate in the death entries. The year 1930 constitutes an exception.

Year.Total Deaths under One Year.Deaths of Illegitimate Infants under One Year.Proportion of Illegitimates in Total Deaths under One Year.Proportion of Illegitimates in Total Births.
   Per Cent.Per Cent.

Normally the excess of the male over the female rate of infant mortality holds for each of the four divisions of the first year of life shown in the next table. The discrepancy is, however, somewhat greater in the first half of the year than in the second.

Year.Male Deaths per 1,000 Male Births.Female Deaths per 1,000 Female Births.
Under 1 Month.1 and under 3 Months.3 and under 6 Months.6 and under 12 Months.Under 1 Month.1 and under 3 Months.3 and under 6 Months.6 and under 12 Months.

Even when the effect of the male excess among infants born is eliminated, the number of male deaths per 100 female deaths in the first month of life during the ten years 1927–36 is found to be 132; between one and three months, 158; between three and six months, 115; between six and twelve months, 119; and for the whole of the first year, 131.

The rates per 1,000 births for the two sexes in conjunction are now given for each of the last five years.

Year.Under 1 Month.1 and under 3 Months.3 and under 6 Months.6 and under 12 Months.Total under 1 Year

Infant deaths may be grouped roughly into two main classes—viz., these occurring within one month of birth and these who survive the first month of life but perish before attaining the first anniversary of their birth. Deaths in the first class are due principally to causes operating before the actual birth of the infant. The second group, generally speaking, contains the deaths of these infants who have succumbed to causes arising from post-natal influences, such as the various epidemic diseases, faulty feeding, diseases of the respiratory system, &c. The first group naturally presents the greatest problem to the infant-welfare worker, and the history of the comparatively rapid decline of the infant-mortality rate in New Zealand is largely an illustration of the effective measures adopted towards combating the post-natal causes of death in infancy.

The next table shows that, whereas in the quinquennium 1931–35 the death-rate under one month of age was 25 per cent. lower than in the quinquennium 1881–85, the rate for children who had survived the first month of life was only a little more than one-seventh as high as in the “eighties.” In other words, where the Dominion formerly lost between the ages of one month and one year more than sixty children out of every thousand it lost in 1931–35 only ten.

Period.Deaths per 1,000 Births.Deaths between 1 and 12 Months per 1,000 Children who survive 1 Month.
Under 1 Year.Under 1 Month.Between 1 and 12 Months.

The decrease by two-thirds in the general rate, and by nearly six-sevenths in the rate between one and twelve months, and the relatively lower movement of the rate under one month, are well indicated in the accompanying diagram.

As stated above, the death-rate for infants under the age of one month has shown little improvement in recent years, while a heavy reduction has taken place in the mortality-rate after the first month of life. It would appear, therefore, that on the one hand the diseases that can be combated openly, such as epidemic diseases, respiratory diseases, and diseases due to faulty nourishment, &c. (i.e., diseases of the digestive system), have shown a definite response to the strenuous campaigns launched against them; while, on the other hand, many infants are evidently non-viable at birth. This point is accentuated by the following table, which shows the rates for further divisions of the first month of life.


Year.Under 1 Day.1 Day and under 2 Days.2 Days and under 1 Week.Total under 1 Week.1 Week and under 2 Weeks.2 Weeks and under 3 Weeks.3 Weeks and under 1 Month.Total under 1 Month.

Two-fifths (227) of the 554 deaths under one month in 1936 occurred within twenty-four hours of birth, and four-fifths (446) within one week. The following table gives, for each of the last five years, detailed information as to the number of deaths at various periods of the first year of life:—

Year.Under 1 Day.1 Day and under 2 Days.2 Days and under 1 Week.1 Week and under 2 Weeks.2 Weeks and under 3 weeks.3 Weeks and under 1 Month.1 Month and under 2 Months.2 Months under 3 Months.3 Months and under 6 Months.6 Months and under 9 Months.9 Months and under 12 Months.Total.