Table of Contents

List of Tables


THE 1940 edition of the New Zealand Official Year-Book (the forty-eighth number of the volume) follows the same lines as its immediate predecessors.

All information, statistical and other, has been brought up to date as far as possible. The sections on Education and Pensions (in the latter case following the introduction of the scheme of social security benefits) have been rewritten, and among new material will be found in Section XVII a subsection on the survey system of New Zealand, and in Section Xc a classification of imports according to purpose or use and also by stage of production.

I again wish to record my appreciation of the assistance rendered by officers of other Government Departments and by members of my staff, particularly the officers of the Editorial Branch, who have done excellent work during a very difficult period.

Pressure of work, both in the Census and Statistics Department and in the Government Printing Office, has resulted in the Year-Book appearing some weeks later than usual.

Government Statistician.

Census and Statistics Department,
Wellington, C. 1, New Zealand, 31st January, 1940.


[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. 58-83):—

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

 As at 30th September—
MIGRATION (pp. 64-70):—1st April to 31st October—
* Excluding through passengers.
    Passenger arrivals*23,16621,842
    Passenger departures*23,62018,785
VITAL STATISTICS (pp. 84-152):—1st January to 30th September—
    Infant deaths764679
Corresponding yearly rates—  
    Births (per 1,000 mean population)17.7218.25
    Deaths (per 1,000 mean population)9.809.32
    Marriages (per 1,000 mean population)9.5710.18
    Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births)37.9332.33
TOTAL TRADE (pp. 236-244):—1938.1939.
  Commodity exports—££
    Ten months ended 31st October50,261,96751,342,327
    Twelve months ended 31st October58,787,94259,456,643
Commodity imports—  
    Ten months ended 31st October45,873,68443,453,865
    Twelve months ended 31st October55,429,38853,002,370
Excess of exports—  
† Excluding through passengers.
    Ten months ended 31st October4,388,2837,888,462
    Twelve months ended 31st October3,358,5546,454,273

PRINCIPAL EXPORTS (pp. 245-267).

Twelve Months ended 31st October,
  £ £
Butter (cwt.)2,661,19917,186,9192,527,29316,291,331
Cheese (cwt.)1,656,8415,993,2751,633,6465,631,598
Frozen meats—    
  Beef (cwt.)526,970820,401702,2641,181,161
  Lamb (cwt.)2,688,1749,439,8622,842,2749,410,049
  Mutton (cwt.)954,8531,934,0361,003,4511,642,589
  Pork (cwt.)576,8541,888,933474,1081,565,960
Chilled beef (cwt.)358,448688,092351,504683,875
Sheepskins (number)12,175,7511,238,00017,537,8301,614,613
Wool (bales)759,85111,664,678914,29113,100,441
Gold (oz.)152,5401,285,222172,3271,559,292
Timber (sup. ft.)15,331,200186,42511,780,823144,746


Twelve months ended 31st October,
Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes1,015,7921,113,368
Miscellaneous apparel and ready-made clothing1,547,938932,899
Miscellaneous drapery398,107340,781
Cotton, silk, and artificial silk piece-goods2,482,0692,763,831
Woollen piece-goods809,453770,281
Iron and steel: Bar, bolt, and rod765,973459,957
Galvanized plate and sheet487,283667,368
Electrical machinery (including wireless apparatus)3,217,0763,020,167
Motor-vehicles and motor-cycles5,694,8534,766,328
Rubber tires for motor-vehicles and motorcycles838,197928,885
Agriculture (pp. 427-445):—1938-39.1939-40.
Areas sown (p. 429)—Acres.(Estimates). Acres.
Pastoral Production (pp. 446-469):—1938-39.1939-40. (Pre-estimate.)
Wool production (greasy basis), lb.327,700,000320,000,000

Factory Production (pp. 510-544).

Production Year.
Number of establishmentsNo.5,9246,146
Persons engagedNo.102,344102,535
Salaries and wages paid£20,981,58722,270,010
Cost of materials used£75,084,17375,344,181
Other expenses of manufacture£10,827,59310,292,526
Value of output£113,691,556114,447,426
Added value£38,607,38339,103,245


Industry.Production Year.

* Excluding establishments exclusively engaged in malting.

* Including operations of motor-assembly works.

Meat freezing and preserving—   
  Total persons engagedNo.7,8357,897
  Salaries and wages paid£2,188,1022,379,748
  Value of output£21,227,64120,653,074
    Added value£3,514,2783,815,947
Ham and bacon curing—   
  Total persons engagedNo.521498
  Salaries and wages paid£129,432132,099
  Value of output£1,257,4111,335,969
    Added value£328,148291,376
Butter, cheese, and condensed-milk factories—   
  Total persons engagedNo.4,1283,944
  Salaries and wages paid£1,040,7541,065,329
  Value of output£27,767,28827,334,584
    Added value£2,361,5612,424,413
  Total persons engagedNo.767738
  Salaries and wages paid£188,429188,757
  Value of output£2,574,9442,383,103
    Added value£527,701451,763
Biscuit, confectionery, and sugar-boiling works—   
  Total persons engagedNo.3,2083,190
  Salaries and wages paid£428,585465,506
  Value of output£1,921,3142,028,822
    Added value£812,571910,862
Breweries and malthouses*   
  Total persons engagedNo.1,0931,168
  Salaries and wages paid£301,977325,895
  Value of output (including beer duty)£2,814,5322,844,889
    Added value£1,152,255946,880
Soap and candle works—   
  Total persons engagedNo.552520
  Salaries and wages paid£107,727112,041
  Value of output£565,871542,188
    Added value£256,999273,825
  Total persons engagedNo.8,3647,917
  Salaries and wages paid£1,936,9011,948,849
  Value of output£5,061,1335,074,703
    Added value£3,490,5343,373,716
  Total persons engagedNo.1,9201,942
  Salaries and wages paid£499,303526,229
  Total revenue£1,497,5151,527,275
  Quantity of gas soldcub. ft. (000)3,539,5743,591,352
Electric current—   
  Total persons engagedNo.4,6685,026
  Salaries and wages paid£1,236,9521,370,231
  Total revenue£5,691,9416,312,232
  Units generatedunits (000)1,252,5621,413,518
Lime and cement works—   
  Total persons engagedNo.1,0501,123
  Salaries and wages paid£266,756298,969
  Value of output£945,4741,103,900
    Added value£715,409852,255
  Iron and brass foundries—   
  Total persons engagedNo.930962
  Salaries and wages paid£201,318216,845
  Value of output£505,479557,051
    Added value£304,819357,749
  Total persons engagedNo.3,8984,039
  Salaries and wages paid£874,911951,949
  Value of output£2,445,4952,556,159
    Added value£1,398,1711,533,591
Coachbuilding and motor and cycle engineering*   
  Total persons engagedNo.9,90910,289
  Salaries and wages paid£2,120,2802,278,851
  Value of output£5,588,4335,943,413
    Added value£3,773,4363,872,084
  Total persons engagedNo.497459
  Salaries and wages paid£119,890109,680
  Value of output£583,287491,209
    Added value£206,607199,311
Superphosphates and chemical fertilizers—   
  Total persons engagedNo.902932
  Salaries and wages paid£240,319249,208
  Value of output£1,809,4711,822,857
    Added value£697,269664,278
Boot and shoe manufacturing—   
  Total persons engagedNo.3,0813,075
  Salaries and wages paid£451,246486,649
  Value of output£1,386,9141,355,398
    Added value£673,205624,501
Woollen mills—   
  Total persons engagedNo.2,7482,406
  Salaries and wages paid£422,240392,393
  Value of output£1,258,319951,636
    Added value£654,773573,651
Hosiery factories—   
  Total persons engagedNo.1,2981,259
  Salaries and wages paid£167,975182,956
  Value of output£590,253574,237
    Added value£271,972272,503
  Total persons engagedNo.12,91612,270
  Salaries and wages paid£1,542,9331,568,886
  Value of output£3,962,0563,809,093
    Added value£2,062,7461,963,065
TRANSPORT (pp. 308-362):— Twelve Months ended October—

* Including road motor and other subsidiary services.

† As at 30th September.

  Shipping (pp. 308-315)— 1938.1939.
    Overseas, inwardsNumber668661
    Overseas, outwardsNumber658671
Railways (pp. 316-326)—   
    Net ton-miles runNumber556,000,000582,000,000
    Passenger journeysNumber22,927,85123,471,323
      Railway operation£7,623,3408,366,663
      Railway operation£7,572,9417,767,256
Road (pp. 334-349)—   
    Motor-vehicles licensed 267,107285,586
  Six Months ended 30th September—
CONSOLIDATED FUND (pp. 574-577):— ££
  Receipts 13,400,18014,802,582
  Payments 15,125,57216,089,995


Item. 1938.1939.
Prices index numbers (pp. 785-806):—   
  Retail— Month of October.
    Food (1926-30 = 1000) 9881,066
    All-groups (1926-30 = 1000) 953997
  Wholesale—All-groups (1926-30 = 1000) 1,0321,090
  Export—All-groups (1909-13 = 1000) 1,3541,329
  Share prices—All-groups (1926 = 1000) 893869
Mortgages registered (pp. 749-752)£1,850,8511,405,561
Mortgages discharged (pp. 749-752)£1,467,1461,246,310
Land transfers registered (pp. 375-377)£2,051,5221,822,111
Pensions (pp. 619-646):—   
    Number 24,16724,063
    Annual value£1,584,3481,611,519
  Boer War—   
    Number 5453
    Annual value£1,8621,862
  War Veterans' allowances—   
    Number  2,120
    Annual value £  179,219
Banking (pp. 677-707):—   
  Trading banks—   
    Debits, weekly average (excluding Government), (p. 689)£17,714,30117,309,931
    Ratio of advances to deposits (p. 687)Per cent.92.1678.63
  Reserve Bank— 27th November.
  Net reserve ratio (p. 680)Per cent.32.6928.48
    Gold (p. 680)£2,801,7912,801,839
    Exchange (p. 680)£4,828,3026,624,585
Net note circulation (pp. 690-691)£10,560,39713,117,068
  30th October.
Net overseas funds of banks (p. 692)£11,855,4758,756,251


Title.Latest No.Month of Issue.Price per Copy.Postage (extra).
* £1 1s. per annum (post free).
New Zealand Official Year-Book1,940Mar. 1940s. 7
d. 6
Annual Statistical Reports—    
  Population and Buildings1937-38Feb. 19392 61
  Vital Statistics1,938Mar.19405 03
  Justice1,937Mar.19392 61
  Trade and Shipping (Part I)1,938Jan.194020 06
  Trade and Shipping (Part II)1,937June 19393 62
  Agricultural and Pastoral Production1937-38April 19392 61
  Factory and Building Production1937-38June 19393 62
  Insurance1,937June 19392 01
  Miscellaneous (Prices, Wage-rates and Hours of Labour, Unemployment, Industrial Accidents, Tramways, Banking, Building Societies, Bankruptcy, Commercial Afforestation, Incomes and Income-tax, Statistical Summary)1,937Aug., 19394 03
Local Authorities Handbook of New Zealand (published annually)1937-38Jan. 19407 66
Pocket Compendium of New Zealand Statistics (published annually)1,939Sept. 19391 01
Monthly Abstract of Statistics  2 6*1
Volumes of 1936 Census Results—    
  Increase and Location of Population1,936Sept. 19374 62
  Dependencies1,936Sept. 19371 61
  Poultry1,936Sept. 19371 61
  War Service1,936June 19381 61
    (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:—

(a) 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.

(b) Outlying islands (total area, 307 square miles) included within the geographical boundaries of New Zealand as proclaimed in 1847:—

 Square Miles.
Three Kings Islands3
Auckland Islands234
Campbell Island44
Antipodes Islands24
Bounty Islands
Snares Islands1
Solander Island

None of the outlying islands is regularly inhabited.

c) 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 latter 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 colony 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 of 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. This region was named the Ross Dependency and placed under the administration of the Governor-General of New Zealand. 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.



By reason of its elongated shape, New Zealand possesses a very lengthy 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-westerlynorth-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 they have—with the exception of Queen Charlotte Sound—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, 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 attains its 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) mention is made of the effect of mountains on climatic conditions.

At, 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 elevated open country 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 somewhat 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.


Of the numerous New Zealand rivers few 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 eminently suitable for this purpose. 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 country's 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
South Island.
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— 
Flowing 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, through the following of the numerous streams to their sources, it also led to the rapid exploration of large tracts of remote country. 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 fresh-water fish, notably trout, many of them now provide exceptionally fine fishing.


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 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 R. 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.       
    South Island.       
Te Anau3361321,32012,660694906
Waihola1⅛3 1/32,200..(Tidal)52


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 gréywackes 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, is 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. 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.

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.

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 this age. The older beds contain the extensive coal-measures of the North Auckland, Waikato, Charleston, Nightcaps, and other coalfields.

Miocene strata cover large areas in both islands, and also outcrop in the Mokau, 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, and the lacustrine quartz conglomerates of Otago, probably of Pliocene age, have yielded much detrital gold.

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 low-lands generally were formed or profoundly modified during this period, and the soils that cover them were 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 the Palæozoic and Mesozoic strata in many places, and some of the formations show evidence of contemporaneous volcanic action. Of the plutonic rocks granite is much the most 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 for 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 Transactions 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 large 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, and 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 none will 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, 1890.

New Zealand Government Gazette, Wellington, Vol. 2, No. 14, 17th October, 1855, p. 116. 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. Chapman 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. 16, No. 5, March, 1935. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 95.

** R. McNab: “Murihiku and the Southern Islands” (1907). R. Taylor: “Te Ika a Maui,” 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 1938 inclusive, were as follows:—

Year.Number of Earthquakes reported felt.Maximum Intensity of Heaviest Shock, R.-F. Scale.Year.Number of Earthquakes reported felt.Maximum Intensity of Heaviest Shock, R.-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 1848-1938 the number of deaths recorded in New Zealand as due 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 ten 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.

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 120 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.

*R. C. Hayes: “Earthquake Frequency in New Zealand,” N.Z. Jour. Sci. & Tech., Vol. 16, No. 5, 1935. Dominion Observatory Bulletin 104.

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, Papeete, 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.


Seismic activity in New Zealand in 1938 was notable chiefly for a series of rather severe earthquakes towards the close of the year. Although the number of shocks felt was less than in 1937, the maximum intensity reported (R.-F. 8) was the highest since 1934. The activity in 1938 may be summarized as follows:—

  1. Occasional small shocks felt at Whakatane. These may be due to volcanological activity on or near White Island; but no data are available from the island to confirm this.

  2. Periodic activity in Hawke's Bay region, with four prominent shocks during the year, two of which reached minor destructive intensity. The first shock occurred on 18th January, and had an epicentre not far from that of the Pahiatua earthquake of 1934. The second shock occurred on 14th June, and originated near the point where the most recent work has placed the origin of the Napier earthquake of 1931. It indicates that the block which moved in 1931 is still undergoing seismic strain. The shocks of 15th and 30th December originated close to the Mangatoro fault, along which traces of comparatively recent activity have been reported by the Geological Survey. These two shocks reached intensity R.-F 8 in the epicentral region.

  3. A continuation of moderate activity in the Wanganui region, with a marked disturbance centreing round 23rd November. Particulars of this disturbance are given below in the list of the most important earthquakes in 1938. The active zone centred near Wanganui has extended as far north as Whangamomona and Ohakune, and south into the South Taranaki Bight. It is possible that the shocks in this region are due to magmatic movements.

  4. A continuation of mild activity in north-west Nelson. About forty shocks were reported during the year, but none exceeded R.-F. 6, and most of them were local.

  5. Two earthquakes, on 31st October and 1st November, are noteworthy on account of their focal depth, which was of the order of 200 kilometres. As is usual in deep-focus shocks, some interesting anomalies in surface intensity were recorded. The epicentres of both shocks were to the north-east of Taupo, and, although the first and stronger one was felt generally in the eastern districts of the North Island and on both sides of Cook Strait, it was not reported felt at several places comparatively close to the epicentre, such as Taupo, Rotorua, and Tauranga. The second shock was reported felt only at Waipawa and Paraparaumu.

  6. After a long period of comparative quiet, the south-west portion of the South Island was shaken by a powerful disturbance on 17th December, the maximum intensity reported being R.-F. 6-7 at Queenstown. The origin of this shock was deeper than normal, and an intensity of R.-F. 6 was experienced in most parts of western Otago and Southland. It was followed by numerous aftershocks during the latter half of December, some activity continuing well into the following year. One hundred and seventy-five shocks were recorded on the Jaggar seismograph at Monowai up to the end of December, 1938.

The following list gives some particulars of the most important New Zealand earthquakes in 1938:—

Date.Time (N.Z.M.T.)Approximate Epicentre.Maximum Intensity (R.-F.).Remarks.
1938.h. m.oo  
Jan. 1814 1440.8 S.175.95 E.7+Felt extensively in southern half of North Island, with maximum in Wairarapa; also felt in Nelson and Marlborough.
Feb. 2405 5940.3 S.174.4 E.5Felt in western districts of North Island south from New Plymouth, with maximum at Wanganui.
June 1413 5639.4 S.176.6 E.7Felt extensively in southern part of North Island, with maximum in Hawke's Bay.
Aug. 605 0137.0 S.177.5 E.4-5Felt in eastern and central parts of North Island, and about Cook Strait. Focal depth greater than normal.
Sept. 1306 0040.3 S.175.6 E.5-6Felt in southern parts of North Island, with maximum at Palmerston North.
Oct. 2603 1040.9 S.172.3 E.6Felt in north-west portion of South Island; also slightly at New Plymouth.
Oct. 3100 1638.5 S.176.5 E.5Felt extensively in North Island from Bay of Plenty southwards (chiefly in eastern districts), with maximum in Hawke's Bay. Also felt in northern part of South Island. Focal depth, 150-200 km.
Nov. 2312 5240.1 S.175.2 E.6+Felt in western areas of North Island, south from Awakino and slightly at Collingwood. Maximum in South Taranaki and about Wanganui. There were several aftershocks over a period of two days.
Dec. 1520 4140.3 S.176.4 E.8Felt over whole of North Island, except Auckland Peninsula, with maximum in southern Hawke's Bay. Also felt at isolated points in South Island as far south as Greymouth and Banks Peninsula, and at Chatham Islands.
Dec. 1704 5145.0 S.167.0 E.6-7Felt extensively in South Island as far north as Westport and Christchurch, with maximum in region of Milford Sound. Intensity 6, widely distributed in Otago and Southland. Deeper than normal.
Dec. 3013 5140.3 S.176.4 E.8Felt extensively in North Island, with maximum in southern Hawke's Bay and northern Wairarapa. Also felt at isolated points in northern part of South Island.

A total of 132 shocks was reported felt during 1938, 80 of which were felt in some part of the North Island and 60 in some part of the South Island. Eight shocks were felt in both Islands. The maximum intensity was R.-F. 8, and this occurred in parts of southern Hawke's Bay and northern Wairarapa on 15th and 30th December.

The following is a monthly summary of earthquakes reported felt during 1938:—

Month.Number of Earthquakes reported felt.Maximum Intensity (R.-F.).Locality of Maximum.
North Island.South Island.Both Islands.Whole of New Zealand.
February34 75-6Wanganui, Queenstown.
March64 106Kahurangi Point.
April52 74Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Upper Takaka.
May38 115Taranaki, Upper Takaka.
June105 157Hawke's Bay.
July24155Upper Takaka.
September73 105-6Palmerston North.
October932106Kahurangi Point.
December6192238Southern Hawke's Bay and northern Wairarapa.


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


The New Zealand Meteorological Office is situated at Wellington. Aviation-service stations are established also at Auckland and Christchurch (Wigram Aerodrome). General weather forecasts based on observations at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. are issued at noon and 5 p.m. respectively. District forecasts are telegraphed at midday to certain of the principal seaports, where they are displayed at the post-offices, and are provided, also, to the leading newspapers. The evening forecast is published by the newspapers on the following morning. Weather reports intended primarily for aviators are transmitted from Station 2YA of the National Broadcasting Service at 6.50 a.m., 10 a.m., and 1 p.m. With the 1 p.m. issue is given the noon forecast for the Dominion and the Wellington District forecast. District forecasts are broadcast at 1 p.m. also from Stations 1YA, 3YA, and 4YA. In the late afternoon a special Dominion forecast for farmers is issued from each of the main centres. In the evening the Dominion forecast is broadcast once or twice from the four main centres, followed by district forecasts. The first issue from 2YA during the news session, which commences at 7 p.m., gives, in addition, weather reports from a series of observation stations distributed over the Dominion and the surrounding area.

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 interior 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 appeared 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 régime 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.

Table 1. Monthly Rainfall, in Inches. (Average of period of years.)

Cape Maria van Diemen1.712.882.033.864.834.623.993.732.842.561.611.6536.31
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 Masterton3.142.963.583.675.454.985.594.783.714.303.563.0148.79
Marshlands, Blenheim2.
Peel Forest4.844.054.383.542.512.753.422.573.773.854.014.8544.54

A rainfall régime 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 data 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 régime of annual rainfall experienced had an important influence in determining the nature of the primitive vegetation in the various districts.

Table 2. Days with Rain. (Average of period of years.)

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.

Table 3. Mean Temperature reduced to Sea-level. (Average of period of years.)

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 4. Auckland (Albert Park, 160 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

Mean daily maximum72.672.970.966.962.158.657.057.860.
Means highest maximum78.678.676.472.267.364.062.562.865.468.672.075.779.7
Absolute highest max.
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..........

Table 5. Taihape (2,157 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

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.
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......
Days of ground frost0.

Table 6. Wellington (Altitudes various). (Average of period of years.)

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........
Days of ground frost0.

Table 7. Hokitika (12 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

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.79.082.484.574.571.563.565.067.167.670.574.179.084.5
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......
Days of ground frost0.

Table 8. Christchurch (22 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

Mean daily 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 lowest 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....
Days of ground frost0.

Table 9. Dunedin (240 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

Mean daily maximum66.565.963.158.953.349.347.950.355.159.161.664.558.0
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........
Days of ground frost..

Table 10. Gore (245 ft.). (Average of period of years.)

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 preceding 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 fell 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.

Table 11. Bright Sunshine (Hours).

Station.Number of Years.Jan.Feb.Mar.April.May.June.July.Aug.Sept.Oct.Nov.Dec.Year.
New Plymouth21-23254.9216.5220.0165.3158.7131.1139.7168.2170.6177.7210.4239.62,252.7
Palmerston N.11205.1178.2167.8139.2130.3105.5106.8135.3132.1153.7178.4202.91,835.3
Hanmer Sp'ngs26-29208.9188.9188.3153.2127.0103.7106.3143.4164.3181.5199.8207.31,972.6
The Hermitage8-9170.0157.2163.7115.,589.1
Lake Tekapo12-14269.4227.8234.6176.7160.6124.2138.5165.1193.8226.7240.9259.52,417.8


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 more often 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, though occasionally severe hailstorms are experienced in New Zealand, with stones reaching a diameter of from ½ in. upwards. The latter are usually associated with thunderstorms, and are probably a 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.—A very warm and humid month. Sunshine more than average. Though the rain was above average in most districts and very heavy in some areas, there were comparatively few wet days, and in the middle of the month there was almost a fortnight of brilliantly fine weather with little wind. Some very high temperatures were recorded. There was an abundance of pasture. Stock were in good condition, though lambs remained generally on the light side. The milk-yield was well maintained. The condition of the wheat crop improved, and most other crops were doing well. Between the 22nd and the 25th a cyclonic storm approaching from the west across the Cook Strait area was responsible for severe southerly gales which did some damage. General rain accompanied the storm and was heavy everywhere except in the southern part of the South Island. Severe flooding occurred in southern Hawke's Bay, where the falls in the low levels were unprecedented. A number of places recorded over 9 in. of rain in twenty-four hours.

February.—As regards both temperature and humidity, conditions resembled those of the Tropics. The rainfall also, especially in the North Island, was frequently tropical in its intensity and its erratic distribution. Considerable damage was done to roads in the North Island by heavy rain. Slips were numerous. Rainfall was much above average from Nelson and Marlborough northwards, two to three times the normal being experienced over large areas. Many very heavy falls in a single day were recorded. Dry weather persisted in most of Otago and Southland. In spite of the very humid conditions and lack of sunshine the month was the hottest February experienced in New Zealand, the mean temperature being about 5½° F. above normal. Stone-fruit suffered through the high humidity prevailing. There was abundant growth of pasture, and stock were doing well. Conditions were congenial for insects and fungous pests. A cyclone in the north caused easterly gales in the Auckland Province on the 4th. Heavy rain fell from Nelson and Marlborough northwards. The gale caused damage to fruit crops in northern districts. On several occasions, particularly from the 15th to the 19th, sudden heavy rains occurred at many places in the North Island. There was much flooding, particularly between Hawke's Bay and East Cape. The damage caused was very severe, and at a workmen's camp in the Wairoa district grave loss of life occurred.

March.—Again very warm, the mean temperature being, with one possible exception, the highest experienced for a March month since records commenced in New Zealand. Rainfall in general was much below average, but owing to the previous heavy falls, the continued high humidity, and the absence of wind the shortage was not felt. Drought continued in parts of Otago and Southland. Sunshine was above average in most places. Pasture was still abundant and stock and crops doing very well, except that lambs again failed to fatten satisfactorily. Harvesting and farm-work were carried out under good conditions. There was extremely little storm activity, high pressure and anticyclonic weather predominating.

April.—Extremely dull, wet, and warm, with very little wind. Much flooding was experienced, and that of the 24th to 25th in Hawke's Bay was a major disaster for that province. There were grave losses of stock, and damage to roads, bridges, and property. Rich pasture lands, particularly in the Esk Valley, were covered by deep deposits of silt. All previous April records for warmth were again exceeded. In the North Island and western districts of the South, mean temperatures exceeded the normal for April by 6° F. to 8° F. Elsewhere the departures averaged about 3° F. Sunshine was much below average. Dry conditions still prevailed in the far south. There was prolific growth of pasture, but it was very soft. Though stock generally were in good condition, the reverse was the case in much of the South Island. Lambs failed to fatten well. The completion of harvesting was delayed and farm-work interfered with. The conditions prevailing were responsible for serious outbreaks of facial eczema in sheep and cattle, especially in the Waikato and east coast districts of the North Island. As regards storm systems, the month was remarkable for the absence of westerly depressions. Anticyclones travelled in unusually high latitudes. Several cyclones moving from the north affected the Dominion and caused heavy rain. One of these, occurring just before Easter, was responsible for considerable flooding and the disorganization of traffic in the South Island. Another storm, moving down the east coast, gave rise to the phenomenal rains and floods of the 25th (Anzac Day). The total rain produced by the storm amounted in places to over 40 in.

May.—Another very warm month, but extremely dry. There was very little wind and though frosts were fairly frequent no day was very cold. On not more than two occasions previously had the mean temperature in May been so high. There was little snow on the mountains. Pasture was still abundant and had hardened up considerably, especially in the South Island. There were further outbreaks of facial eczema in the North Island, otherwise stock were doing well. A cyclonic storm in the north caused further flooding in the Auckland and Hawke's Bay Provinces on the 4th and 5th. Anticyclonic conditions prevailed, however, during most of the month, and in the South Island particularly, conditions were very quiet.

June.—Though the temperature was about the average, there was a big fall from the previous month, and all forms of life appeared to feel the change rather severely. Rainfall was about normal. A considerable amount of snow fell on the ranges. Sunshine was slightly below average. Abundance of feed was still available for stock, which, with the exception of young sheep, were in good condition. The ground was soft, making farm-work difficult. A number of low-pressure centres formed off the west coast during the month, causing stormy weather.

July.—Dull, wet, and cold. It was the frequency of the rain and the lack of sunshine as much as the amount of precipitation that kept things damp. In Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, it was the coldest July on record. Frosts were frequent and sometimes severe. The soil was saturated and farm-work held up. Stock were reported to be in fair to good condition. A deep depression crossed the Auckland Province between the 10th and 14th. On the 13th there was a very boisterous and widespread south-easterly gale which caused minor damage in many places. Snow fell on the Canterbury Plains and in Central Otago. A series of somewhat similar depressions followed. Flooding occurred in the Auckland and Hawke's Bay provincial districts on three occasions during the month and a considerable amount of snow fell.

August.—After the first ten days there was a spell of mild and sunny weather which brightened the outlook generally. At the end of the month dull and wet weather again set in. Rain was much above average over the northern half of the North Island and in western districts of the South. Elsewhere it was below, and from Canterbury southwards a very dry month was experienced. Mean temperatures were slightly above average everywhere. The dry areas of the South Island had more sunshine than usual, but elsewhere conditions were irregular. The state of stock and pastures varied considerably from district to district, but, on the whole, was less favourable than usual. Vegetation was showing signs of growth, but had not entirely recovered from the cold and wet weather of the preceding months, and the season was somewhat backward. At the beginning of the month two depressions of the type which had been so frequent earlier in the year crossed the North Island. These caused heavy rain over the North Island with snow on the high levels. There was some flooding again in Auckland and Hawke's Bay. Thereafter westerly weather prevailed. On the 10th a northerly gale in the central provinces caused much damage to telegraph and power lines, fences, &c.

September.—Dull, cold, and wet weather prevailed again during the first few days, but from the 10th onward, and especially after the 18th, there was a marked improvement. Temperatures became mild, the atmosphere was dry, and there was little rain in most districts. The total rain was, on the whole, below the average. Mean temperatures for the month were everywhere slightly above normal, and though there were several snowfalls, there was no severe cold. Sunshine was, on the whole, somewhat below average. For the farmer the month was generally a good one. The soil, which had in many places been water-logged, dried out. Chiefly due to difficulties earlier in the year, the percentage of lambs was considerably below that of the preceding two years. Southland and parts of Otago continued to experience dry weather. On the 2nd to the 3rd a very boisterous southerly gale blew in Cook Strait and on the east coast of the South Island. Unsettled and rather stormy conditions occurred at intervals until the 18th, but thereafter anticyclonic conditions prevailed and disturbances were of only slight intensity.

October.—Until about the 20th the weather was dry with a prevalence of strong westerly winds. Thereafter it was humid, and good rains fell, especially in the South Island. At the end of the month, however, there was still a considerable shortage of moisture in most districts, and the growth of pasture was distinctly backward. There were good rains in Canterbury and Otago which were very opportune, but elsewhere totals were below average. Mean temperatures were almost everywhere above normal and there were few frosts. Sunshine was generally much above average. Conditions were very favourable for stock, especially lambs, but the milk-yield was below normal. Apart from pastures, vegetation flourished, and the spring, though late, was a very active one. A depression passing between the 9th and 11th, was responsible for severe north-westerly gales, especially in Wellington and Canterbury. On the 11th there was snow on the hills of Banks Peninsula; otherwise there were no storms worthy of special note.

November.—November completed one of the best springs of recent years. Temperatures were warm, and there was enough rain to ensure vigorous growth of vegetation. The distribution of rainfall was rather irregular, but most districts had more than the average. Except on the Canterbury Plains, mean temperatures were considerably above normal and no extremes of heat or cold were experienced. Sunshine was below average except in the far south. In a few places growth was still rather backward owing to drying winds or previous lack of rainfall, but generally the country was looking particularly well and pasture was abundant. Numbers of native trees produced a remarkable amount of blossom. This was especially noticeable with the cabbage-tree and the beech. The beech forests have seldom displayed such a warmth and variety of colour. Stock were thriving, although some trouble was experienced with lambs, chiefly owing to parasites. The milk-yield was well up to standard. On the 8th and 9th there were some severe local downpours in Central Otago. One at Coal Creek, near Roxburgh, did serious damage to a number of orchards. In other cases large areas of pasture were destroyed. On the 21st there were boisterous south-westerly gales, and a heavy fall of snow occurred on the high levels in Otago and Southland.

December.—A most unseasonable month; cold and wet, with persistent strong winds in many places. Rainfall was much above average. The southern half of the South Island and areas in the centre of the North had the wettest December on record. Night temperatures were very low and there were numbers of frosts. Snow fell relatively frequently on the ranges. Sunshine was below average. Thunderstorms were unusually numerous. On two occasions remarkably persistent thunderstorms, lasting for hours and accompanied by continuous rain, occurred in the central provinces, especially on the west coast. A number of cloudbursts were again experienced in the South Island. The exceptionally frequent rains interfered with haymaking, while shearing and cultivation operations were much delayed, especially in the higher country. The growth of pasture was well maintained. Stock were in good condition, but lambs not fattening well. The cold and damp retarded the progress of crops and garden plants. Blights were rather prevalent. The storms experienced were mainly of the westerly type. Severe north-westerly or northerly gales occurred on the 8th and the 10th.

Year.—The outstanding feature of the year was the almost tropical conditions of warmth and humidity which prevailed from January to April inclusive. May, also, was very warm, but in contrast with the preceding months it was very dry. The only previous period experienced in New Zealand, since records began, comparable in warmth with the summer of 1937-38 and the autumn of 1938 was the summer of 1934-35. On the latter occasion the warm spell began earlier and was of shorter duration. Furthermore, drought prevailed for a large part of the time. From the end of the first week in June until the beginning of August in 1938 cold, wintry weather prevailed. In the southern part of the South Island the cold was severe, and eucalyptus-trees, for example, suffered much damage from frost. Elsewhere, though the departures from normal were not large, and in many cases were positive, coming after the continued warmth of the earlier months, the fall of temperature was felt very much. Growth of vegetation ceased almost entirely. From August until November mild weather predominated, and the spring, though rather belated, was an excellent one, especially in the South Island. There was abundance of pasture, and the flowering of trees and plants was unusually prolific. December was cold, wet, and windy.

The year was a very wet one. This was particularly the case from Hawke's Bay to East Cape, along the Auckland Coast from the Bay of Islands to the Bay of Plenty, and in northern Westland and south-west Nelson. The only considerable areas with less than average were in southern Westland and Southland. A protracted period of dry weather had set in over Southland in 1937, and it was not until October, 1938, that it was definitely ended.

The warmth and humidity of the first part of the year was responsible for a rank growth of pasture. With these conditions was associated the serious outbreak of facial eczema which occurred in the autumn. The milk-yield was well maintained until the incursion of the facial-eczema epidemic, when there was a sharp fall. In the spring there was a recovery. Lambs seldom fattened well. The percentage of lambs was much below that of the preceding two years. There have been no very serious losses of stock in recent winters through excessive snowfalls or combined cold and wet weather.

The wheat crop of the 1937-38 season gave a moderate yield, and that of the following season was doing fairly well at the end of the year. Owing to the wet weather, however, a smaller area had been sown. The 1938 apple crop was a very good one, but stone-fruit suffered from the effects of the damp weather. Most other small crops did well, though some trouble was experienced from fungous diseases, especially with potatoes and tomatoes.

The year was remarkable for the frequency of floods in the Auckland and especially the Hawke's Bay provincial districts. In the latter they were very severe and the damage was of disastrous proportions.


(The observations were taken at 9 hrs., N.Z. standard time.)

Station.Temperatures in Shade.Hours of Bright Sunshine.Rainfall.
Mean Daily Maximum.Mean Daily Minimum.Approx. Mean Temperature.Extremes for 1938.Absolute Maximum.Absolute Minimum.Total Fall.Number of Wet Days.
Maximum and Month.Minimum and Month.
 ° F.° F.° F.° F.° F.° F.° F...Inches...
Te Paki, Te Hapua67.653.260.480.0 Feb.27.0 July....2,140.656.98173
Waipoua State Forest67.250.258.786.0 Jan.30.0 July Aug.....1,945.958.31182
Riverhead66.348.057.184.5 Jan.24.0 July......71.24196
Auckland66.855.461.184.2 Jan.37.0 July86.533.22,276.463.56177
Waihi65.749.657.785.0 Jan.26.0 June July89.021.01,807.1118.24195
Te Aroha68.751.159.990.0 Jan.28.8 July95.021.0..87.39168
Tauranga67.150.358.784.2 Feb.32.0 June July87.022.52,229.671.20156
Hamilton East66.947.857.489.6 Feb.24.6 Aug.94.422.02,091.550.25165
Rotoehu Plantation66.847.357.087.5 Jan.21.3 July......80.61149
Rotorua67.848.358.089.8 Jan.25.5 July98.021.01,986.475.03162
Whakarewarewa66.146.856.487.8 Jan.23.8 July91.022.0..74.91155
Gisborne67.750.058.991.3 Jan.31.5 July....2,154.856.35149
Onepoto, Lake Waikaremoana59. Feb.31.5 July......105.48192
New Plymouth65. April32.6 Aug.89.027.02,045.576.86185
Chateau Tongariro54.439.647.078.8 Jan.10.1 July......92.91180
Karioi60.041.550.784.3 Jan.18.0 July84.311.5..57.98184
Napier66.151.158.688.5 Feb.29.7 July94.027.52,211.450.52139
Hastings68.647.958.292.0 Jan.25.0 July92.420.0..59.59139
Taihape59.945.652.883.9 Jan.27.1 July87.820.4..43.23173
Wanganui65.050.857.988.0 April29.8 Aug.....2,126.340.88168
Tangimoana64.949.657.288.0 April30.5 June88.020.5..39.55170
Palmerston North65.849.457.691.0 Jan.25.0 July91.023.0..40.69164
Massey College, Palmerston North64.149.857.086.0 Jan.28.0 July87.021.21,701.441.13176
Pahiatua63.347.855.691.0 Jan.23.6 July91.021.0..55.72189
Kapiti Island62.652.557.580.0 Mar.37.0 July Aug.......49.04160
Masterton65.945.655.894.5 Jan.24.4 July95.420.02,094.246.19186
Wellington61.349.855.581.1 April33.2 Aug.88.028.61,963.858.20171
Nelson64.548.156.381.1 Feb.27.7 Aug.92.025.02,344.449.08132
Appleby, Nelson64.547.756.182.9 April27.7 Aug.84.823.0..46.23128
Blenheim66. Jan.23.2 July93.523.22,241.226.62130
Golden Downs62.341.451.986.8 Jan.17.6 Aug.85.517.2..60.16129
Waihopai64.143.553.892.9 Jan.23.4 July92.923.0..39.22141
Westport61.350.255.882.7 April33.5 Aug.....1,919.198.24193
Hanmer Springs62. Jan.9.9 Aug.97.08.21,757.752.25165
Hokitika61.746.954.380.5 Feb.25.5 Aug.84.525.51,815.2128.69196
Balmoral Plantation62.742.052.393.2 Jan.17.0 June July Aug.93.212.0..33.71131
Lake Coleridge61.841.951.988.1 Jan.17.3 July93.012.0..42.54145
Christchurch60.845.553.187.9 Feb.25.3 July95.721.31,875.833.49143
Wigram Aerodrome61.544.453.089.5 Feb.23.7 July......31.20140
Rudstone, Methven59.844.051.985.0 Jan.21.0 July89.021.02,008.655.34161
Lincoln62.244.653.490.3 Feb.24.0 July100.220.21,938.035.29140
Onawe, Duvauchelle Bay62.448.055.290.5 Feb.30.1 July......45.05144
Ashburton61. Feb.17.8 July94.017.8..45.15144
Jackson's Bay60.348.154.277.9 Feb.31.9 Aug.......175.36205
Lake Tekapo57.337.947.686.5 Jan.7.2 Aug.90.04.02,240.830.6196
Fairlie60.738.849.689.0 Jan.2.0 July93.02.01,838.239.55125
Timaru61.344.552.984.8 Feb.20.4 July99.020.41,814.040.10130
Waimate61.244.452.885.7 Feb.24.0 July94.022.51,630.141.50143
Queenstown60.542.051.289.2 Jan.20.0 July90.220.02,109.029.32133
Ophir61.039.450.290.8 Jan.7.0 July94.01.0..17.6483
Waipiata60.439.650.088.6 Feb.13.4 July96.05.62,162.320.74121
Alexandra62.241.852.090.2 Jan.17.0 July91.512.22,343.215.31108
Manorburn Dam55.135.645.382.2 Feb.5.5 July93.00.5..19.28118
Dunedin60.345.252.884.0 Jan. Feb.27.9 July94.023.01,869.439.62179
Invercargill59.843.051.486.0 Feb.24.0 July90.019.01,738.043.58205

For 1938 the mean pressure, at 09.00 hours New Zealand standard time, in inches reduced to sea-level and standard gravity, was: Auckland, 30.014; Rotorua, 30.037; Wellington, 29.985; Nelson, 29.986; Hokitika, 29.978; Christchurch, 29.950; Dunedin, 29.930.


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 published list, 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 obtusata 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 Plcurophyllum 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 Ericaceae, 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 excorticata, 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 of 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 Melrosideros 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. Datlii. 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 Bulbophyllum 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 Cerex in New Zealand, some, such as C. 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 Libocedrus, 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. ferrugineus), 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 sporeproducing 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 Polypodiacaea, 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 Tmesipter is 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 xanthocarpa, 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 Westland 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 better-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 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 Festuca 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 regions, 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 (Canis 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 Christchurch. 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 sealing 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. The only station now in active commercial, operation is that at Tory Channel, Queen Charlotte Sound, where during the three months of winter, numbers of hump-back whales are taken. Southern right whales, the killing of which is now forbidden, were at one time occasionally taken both at Tory Channel and at Whangamumu, Bay of Islands.

By its strange behaviour a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) became famous under the title of “Pelorus Jack.” It made a practice, for over twenty years, 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 under the Sea-fisheries Act. 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.

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,

* Better known as Notornis Mantelli.

and long; and the wry-billed 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 (Limosa 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 longtailed 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 some 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's 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 waters.

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 division of the phylum Arthropoda, and has been placed in a special class, Prototracheata 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 several 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 eastern Pacific. According to their mythology their Pacific home was the island of Hawaiki—the position of which is now uncertain—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, he gave a description of the country he had discovered and the route he had followed. During the next three or four centuries small desultory migrations were made, culminating in a major movement about the fourteenth century. This last migration appears to have commenced as a result of strife in the homeland, and was a well-organized colonization in which domestic animals and cultivated vegetables were brought in the large, double canoes. From comparisons of the tribal legends it has been possible to obtain a definite knowledge of the landing and 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, the Morioris gradually disappeared, and they finally became extinct by the death of their last member in 1933. Of their history nothing definite 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, 1769, 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 Raven 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 began, 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 protégés, 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 Bay 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, and the resultant slaughter had lead to exhaustion. Following representations from Maori chiefs, for protection from the prevailing turmoil, the New South Wales Government appointed, in 1832, Mr. James Busby as British Resident at the Bay of Islands. Owing to the failure to supply him with any means of exerting authority, his appointment was ineffective. Finally the disorder, and the friction between the two races, 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 Bay of Islands, empowered to proclaim, with the consent of the Natives, 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, but separate proclamations were made in the following month for Stewart Island and the South Island by Major T. Bunbury and Captain J. Nias on 5th June and 17th June respectively. 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 seat 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 won the confidence of 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 provision was made for the constitution of a General Assembly consisting 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 of 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 self-sufficient agriculturally, 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. To provide for local administration after this abolition, the Counties Act and the Municipal Corporations Act were passed in 1876. (See Section XXVI—Local Government—for more detailed treatment). Of great social significance was the passing in 1877 of the Education Act, making education free, compulsory, and secular, while the laying during that decade of the first cable between Australia and New Zealand was a major advance in communications. 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 1893, 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 1911, some five 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. Three years after the advent of the Reform party the Great War of 1914-18 broke out, leading to the formation of a Coalition Government and an Imperial commandeer of exports. War activities were marked by heavy casualty lists, in proportion to the population, and by enhanced cordiality in Imperial relations. One noteworthy outcome of the war commandeer was the precedent given for 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 a 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 of a temporary nature 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 purpose of the statute was to confer complete autonomy upon the various Dominions, but New Zealand, in common with Australia and Newfoundland, preferred to leave matters as they stood, and at their request it was provided that the operative parts of the statute should not apply to these Dominions until adopted by them. Up to the present time (October, 1939) 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 appearing in Appendix C of this volume.


In order to mark “the hundredth anniversary of organized settlement and government in New Zealand” it is proposed during 1940 to conduct a series of national and local celebrations. Since March, 1936, when at the Government's request Mayors of former provincial capitals, together with Cabinet Ministers, held a preliminary meeting and set up a National Centennial Committee, a complete organization has been built up to control, direct, and co-ordinate all Centennial arrangements.

The chief feature of this organization is a comprehensive system of committees and sub-committees which, with one exception, are under the direct or delegated control of the National Centennial Council (as the National Centennial Committee became under the New Zealand Centennial Act, 1938). For its actions the Council is answerable to the Minister of Internal Affairs, who is also Chairman of the Council. Within the system of committees two different types can be distinguished—(1) those committees and sub-committees arranged on a geographical basis and charged, with the responsibility of planning memorials and celebrations; and (2) those whose functions are of a specialized nature, such as the Historical and Press Committees.

The basis of division in the former instance is the provincial district, and for each of the eleven districts (there being two extra districts created for Centennial purposes) there is a Provincial Centennial Committee. Primarily responsible for preparing the provincial celebrations and memorials, the provincial committees have also to co-ordinate and supervise the comparable activities of the several zone and local committees throughout the provincial district. Before making final decisions and arrangements, the provincial committees must obtain the approval of the National Centennial Council; and a similar relationship exists between zone committees and provincial committees, and between local committees and zone committees. Personnel for these committees is obtained by the local or sub-zone committees drawing on local bodies and other permanent institutions for members; and by progressive representation, together with additional members, the succeeding committees are built up. For the National Centennial Council it is required by statute that certain office-holders be members.

In the case of the national committees dealing with particular aspects of the Centennial—such as the Historical, Press, and Transport Committees—the personnel is obtained by drawing on the services of specialists. Of these committees the National Historical Committee is the most important, for it is responsible not only for the publication of the official Centennial literature, but also for the confirmation of the relevant historical dates. To obtain the necessary information, considerable research has been undertaken by experts and by voluntary sub-committees throughout the country, and appeals have been made both abroad and in New Zealand for early manuscripts and papers. As a means of marking the Centennial, the projected official publications will rank in importance with the national memorials and celebrations. These publications will comprise two series of surveys, one of twelve parts covering New Zealand's historical development written in a popular manner by authorities, and a parallel pictorial series of thirty parts; an exhaustive and well-produced historical atlas treating the development from a cartographical and diagrammatic viewpoint; and a dictionary of biography covering the lives of prominent people who lived during that era. The issuing of Centennial coins and stamps, and the holding of literary competitions, were further celebratory events receiving the recommendations of the National Historical Committee.

To provide a secretariat for the National Centennial Council and the national committees, especially the Historical Committee, a special branch of the Department of Internal Affairs has been established, and to it are attached the editorial staff for publications, the research staff, and other specialists.

Also of importance as a Centennial event is the holding of an exhibition in Wellington between November, 1939, and April, 1940. This project, which is being promoted by a public company, is receiving material assistance from the Government, the Centennial Act authorizing the Government to lend the company £25,000 free of interest. The Act also permits local authorities to subscribe for shares. In the general scheme of portraying, at the exhibition, the economic resources and development of the Dominion, governmental support is being given by the displays of numerous Departments. Extensive displays are also being undertaken by other Empire countries, while the exhibition will provide the recognized facilities for education and amusement.

As may be inferred from previous statements, the New Zealand Centennial Act, 1938, gives legal sanction to the numerous governmental activities in connection with the Centennial, the Minister of Internal Affairs being charged with the responsibility of its administration. By it, the appointment and activities of the National Centennial Council and the various committees are legalized, and a definition given of their general functions. Particular attention is paid to the functions of the National Historical Committee, which, unlike the other national committees, is answerable not to the Council but to the Minister direct. Authority is given for the expenditure of funds by local authorities and other public bodies on Centennial memorials and celebrations, and for the Government to subsidize, within defined limits, funds raised for approved memorials and celebrations at the rate of £1 for every £3. The granting of special franchises for the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition has been provided for.

A governmental subsidy of £150,000 for memorials and celebrations is to be divided among the provincial committees for detailed allocation. These subsidies are in respect of those memorials and celebrations that have received the approval of the Minister of Internal Affairs through the National Centennial Council. In allocating the amount available for subsidies, each memorial and celebration fund is set a limit in respect of which a subsidy is available, and no subsidy is payable on sums raised in excess of this limit. Furthermore, no subsidy is available where the financing of a Centennial project is by loan.



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 11th May, 1917, published in the New Zealand Gazette of 24th April, 1919 (p. 1213). 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. Ministerial salaries were again reduced in 1931 by 10 per cent. and in 1932 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.

In providing for the appointment of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, by the Civil List Amendment Act, 1936, an innovation was made in executive control in New Zealand; but, up to the present (October, 1939) only one appointment has been made in this connection. For service rendered as Parliamentary Under-Secretary a salary of £600 is provided. 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 (October, 1939) is 35.

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. If this Act becomes operative women will become eligible for membership of the Legislative Council, a privilege which they do not at present enjoy.

For males the qualifications for membership of the Legislative Council are the same as for the House of Representatives (see post), 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 honorarium was raised to £267 19s., in 1935 to £288 ls., and from 1st July, 1936, to £315 (the level ruling between 1922 and 1931). The Speaker now receives £720 per annum and free sessional quarters, 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 liable 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. In the allocation of electorates an addition is made to rural populations so that the number of rural electorates, in proportion to their population, is higher than urban electorates. The “country quota,” as this allowance is called, 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, Christchurch, or Dunedin. The “country quota” first appeared in 1881, to the equivalent of an addition of 33 1/3 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 1914-18 War extended to five years by special legislation, and that of the twenty-fourth Parliament (1931-35) to four years under the Electoral Amendment Act, 1934 By the Electoral Amendment Act, 1937, the three-year term was restored.

Under the Electoral Act, 1927, every registered elector of either sex, but no other person, is qualified to be a Parliamentary 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 (see under “Franchise” post); 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. Though women's suffrage has been operative since 1893, women were not eligible as Parliamentary candidates until the passing of the Women's Parliamentary Rights Act, 1919, the provisions of which are now embodied in the Electoral Act, 1927. 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, and 7½ per cent. in 1935. The rate was 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.

  • By the Electoral Amendment Act, 1937, which made provision for a secret ballot in Maori elections, Maori electors were granted the same privileges, in the exercise of their vote, as European electors.

  • 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. Further reference is made to this aspect of franchise in Section XXVI, dealing with Local Government.


A fairly comprehensive idea of the administrative machinery of the Government will be obtained from this Year-Book, by referring to the activities of the various Departments. In particular, some sections of the book, such as those dealing with Education, Railways, Post and Telegraph, and Radio Broadcasting, are confined to descriptions of departmental undertakings, while reference to the capacities of other branches of the Government such as Mining, Agriculture, Forestry, State Advances, Social Security, Pensions, and Public Trust, will be found under appropriate headings. In the section headed “Official” is given a complete list of Government Departments with some information as to the control of Government officers.

A section of this volume also deals with the functions and activities of the various classes of local governing authorities.



New Zealand was proclaimed a British Crown colony in 1840. Official statistical records of the country commenced with the following year, 1841, in the form 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 for 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, was printed by Order of the Legislative Council. Again, “Statistics of Nelson,” covering the period 1843-54, was 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, 1926, 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, to be exercised by 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 and immediately following the 1914-18 war, 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; census of libraries; 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 cold storage; factory production; cinematograph theatres; electric tramways; electric power; fire insurance; accident insurance; finances and loans of local-governing authorities; building-permits; building and constructional operations; afforestation and plantation operations; building societies; port cargo statistics; trading banks; private savings-banks; wholesale, retail, and share prices; private assignments; employment, short time, and overtime in factories; consumption and stocks of coal; hospital patients; and 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 authorities; totalizator investments, &c.; deposits with building and investment societies and trading companies; incomes and income-tax; land holdings and land-tax; land transfers and mortgages; life assurance; 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 the publication by the Registrar-General in 1858 of the volume for the colony as a whole, covering the years 1853, 1854, 1855, and 1856, previously referred to, commenced 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 since been published after each census.

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 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 for 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 periodic articles on newly completed annual matter.

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.
Pocket Compendium of New Zealand StatisticsAnnual.
Monthly Abstract of StatisticsMonthly.
Volumes of Census ResultsNormally quinquennial.
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.

During the years 1927-31 a series of Compendia was issued, but publication of these was suspended in 1932 owing to the dictates of economy. In August of 1938 a Pocket Compendium of New Zealand Statistics was issued, marking the commencement of a new series. The Compendium presents in easily accessible form the more significant statistical data illustrative of social and economic trends in the Dominion. The nature of the publication precludes any detailed exposition of methods of compilation or any interpretation of the statistics, but free use has been made of diagrams in presenting important statistical data.


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 the same extent as in some other countries, notably the United States of America. Reviews and interpretations of official and other statistics are included 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.
 H.-32aReport of the Country Library Service.
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.
 H.-37Report of Air Department.
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.-37Report of Air Department.
 H.-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.
 C.-11Report on Drainage Operations in Rangitaiki 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.-30Report of Primary Products Marketing Department.
 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.-7Report of the State Iron and Steel Department.
 C.-12Report on Kauri-gum Industry.
 H.-34Report of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
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.
 B.-16Report of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
 D.-1Public Works Statement.
 H.-4.Report of Stores Control Board.
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 authoritiesH.-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.-11aReport of Labour Department (Employment Division).
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 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 Superannuation and Health Insurance.
I.-13aReport on Commercial Trusts Amendment Bill by Industries and Commerce Committee, together with Minutes of Evidence.
H.-44aReport on Cook Islands Fruit Industry.
H.-31aReport of Committee of Inquiry into various aspects of Problem of Abortion in New Zealand.
H.-44aReport of Sea Fisheries Investigation Committee.
H.-30aReport of Guaranteed Prices Advisory Committee.
H.-31aReport of Committee of Inquiry into Maternity Services.
I.-6Report of National Health and Superannuation Committee, 1938.
B.-4Report covering the Adjustment of Mortgages and Leases.
H.-33 and 33aVoting at General Election, 1938.
H.-33bVoting at Local Option and National Prohibition Polls, 1938.

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.
Civil AviationCivil Aviation StatisticsQuarterlyAir Department.
Agricultural and pastorla 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.
 Annual ReviewAnnualPyne, Gould, and Guinness, Ltd.
Public financeAbstract of the Revenue and Expenditure of the Public AccountQuarterlySupplement to the New Zealand Gazette.
Prices, &c.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.
 Statistical SummaryMonthlyReserve Bank of New Zealand.
 Quarterly BulletinQuarterlyDepartment of Industries and Commerce.



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, 1,647,278.

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.

New Zealand proper (exclusive of Maoris)1 April, 1939779,095757,1691,536,264
Maoris 45,96842,48288,450
Totals, New Zealand proper 825,063799,6511,624,714
Kermadec Islands 5..5
Cook Islands and NiueCensus, 19368,3677,98316,350
Tokelau Islands1,9395656261,191
Mandated Territory of Western Samoa1,93930,41628,89059,306


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 entitled “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.
December, 185126,707   
February, 1871254,92837,49217.245.11
March, 1874297,65442,72616.765.29
April, 1881487,88975,42418.295.60
March, 1886576,52488,63518.173.41
April, 1891624,47447,9508.321.60
March, 1901770,31269,2119.871.91
April, 1906886,000115,68815.022.79
October, 19161,096,22890,6399.011.57
April, 19211,214,677118,44910.812.31
March, 19361,491,484147,01510.931.05

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

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 1861 onwards, to accord with the present practice. Lack of data prevents adjustment for years prior to 1861. The increase from 1858 to 1861 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 the six “March” years 1931-32 to 1936-37. The years 1937-38 and 1938-39 have both recorded excesses of arrivals over departures.

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

The average annual population increment during the ten years 1919-1928 exceeded 30,000, while for the next ten years the average per annum was a little over 15,000. Apart from the war years 1914-18, 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 the last four years due to both natural increase and migration increase.

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, migration figures.

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

Totals, 1861-1938466,448517,014983,462303,284200,227503,511769,732717,2411,486,973

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, 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 and the 1937 and 1938 figures of 8.21 and 8.22 respectively per 1,000 is sufficiently striking. The erstwhile favourable ratio of natural increase in New Zealand was due partly to its exceptionally low death-rate, which was for very many years the lowest in the world. It is out of the question to expect further considerable falls in the death-rate; in fact, with the less favourable age-constitution of the population a rise must be envisaged. In this respect it is interesting to note that successive increases in the death-rate have been recorded since 1935.

The nominal natural-increase ratio of the past year (8.22 per 1,000 of mean population in 1938) 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.

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. A net reproduction rate of below 1.000 implies that the population is failing to reproduce itself at a rate sufficient to preserve even stationary numbers, apart from the effects of external migration. A time-lag, of course, operates to cause an interval to elapse before numbers actually fall. However, these rates furnish an indication of what is about to occur. For various reasons they are not and cannot be exact measures, but they do offer very close and reliable approximations.

The improvement in the birth-rate for the last three years affords justification for a rather more optimistic view. For 1938 the gross reproduction rate was 1.106 and the net rate 1.025. The degree of improvement is little more than sufficient to maintain, roughly speaking, a stationary population; a definite and marked continuation of this improvement is necessary before the natural-increase ratio is satisfactory for a population in circumstances such as those of New Zealand.

Should the birth-rate of future years reach and maintain higher levels, population growth is assured, but even if this takes place the effects of the low increase ratio of the more immediate past will remain for many years. Two examples will serve as illustrations. The 1936 census showed that (still omitting Maoris) the population as a whole increased since 1926 by 147,000, but there were actually over 22,000 fewer children under 10 years of age in 1936 than there were in 1926. Again, in 1936 there were 134,000 persons aged 20-24 years, of whom the vast bulk were employed in gainful pursuits. But in twenty years' time they will be replaced by the group aged under 5 years in 1936. This latter group numbered only 117,000, and before they reach maturity mortality will have exacted its toll. In short, there will be at least 20,000 fewer persons aged 20-24 years available for gainful pursuits than there are now. The picture should require no further elaboration. Reflection will show that the changing age structure will react on the social economy in very many ways.

In the past the population of New Zealand has been derived almost wholly from the British Isles, whether directly or indirectly. 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 41,000,000); 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.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 1921-38 the gain through external migration provided 11,700 more males than females; and in the same period natural increase was responsible for 12,000 more females than males. The surplus of males at present, exclusive of the Native population, is 21,926.


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.Totals.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.Totals.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, 109,680 persons from overseas arrived in New Zealand during the year ended 31st March, 1939, which, compared with 1937-38, shows an increase of 6,308. During the same period 104,609 persons departed. This figure, compared with the corresponding one for 1937-38, shows an increase of 3,704.

In addition to the above, there were also 13,801 “through” passengers who called at a port of New Zealand en route to their destination, and 8,708 “tourists on cruising liners.”

Migration in 1938-39, for the second time since 1930-31, recorded an excess of arrivals over departures (5,071) as compared with an excess of 2,467 during 1937-38.

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 departures.

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

The monthly figures for 1937-38 and 1938-39 are as follows, the excess of passenger arrivals or of passenger departures, exclusive of through passengers and tourists on cruising liners, for each month being also shown:—

Month.Arrivals.Departures.Excess of Arrivals.Excess of Departures.

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 comes a small increment of population. The average annual excess of crew arrivals over departures in the five years 1934-35 to 1938-39 was 36 and in the preceding five years 777.

In these tables, as has already been noted, “through” passengers (13,801 in 1938-39 and 12,204 in 1937-38) and tourists on cruising liners (8,708 in 1938-39 and 6,654 in 1937-38) have not been included.

Immigrants intending permanent residence1,5791,9152,8074,3416,493
New Zealand residents returning from abroad12,09112,19414,02717,67219,259
Persons on business1,1371,2671,3951,5531,805
Persons visiting the Dominion in connection with entertainments, sports, &c.392552569872730
Others (officials, &c., of other countries)371305566404328
Persons in transit895755908938906
No information available5821507873

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 governmentally assisted immigrants in years preceding 1927 formed more than half of the total. There were 13 assisted immigrants in 1938-39, as against 10 in 1937-38 and 11,239 in 1926-27; while the numbers of those who migrated to New Zealand without State assistance amounted to 6,480, 4,331, and 6,898 for the years 1938-39, 1937-38, and 1926-27 respectively.

The succeeding table gives an analysis of passenger departures:—

New Zealand residents departing permanently3,5924,3313,9723,9973,838
New Zealand residents departing temporarily13,53111,63044,14816,38317,544
Visitors to the Dominion departing10,88412,04613,85415,91416,215
No information available4443495888


The following table gives the age-distribution of immigrants and emigrants for the twelve months ended 31st March, 1939:—

Age, in Years.Permanent Arrivals.Permanent Departures.Excess of Arrivals over Departures.
* Excess of departures over arrivals.
60 or over9612822493145238-14*


Of the 6,493 new immigrants during the year 1938-39 intending to settle in the Dominion, the vast majority (5,742, or 88 per cent.) came from British countries, mainly from the British Isles, Australia, Canada, India, Fiji, and the Union of South Africa. The majority of immigrants from foreign countries came from Germany, Yugoslavia, China, and the United States of America.

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

Country of Last Permanent Residence.1934-35.1935-36.1936-37.1937-38.1938-39.
British Isles4916538921,5132,020
Union of South Africa510242832
Other British countries93128178204273
Germany (including Austria)1894172221
United States of America5125495264
Other foreign countries and unspecified37456411282

A noticeable feature of the above table is the large increase shown for Germany during 1938-39. In fact, during recent years there has been a considerable increase in the numbers of immigrants intending residence from foreign European countries. The following summary shows the numbers for the last five years:—

Year ending 31st March,Males.Females.Totals.

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 6,493 new immigrants intending permanent residence who arrived during 1938-39, 746 (males, 416; females, 330) were of foreign nationality. During the last three years the number of alien immigrants has grown considerably. In 1938-39 there were 746; in 1937-38, 528; and in 1936-37, 375; the annual average for the five years preceding was only 124. The chief nationalities represented among alien immigrants arriving in 1938-39 were as follows (total figures for the five years preceding being given in parentheses): United States, 43 (152); Yugoslavia, 173 (306); Italy, 29 (86); China, 127 (214); Germany, 239 (197); Poland, 27 (82); and Greece, 5 (63).

The number of foreign nationals among New Zealand residents departing permanently during the year ended March, 1939, was 139 (104 males and 35 females), or 3.6 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 56 per cent. were males and 44 per cent. females, whereas of the departures 75 per cent. were males and 25 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 1938-39 comprised 110 Indians, 130 Chinese, and 72 of other races. Departures were 69 Indians, 73 Chinese, and 14 of other races. In the last ten years permanent arrivals have aggregated 367 Chinese, 466 Indians, and 291 others; and the permanent departures 547 Chinese, 193 Indians, and 183 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 were as follows:—

Year ending 31st March,Arrivals.Departures.

At the census of 24th March, 1936, the numbers of the principal alien races in New Zealand (inclusive of persons of mixed blood) were: Chinese, 2,899; Syrian, 1,235; and Indian, 1,157. The corresponding figures for the 1926 census were 3,374, 951, and 978 respectively.


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 were as follows:—


The total to 31st December, 1938, was 226,260, of which number all came 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 viséd 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 who are lunatic, idiotic, deaf, dumb, blind, or infirm arrive in New Zealand 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 deemed 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 1938, 22 women took advantage of section 3 of the Act and made the necessary declaration. The nationalities of the husbands were as follows: Danish, 4; Swedish, Yugoslav, and United States of America, 3 each; German and Swiss, 2 each; and Norwegian, Belgian, Italian, Greek, and Chinese, 1 each.

During the year 1938 certificates of naturalization in New Zealand were granted to 386 persons of the undermentioned birthplaces, as compared with 218 in the previous year. In addition, 73 children were included in the certificates of their parents, and certificates under the 1928 legislation were issued to 5 males (and 1 child, in addition, on parent's certificate) previously naturalized in New Zealand. The birthplaces of these were Finland, Russia, Yugoslavia (and 1 child), Rumania, and Syria, 1 each.

Country of Birth.Males.Females.Totals.Children.*
* Children included in certificate of parent; additional to preceding figures.
Germany (including Austria)233262
Western Samoa2247
Society Islands..11..
New Zealand112..
United States6172

There were also 131 cases in which declarations were made by wives of naturalized British subjects who desired to acquire British nationality.

In the ten years 1929-38, 1,424 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.
Germany (including Austria)116
United States42
Western Samoa10
Other countries78



In 1858 the North Island had a larger population than the South, but this position was reversed at the succeeding enumeration and retained until 1901. In that year the North Island was found to have slightly the larger total and since then has steadily increased its lead. The Maori War which broke out in 1860 retarded settlement in the North, while a large area of land reserved for the Maoris was for many years a serious hindrance to the development, by Europeans, 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.*Totals.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 107,126. 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 168,046 passengers from the South Island in 1938-39, 168,038 landed at Wellington, including 132,482 from Lyttelton, 20,410 from Nelson, and 15,144 from Picton.

The 166,777 passengers who landed in the South Island for the same period included 129,187 at Lyttelton, 21,310 at Nelson, 16,243 at Picton, and 37 at Dunedin, the passengers, with the exception of 2 from Onehunga and 5 from Auckland, all arriving from Wellington. One-day inter-Island excursion (return) trips are not included in the above figures.

In addition to the sea-borne passengers just mentioned, a considerable number of persons were carried by two air services operating between the North and South Islands. For the year ended 31st March, 1939, the arrivals in the North Island were 13,710 and in the South Island 13,020. The corresponding figures for the year ended 31st March, 1938, were 11,892 and 11,206 respectively. 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, 1939.
* Including 196 Maori wives of Europeans, provincial district not specified.
Hawke's Bay4,26039,60465,08070,35376,96879,400
  Otago portion14,050125,782137,062149,921151,213151,400
  Southland portion11,17048,01662,43965,52972,85673,600

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 (1926-36) it is surpassed only by two relatively small districts. The Auckland increase, between 1926 and 1936, 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, but 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., which was considerably smaller than the increase for the Dominion as a whole.

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 small 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 cast, 1,000.

The smallest of the provincial districts, Westland, 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, in spite of the steady growth in recent years, had in 1936 a population only 16 per cent. greater than in 1886.

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 1926 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 over214,098254,138302,943349,271401,710472,603531,588
  Totals, urban336,861416,577509,071588,744690,607794,167887,060
  Grand totals (excluding migratory)768,956884,1061,003,4601,087,2621,213,6821,337,3841,486,812
Per Cent.
25,000 or over27.8528.7430.1932.1233.1035.3335.75
  Totals, urban43.8147.1250.7354.1556.9059.3859.66
  Grand totals (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.1911.1916.1921.1926.1936.
New Plymouth8,6009,79512,64515,93118,194
Palmerston North11,90014,00616,88519,70923,953


The population of each of the fourteen urban areas (cities or boroughs, plus their suburbs), as estimated for 1st April, 1939, 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 City106,000
Birkenhead Borough3,470
Northcote Borough2,400
Takapuna Borough7,570
Devonport Borough9,880
New Lynn Borough3,680
Mount Albert Borough20,600
Mount Eden Borough19,250
Newmarket Borough3,010
Ellerslie Borough2,790
One Tree Hill Borough8,720
Onehunga Borough11,400
Otahuhu Borough5,950
Remainder of urban area16,780
Wellington City119,700
Lower Hutt Borough19,000
Petone Borough11,150
Eastbourne Borough2,390
Johnsonville Town District1,920
Remainder of urban area3,740
Christchurch City94,300
Riccarton Borough5,620
New Brighton Borough5,320
Sumner Borough3,290
Lyttelton Borough*3,150
Remainder of urban area23,720
Dunedin City65,500
Port Chalmers Borough2,080
West Harbour Borough1,860
St. Kilda Borough7,770
Green Island Borough*2,340
Remainder of urban area3,250
Hamilton Borough17,850
Remainder of urban area2,950
Gisborne Borough13,950
Remainder of urban area2,350
Napier Borough15,950
Taradale Town District1,240
Remainder of urban area2,210
Hastings Borough13,550
Havelock North Town District1,220
Remainder of urban area4,130
New Plymouth.
New Plymouth Borough17,400
Remainder of urban area1,900
Wanganui City23,500
Remainder of urban area2,600
Palmerston North.
Palmerston North City23,400
Remainder of urban area1,900
Nelson City11,550
Tahunanui Town District890
Remainder of urban area1,560
Timaru Borough17,850
Remainder of urban area1,450
Invercargill City22,600
South Invercargill Borough1,170
Remainder of urban area2,730


(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 Islands10,620820
  Great Barrier Island470110
  Hauraki Plains5,010233
  Hawke's Bay16,3001,673
  Waimate West2,81083
  Wairarapa South3,010440
South Island—  
  Mount Herbert44066
  Chatham Islands730372
  Stewart Island500670
    Grand totals657,400102,821


Borough.Population (including Maoris).Approximate Area, in Acres.
North Island—  
  New Lynn3,6801,392
  Auckland (City)106,00018,253
  Mount Albert20,6002,430
  Mount Eden19,2501,476
  One Tree Hill8,7202,450
  Te Awamutu2,5601,162
  Te Kuiti2,6101,668
  Te Aroha2,4702,783
  Te Puke1,0201,047
  New Plymouth17,4004,070
  Wanganui (City)23,5005,726
  Palmerston N. (City)23,4004,851
  Upper Hutt4,1902,165
  Lower Hutt19,0003,706
  Wellington (City)119,70016,289
  Martin borough9601,070
South Island—  
  Nelson (City)11,5504,966
  Christchurch (City)94,30010,370
  New Brighton5,3201,651
  Port Chalmers2,080500
  West Harbour1,8602,020
  Dunedin (City)65,50015,227
  St. Kilda7,770462
  Green Island2,350875
  Invercargill (City)22,6005,914
  South Invercargill1,1702,257
    Grand totals933,040272,619


Town District.Population (including Maoris).Approximate Area, in Acres.
* Parent county shown in parentheses.
(a) Town Districts not forming Parts of Counties.
North Island—  
  Glen Eden1,3401,267
  Mount Maunganui680935
  Havelock North1,220835
(a) Town Districts not forming
South Island—  
Pleasant Point560780
Grand totals28,70032,695
(b) Town Districts forming Parts of Counties.*
North Island—  
Kohukohu (Hokianga)3701,020
Rawene (Hokianga)350280
Russell (Bay of Islands)4001,066
Kawakawa (Bay of Islands)530280
Onerahi (Whangarei)430990
Mercer (Franklin)3101,000
Te Kauwhata (Waikato)3801,290
Ohaupo (Waipa)2801,283
Kihikihi (Waipa)350523
Kawhia (Kawhia)250470
Te Karaka (Waikohu)350700
Patutahi (Cook)2801,275
Ormondville (Dannevirke)2801,255
Kaponga (Eltham)410558
Norman by (Hawera)360260
Rongotea (Manawatu)250218
South Island—  
Havelock (Marlborough)260210
Takaka (Takaka)470585
Southbridge (Ellesmere)400531
Outram (Taieri)390886
Clinton (Clutha)440930
Edendale (Southland)430696
Grand totals7,97016,306


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 following table shows the estimated age distribution of the population at 1st April, 1939:—

Age, in Years.Excluding Maoris.Maoris.
Under 561,79559,669121,4647,4437,18214,625
80 and over6,3006,60012,900225225450
Totals under 14178,100170,900349,00019,15018,55037,700
Totals under 16205,800197,100402,90021,25020,55041,800
Totals under 21274,100262,700536,80025,70024,70050,400
Totals 21 and over504,995494,469999,46420,26817,78238,050
Grand totals779,095757,1691,536,26445,96842,48288,450


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 1939 may be quoted as 15.71 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 premises, residences, &c. Many boroughs contain within their boundaries large 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 even 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 1938-39 the net increase of the Maori population was 1.94 per cent., which compares with 1.22 per cent. for the European population.

The census record is as follows:—


Of the 88,450 Maoris at the 1st April, 1939, 85,081 were in the North Island. Auckland Provincial District contains the bulk (64,000), particularly in the Auckland Peninsula and Poverty Bay regions. Hawke's Bay contains 6,700; Taranaki, 4,600; and Wellington, 9,500. In the South Island Maoris do not attain any numerical significance.

The records of the 1926 and 1936 censuses permit of a statement of the total numbers wholly or partly of Maori blood.

Counted in the Maori population—
Full Maori45,42955,915
  Three-quarter caste6,63211,397
  Degree not specified303123
Counted in the non-Maori population—  
Maori-European quarter-caste1926.1936.
Maori-Indian 41
Maori-Syrian 26
Maori-American Indian 3
Cook Island Maori 103

In 1936 there were recorded in New Zealand some 94,156 persons wholly or partly of Maori origin. Of these, some 59 per cent. were recorded as of unmixed Maori descent. There is some reason to believe that the degree of miscegenation is understated, and it is unlikely that the proportion of pure Maori descent is more than 45 per cent. to 50 per cent.


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 2,126 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 America134,000,000182,000,000
South America56,000,00090,000,000

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

Country.Population (000 omitted).Year.Index of Population (New Zealand = 1).
* According to Chinese Ministry of the Interior. Some authorities consider the population is probably not in excess of 350,000,000, and is stationary.
England and Wales41,2151,93825
Northern Ireland1,2851,9380.8
India (including Native States)362,0001,938223
Union of South. Africa9,9801,9386
New South Wales2,7361,9392
South Australia5951,9390.4
Western Australia4621,9390.3
New Zealand1,6251,9391
Russia (Soviet Union)170,4671,939105
United States of America130,2151,93880




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, 1924, 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 a statutory declaration, of the particulars required to be registered, has been made before the Registrar by the parent or some person present at birth and on payment of a fee of 5s. When six months have elapsed, and a conviction for neglect to register has been entered against the persons responsible, a birth may be registered with a Registrar of Births within one month after conviction, and in this case no fee is payable. An information for such neglect must be laid within two years of date of birth. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, 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. This provision does not, however, relieve any person from liability to prosecution for failure to register in the proper manner.

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 those 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 those registered during the year irrespective of the year of birth. The figures do not include still-births, except in the special classification on pages 98 and 99.


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

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

The year 1936 witnessed the first yearly increase in the number of births since 1930 and also an actual increase in the birth-rate after a continuous downward movement during the previous fifteen years. The improvement recorded during

* But see p. 97.

that year was more than maintained during the subsequent two years, the number of births registered in 1938 being the highest recorded since 1927 and the birthrate the highest since 1931. This reversal of trend would appear to be a logical one in view of the substantial and continued rise in the number of marriages celebrated during recent years.

The fall of 3.49 per 1,000 of population between 1919 and 1938 is equivalent to a decline of 16 per cent. in the birth-rate. This falling tendency is, however, of long standing, and one common to other “European” populations. The following diagram shows, inter alia, the marked decline in the birth-rate, in so far as New Zealand is concerned, 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 1936:—

Year.Number of Women 15 and under 45.Number of Births.Birth-rate per 1,000 Women 15 and under 45.
* Per thousand married women.

The legitimate rate per 1,000 married women between the ages of 15 and 45 is seen to have fallen by 60 per cent. between 1878 and 1936, 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 until recent years 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 8.22 in 1938. 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 Population.
Births.Deaths.Natural Increase.

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


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

* Registration area.

† Decrease.

Union of S. Africa1933-3724.014.3
New Zealand1934-3816.98.0
United States*1934-3817.16.0
Northern Ireland1934-3819.85.6
England & Wales1934-3814.93.0


With the exception of one year (1860), 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.

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 decennium, 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 per 1,000 Female Births.

Further information as to the proportions of sexes of children may be obtained from some figures extracted from the records of births registered in the ten years 1929-38 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.

Firstborn.Second-born.Third-born.Fourth-born.Number of Cases.

Of the 17,368 families covered, in 8,895 the first child was a male and in 8,473 a female, the number of males per 1,000 females being thus 1,050. The proportion is reduced for subsequent births. The figures are as follows:—

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

The contention that there is a higher masculinity rate among first-born children than among later issue seems 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 those 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 1929-38 was 1,032 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 296 cases of twin births (592 children) registered in 1938. There were also two cases of triplets.

The number of accouchements resulting in living births was 26,949, and on the average one mother in every 90 gave birth to twins (or triplets).

When still-births are taken into account, however, the total number of accouchements for the year 1938 is increased to 27,662, and the number of cases of multiple births to 328. On this basis the proportion of mothers giving birth to twins or triplets is increased to one in 84.

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

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

During the ten years 1929-38 there were seventeen cases of triplets. In four cases all three children were males, in five cases all were females, in one case there were two males and one female, and in seven 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 1938 is shower 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.Totals.

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

† Including two cases of triplets.

Multiple Births.
Under 21130748561151318244..1,639
21 and under 25451,3662,9071,0682566930114..5,756
25 and under 3073583,4833,2221,04421573371628,457
30 and under 351326312,5821,726540177794135,812
35 and under 40..5463251,2037343331315392,839
40 and under 45....436135332241110617926
45 and over........37232023278
Multiple Births.
Under 21..4611..........12
21 and under 25..7209111......39
25 and under 30..232361441......89
30 and under 35....1245265411..94
35 and under 40..1171916311..49
40 and under 45..........131....5
    Grand totals1832,5237,7037,4824,4591,9328913952042325,795*


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 conjunction with (1) age of mother, (2) duration of marriage, and (3) occupation of father. The table under the first heading for the year 1938 is here summarized.

Age of Mother.Number of Previous Issue. and under 10.10 and under 15.15 and over.Totals.
* This number represents 25,507 single cases and 288 multiple cases.
Under 211,329280393..........1,651
21 and under 253,5711,5514881443092....5,795
25 and under 303,6082,5691,336606244119622..8,546
30 and under 351,5231,6681,1496984052272288..5,906
35 and under 4042448356742434120539648..2,888
40 and under 458412112213611582197668931
45 and over62594102514378

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 1938 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 211,6512,0301.23
45 and over785707.31

It should be stressed that the averages are no more than they purport to be—viz., the average number of children (including those registered in 1938) born up to the present time to those 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: 1934, 2.69; 1935, 2.64; 1936, 2.55; 1937, 2.47; and 1938, 2.41. In 1915, the earliest year for which reliable comparative figures are available, the average issue was 3.11. This falling trend in the average issue of women giving birth to children is a measure of the tendency towards smaller families. The acceleration in the decline during recent years, however, is the result of the abnormal proportion of first births registered during those years.

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, the birth statistics of recent years have been analysed a little more fully than it had 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 (to date) of parents who had issue born to them during 1938, analysed according to the occupation of the father. The earliest similar analysis was made for the year 1925, and a summary of the results obtained for the two years 1925 and 1938 is given in the table which follows.

There has been a decrease in the average for every group except that relating to persons dependent on public or private support. The totals covered by this group are, however, too small to possess any significance. A noteworthy feature is that in the groups showing the higher averages the excess over the general average is much less in 1938 than in 1925.

Occupations of Fathers in Industrial Groups.Average Number of Children.
Fishing and trapping3.952.83
Agricultural and pastoral farming3.232.61
Mining and quarrying3.392.61
Processes relating to minerals2.582.03
Processes relating to chemical, animal, and vegetable products3.232.28
Processes relating to metals, machines, conveyances, &c.2.662.07
Processes relating to fibrous materials, textiles, and dress2.752.15
Processes relating to food, drink, and tobacco2.912.25
Processes relating to wood, basketware, and furniture2.512.13
Processes relating to paper, stationery, printing, &c.2.361.88
Construction and repair of buildings, roads, &c.2.952.53
Transport and communication2.832.36
Commerce and finance2.732.03
Public administration, clerical, and professional2.311.94
Entertainment, sport, and recreation2.802.08
Personal or domestic service2.622.24
Dependent on public or private support1.504.62
Other and indefinite occupations3.252.85

The figures of average number of issue quoted above do not show the average number of children in a New Zealand family. On the one hand, they represent only the average family to date of those parents who had children born to them during 1925 or 1938; on the other hand, in computing the averages no allowance is made for age or duration of marriage or for the fact that many married couples remain childless. Even the general comparison between 1925 and 1938 may be somewhat vitiated by the greatly increased proportion of first births among births registered during the latter year.


Of a total of 119,376 accouchements resulting in legitimate births during the five years 1934-38, the issue of no fewer than 45,256, or 38 per cent., were firstborn children, and in 20,057, or 44 per cent. of these cases, the birth occurred within twelve months, and in 32,944, 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 five years 1934 to 1938, it is not surprising to find the proportion of first births for the years 1935 to 1938 showing a definite increase. In fact, the proportion of first births to total births since 1936 has been phenomenal, and in each year up to 1938 has established a new record. The proportion of first births occurring within one year of the marriage of the parents, however, was lower in the last three years than for many years past. 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 years119,37645,25637.9120,05744.3232,94472.79

During the five years there were 8,816 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 5,661 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 years45,2565,6618,81619.4828.43

The figures quoted in the above table indicate a continuous and substantial 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 year52.9550.0646.2541.62
1 and under 2 years28.6226.6426.7930.64
2 and under 3 years9.0210.4310.2413.02
3 and under 4 years3.435.516.165.82
4 and under 5 years1.883.033.963.24
5 and under 10 years3.263.365.494.72
10 years and over0.840.971.110.94

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 1938, 1.85 years.

The following table relating to the births registered during 1938, and 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.
Fishing and trapping232.17
Agricultural and pastoral2,0491.69
Mining and quarrying1211.32
Workers in stone, clay, earthenware, lime, cement, glass, &c.361.44
Processes relating to chemicals, animal and vegetable products171.41
Workers in non-precious metals, electric fittings, &c.8221.95
Workers in precious metals, jewellery, scientific instruments, &c.192.00
Workers on ships, boats, and conveyances811.52
Workers in fibrous materials, textiles, &c., other than clothing or dress621.66
Workers in clothing and dress, &c.1001.69
Workers in harness, saddlery, and leatherware52.40
Workers in food, drink, and tobacco2461.69
Workers in wood2471.74
Workers in paper, printers, photographers1012.25
Workers in other materials371.81
Workers in building, construction, and maintenance of roads, &c.8951.76
Workers in production or supply of gas, water, electricity, or power372.27
Workers in transport and communication1,0261.59
Financial and commercial occupations1,2821.96
Persons engaged in public administration1121.89
Clerical and professional occupations1,2542.00
Entertainment, sport, and recreation592.02
Personal and domestic occupations1841.73
Other or ill-defined occupations1,5631.35
Persons not actively engaged in gainful occupations132.08

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

Of those groups which covered a sufficient number of fathers to render the averages of any value, the greatest average elapsed time before the birth of the first child according to the above statistics was recorded for the “Workers in paper, printers, and photographers” 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 1938 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 for the years 1914, 1924, and 1934.


Age of Mother.First Births, Proportion per Cent. at each Age-group to Total First Births.
Under 206.737.558.907.56
20 and under 2535.8938.1640.3938.91
25 and under 3035.0132.5932.7934.22
30 and under 3515.6114.6813.1014.44
35 and under 405.525.333.794.02
40 and under 451.161.590.990.79
45 and over0.

The figures of average ages of mothers at the births of their first children are as follows for the above years: 1914, 26.55; 1924, 26.39; 1934, 25.90; and 1938, 26.08.


The births of 1,164 children (568 males, 596 females) registered in 1938 were illegitimate. The numbers for each of the last ten years, with the percentages they bear to total births registered, were as follows:—

Year.Number.Percentage to Total Births.

The illegitimacy rate for the last quinquennium is lower than for the preceding five-yearly period, the average proportion for 1934-38 being 4.52 as against an average of 4.94 for the period 1929-33. The long-term trend in the illegitimate birth-rate is indicated 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 1936 are as follows:—

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

The illegitimate birth-rate has shown a marked decline during the last decade.

Included in the total of 1,164 illegitimate births in 1938 were ten cases of twins, the number of accouchements being thus 1,154. From the following table it will be seen that of the 1,154 mothers 412, or 36 per cent., were under twenty-one years of age.



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 intermarried was deemed to be legitimized by such marriage on the birth being registered in the manner prescribed by the Act. For legitimation purposes a Registrar was required to register a birth when called upon to do so by any person claiming to be the father of an illegitimate child; but such person was required to make a solemn declaration that he was the father, and was also required to produce evidence of marriage between himself and the mother of the child.

Prior to the passing of the Legitimation Amendment Act, 1921-22, legitimation could be 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 provided 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 was heard by a Magistrate, and upon his certifying that it had been proved to his satisfaction that the husband of the applicant was the father of the child, the child was registered as the lawful issue of the applicant and her husband.

Important changes are made by the Legitimation Act of 1939, which stipulates that every illegitimate person whose parents have intermarried, whether before or after the passing of the Act, shall be deemed to have been legitimated from birth by reason of such marriage. The Act requires the parents or surviving parent of any person legitimated under the Act to register with the Registrar-General the particulars of the birth of that person, showing that person as the lawful issue of the parents. Application for registration must be made within six months after the date of the passing of the Act in cases where the marriage took place prior to that date. In cases where the marriage takes place after the passing of the Act, application for registration must be made within three months after the date of the marriage.

Where the Registrar-General has reason to believe that any person has been legitimated under the terms of the Act, and no application for registration has been made within the prescribed time, he may require the responsible parents or parent to make an application within a specified period of not less than seven days after receiving notice to do so. Any failure to comply with the notice requiring application for registration within the time specified renders the person or persons responsible liable on summary conviction to a fine of £5. If no application for registration is made within the appropriate time specified in the Act or notice received from the Registrar-General, application for registration of the particulars of the birth of any legitimated person may be made by that person, or by one of his parents, or by any other person.

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

 Number of Children legitimized.
Year.Previously registered.Not previously registered.Total.
Totals to 19386,4352,9409,375


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 in the register, 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 1938 the registration of 570 adopted children (270 males and 300 females) was effected, as compared with 444 in 1937, 413 in 1936, 340 in 1935, and 338 in 1934. Statistics of adoptions effected are available in New Zealand only since 1919. These indicate that the annual number of adoptions follows closely the economic condition of the country. The record total occurred in 1921 with 584 adoptions registered, this, no doubt, being the result of post-war influences. The lowest total (329) occurred in 1931, while the 1938 figure of 570 is the second highest on record.


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 were as follows:—

Year.Males.Females.Totals.Male Stillbirths per 1,000 Female Still-births.Percentage 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 table show the rate for still-births to have been 1,272 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 1938 does not appear to disclose any significant features. The median age of the mothers was 29, as compared with 28 in the case of living births. The percentage of illegitimates among still-born infants was 4.98, as compared with 4.27 among infants born alive.

Of the living legitimate births registered in 1938, 41 per cent. were first births, while of legitimate still-births 48 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 1934-38, 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 2.5 per cent. for first births, for women aged forty and over it was 6.2 per cent. for all births and over 8.2 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 204,180783,594701.871.95
20 and under 2529,11159217,6084342.032.46
25 and under 3039,5081,01215,5365672.563.65
30 and under 3527,0238266,2443133.065.01
35 and under 4014,2775781,8491394.057.52
40 and over5,277329425356.238.24

The next table shows the percentage of still-births to living births according to nativity order of legitimate births registered in the five years 1934-38. 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, up to the fourth child, materially higher than the rates for all mothers. From the seventh child onwards the reverse holds due no doubt to the preponderance of mothers aged 40 and over. The figures suggest that the age of the mother is probably a more important factor contributing to the still-birth rate than the number of previous accouchements, and that 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 in 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 1938 was 3,625 (1,904 males, 1,721 females). In addition, 68 births (35 males and 33 females) recorded as of Maori race were registered under the main Act, making a total of 3,693 Maori births for the year. Although this number represents a decrease of 278 as compared with the previous year (with a consequent fall in the birth-rate from 46.64 to 42.37 per 1,000 of Maori population) the Maori birthrate in 1938 was more than double the non-Maori birth-rate (17.93 per 1,000). Registrations in each of the last five years were as follows:—

Year.Number of Maori 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 Supreme Court. Consent of the Court may also be given in cases of refusal by any person whose 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 operated 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—

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

    2. 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. 86. The numbers and rates of marriages during each of the last twenty years are here given:—

Year.Number.Rate 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, or an adjustment to, the changed conditions. The recovery continued in 1934, accompanying an improving trend in economic conditions. In the years 1935, 1936, and 1937, the outlook was very much brighter, and consequently a further impetus was given to the marriage-rate, while in 1938 the highest rate ever recorded in New Zealand, with the exception of the post-war year 1920, was established. The number of marriages during 1938 creates a new record for the Dominion and represents an increase of 6 per cent. over the previous year.


In a country like New Zealand where the age-constitution of the population has altered considerably, the crude marriage-rate based on the total population does not disclose the true position over a period of years. Even if only the unmarried (including widowed and divorced) population over twenty in the case of men and over fifteen in the case of women be taken into account, the rates so ascertained would still not be entirely satisfactory for comparative purposes as between various periods, owing to differences in sex and age constitution, divergences between rates for different age-groups, and variations in the proportions of marriageable persons in the community. A better plan 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.

This has been done for each census year from 1881 to 1936, the year 1911 being taken as the standard. The course of the standardized rates as shown in the following table varies materially from that of the crude rates:—

Year.Marriage-rate per 1,000.Index Numbers of Marriage-rates. (Base: 1911 = 100.)
Total Population.Unmarried Female Population 15 and over.Total Population.Unmarried Female Population 15 and over.

The index numbers of the three classes of rates over the series of years enable the effect of standardization to be shown at a glance. Comparing, for instance, the years 1881 and 1911, it is seen that whereas the crude rate per 1,000 of total population was nearly one-fourth less in 1881 than in 1911, the crude rate when only the unmarried female population of fifteen or over is considered was one-fourth greater, and the standardized rate more than one-third greater. Similar though less noticeable results are recorded for years subsequent to 1881.

The standardized rate for 1936 is considerably higher than that recorded for any other census year subsequent to 1881.


A comparison of the latest available marriage-rates per 1,000 of mean population is given for various countries in the next table.

Country.Quinquennium.Average Yearly Rate.
* Four years' average.
United States of America1933-3710.23
Union of S. Africa1932-369.84
New Zealand1934-388.95
England and Wales1934-388.63
Northern Ireland1934-386.74


Annual averages for the decade 1929-38 give marriages as follows: March quarter, 2,766; June quarter, 3,325; September quarter, 2,536; December quarter, 3,294.

It would appear that the advantages offered by the holiday periods are responsible for the Easter and Christmas seasons being regarded as the most suitable for the celebration of marriage, and, judging by the quarterly figures for an average year, Easter would appear to predominate slightly.

The marriages contracted in each month of 1938, commencing with January, were as follows: 1,138, 1,094, 1,067, 2,193, 946, 1,404, 1,031, 1,004, 1,007, 1,334, 1,102, 2,008: total for year, 15,328.

The 1938 proportions per cent. of the total marriages for the various days of the week were: Sunday, 0.3; Monday, 10.5; Tuesday, 9.3; Wednesday, 20.8; Thursday, 11.7; Friday, 7.7; Saturday, 39.7

The increasing popularity of Saturday has been in evidence over a comparatively lengthy period, and added impetus would appear to have been given to this movement by the introduction of the “five-day” week. Between the years 1927 and 1937 the proportion of marriages celebrated on that day increased from 12.8 per cent. to 32.2 per cent., and in 1938 the proportion of Saturday marriages rose to 39.7 per cent. Wednesday marriages, on the other hand, have declined from 39.5 per cent. to 20.8 per cent. during the last ten years.


The total number of persons married during the year 1938 was 30,656, of whom 27,879 were single, 1,398 widowed, and 1,379 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 Cent.Per Cent.Per Cent.Per Cent.Per Cent.Per Cent.

During the period 1929-38 the number of divorced persons remarrying increased from 29 per 1,000 persons married to 45, an appreciable advance. The fall in the number of widowed persons remarrying—from 54 per 1,000 persons married in 1929 to 46 per 1,000 in 1938—is due probably to the higher figure in the earlier year having been an indirect outcome of the 1914-18 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 4,068 divorced men remarried, the corresponding number for women was 4,462. In the case of widowed persons, however, in spite of the fact that widows greatly exceed widowers in the population, only 4,486 widows remarried, as compared with 7,202 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 1938 were ten women, and amongst the widowers thirteen 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 number of persons married under the protection of the above subsection was 252, comprising 96 men and 156 women.


Of the 30,656 persons married in 1938 3,000, or 10 per cent., were under twenty-one years of age; 9,839, or 32 per cent., were returned as twenty-one and under twenty-five; 9,715, or 32 per cent., as twenty-five and under thirty; 5,659, or 18 per cent., as thirty and under forty; and 2,443, or 8 per cent., as forty years of age or over. The following table relates to the year 1938:—

Age of Bridegroom, in Years.Age of Bride, in Years.Total Bridegrooms.
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 2127610319    398
21 and under 251,2422,093561637 13,967
25 and under 308392,6471,89831852915,764
30 and under 351987659584641202382,536
35 and under 403219435929217046221,115
40 and under 45748831211116929468
45 and over822731171731805071,080
Total brides2,6025,8723,9511,37563332756815,328

There have been some considerable changes in the proportions of persons 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, 1936, 1937, and 1938:—

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.Totals.

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 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 age (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 subsequently 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 1938 without alteration, but in the case of bridegrooms the most popular age has varied, and for 1938 stands at 25.


Of every 1,000 men married in 1938, 26 were under twenty-one years of age, while 170 in every 1,000 brides were under twenty-one.

In 276 marriages in 1938 both parties were given as under twenty-one years of age, in 2,326 marriages the bride was returned as a minor and the bridegroom as an adult, and in 122 marriages the bridegroom was a minor and the bride an adult.

Year.Age in Years.Totals.
16.17.°18.19.20.Number.Rate per 100 Marriages.
1,935 735992063472.85
1,936 4431182053702.68
1,938 13441222193982.60

The proportion of minors among persons marrying declined continuously from 1932 to 1936, probably a result of the depression. It will be observed that the number of marriages of minors shows a material increase in 1936; but that the rate per 100 marriages showed a continuation of the fall.


Of the 15,328 marriages registered in 1938, Church of England clergymen officiated at 4,128, Presbyterians at 4,056, Methodists at 1,645, and Roman Catholics at 1,775, while 2,624 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 England27.1826.9325.8225.5425.4725.5226.0726.1026.5226.93
Roman Catholic11.3411.0610.7310.8111.0611.5011.4011.6511.7411.58
Other denominations4.845.165.535.846.287.928.397.617.277.18
Before Registrars19.3220.4922.6220.9119.9417.9816.9217.1516.8717.12

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, 1939) 2,248, and the denominations to which they belong are shown hereunder:—

Church of England478
Presbyterian Church of New Zealand418
Roman Catholic Church393
Methodist Church of New Zealand311
Salvation Army125
Associated Churches of Christ32
Congregational Independent32
Seventh-day Adventist17
Latter-day Saints37
Lutheran Church2
Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Conference5
Apostolic Church9
Commonwealth Covenant9
Church of Christ4
Hebrew Congregation4
Liberal Catholic Church6
Assemblies of God15
Spiritualist Churches of New Zealand13
Ratana Church of New Zealand148
Ringatu Church45
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 631 marriages in which both parties were of the Native race were received during the year 1938. The figures for each of the last ten years are as follows:—

Year.Under Native Land Act.Under Marriage Act.Totals.

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, if she 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 Conjudal Rights.
Petitions filed.Decrees Nisi.Decrees Absolute.Petitions filed.Decrees for Separation.Petitions filed.Decrees for Restitution.
1,9298437186352 130107
1,9308397246201 9679
1,9338046836481 11877
1,934839762683 19789
1,9358677426531 9480
1,9371,1541,0089174 138107

In 1,090 of the 1,178 cases covered by divorce petitions filed during 1938 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 1938.

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. 5 4 6
Malformation12 2 2
Non-compliance with order for restitution of conjugal rights802980307125
Separation for not less than three years240395204366184388

The figures shown for decrees nisi include cases 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 1938 or in a previous year. A small increase of 2 per cent. over the previous year is recorded for the total of petitions filed in 1938.

In 388 of the 1,178 cases where petitions for dissolution were filed during 1938 there was no living issue of the marriage. The number of living issue was 1 in 338 cases, 2 in 224 cases, 3 in 106 cases, and 4 or more in 122 cases.

The table which follows shows the duration of marriage in all cases for which petitions for dissolution were filed in the five years 1934 to 1938:—

Duration of Marriage, in Years.Husbands' Petitions.Wives' Petitions.
Under 556507369565045545447
5 and under 10114123159158136128143197157176
10 and under 159986122118128116109129166166
15 and under 206462789793798187101115
20 and under 30405273809357758110893
30 and over14303124362211152236
Not stated    2    1

The number of children affected by the divorce petitions of their parents during each of the last five years was as follows: 1934, 1,216; 1935. 1,286; 1936, 1,667; 1937, 1,725; and 1938, 1,706.


Compulsory registration of deaths was instituted in New Zealand in 1855. As in the case of births, a system of non-compulsory registration had operated 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 after 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 responsible 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 it was incumbent upon a medical practitioner to give the certificate of cause of death to the person required to supply 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 introduced 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 be 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.

With the exception of 1918 (the year of the great influenza epidemic) the number of deaths registered during 1938 was the largest ever recorded in New Zealand. Except for a slight break in 1935, the crude death-rate has risen steadily from the low point of 7.99 per 1,000 of mean population in 1933 until in 1938 the comparatively high rate of 9.71 was reached. This figure has been exceeded on only two occasions during the last thirty years—viz., in 1918 and 1920.

A long-range review of the death-rate is afforded by the graph on p. 86.

New Zealand has been noted for many years for its favourable death-rate. In the early history of the country the high proportion of immigrants to total population contributed very materially towards the establishment of a comparatively low death-rate. The effect of immigration in causing a high ratio of persons in the early adult ages—at which ages mortality experience is most favourable—more than counterbalanced the effect on the death-rate of the hazards inherent in the pioneering activities typical of the economy of the country in those days. The influence of immigration on vital statistics has, however, waned very considerably in the later decades.

The favourable climate of the country has always been an important factor contributing to a relatively low death-rate, while the high efficiency of health services has assisted considerably towards maintaining the Dominion's enviable record in respect of its death-rate. The progress of the health service has been reflected in, inter alia, a relatively low incidence of serious outbreaks of the more important epidemic diseases (which were much more prevalent in the early days of colonization), and in a greatly lowered infant mortality rate.

An even more potent force than a heightened efficiency in health services has, however, been operative for many years past. As observed in the subsection on Births, the general trend of the birth-rate has been downwards for several decades. The initial effect of a falling birth-rate on the mortality experience of a population is to lower the death-rate, the age constitution becoming more favourable towards a low death-rate, since there are fewer infants and a relatively higher ratio of persons of the younger adult ages. That this has been a very material factor contributing to New Zealand's very low death-rate is obvious; for a death-rate of 7.99 per 1,000—the low point which was reached in 1933—would connote an expectation of life of almost 125 years if it applied to a population of stable age-distribution. The increase in the crude death-rate since 1933 is indicative that the age constitution of the population has passed the optimum distribution from the viewpoint of maintaining a very low level of death-rates. This trend must continue for some years to come since the present death-rate of 9.71 per 1,000 is still much lower than could be regarded as possible in a population stable in respect of age constitution, and it is reasonable to expect further increases in death-rates. Further evidence that the age constitution of the population has become less favourable towards the maintenance of the extremely low death-rates of the past twenty years is afforded by the statistics of “standardized” death-rates quoted later in this subsection. The death-rate for 1938 standardized on the age constitution of 1911, was 7.66 per 1,000, as compared with the crude rate (reflecting the 1938 age constitution of the people) of 9.71 per 1,000.

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 1929-38 gives the following annual averages: March quarter, 2,765; June quarter, 3,041; September quarter 3,656; and December quarter, 3,155.

A classification according to month of death shows that in 1938 the months during which the greatest number of deaths occurred were July, August, September, and October, with totals of 1,548, 1,544, 1,360, and 1,335 respectively. Excluding December, a proportion of deaths occurring in that month not being registered till January, April had the least number of deaths (987), followed by February and January, with 1,044 and 1,066 respectively.

The least number of deaths on any one day, again excluding December, was 21, this number occurring on the 7th April. The greatest number (67) occurred on the 4th August.


The deaths registered during the year 1938 are tabulated below according to age:—

Under 1 month397261658
1-2 months564197
3-5 ”494998
6-11 ”6850118
1 year7265137
2 years532780
3 years312253
4 years262349
5-9 years11679195
10-14 years9275167
15-19 years15478232
20-24 years152121273
25-29 years171155326
30-34 years189133322
35-39 years203173376
40-44 years262200462
45-49 years306258564
50-54 years491352843
55-59 years7054631,168
60-64 years7755771,352
65-69 years9116761,587
70-74 years9147651,679
75-79 years8057411,546
80-84 years6946051,299
85-89 years389348737
90-94 years132135267
95-99 years333063
100 years112
101 years112
102 years..11
103 years..11

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 Deaths.Percentage to Total.
Under 11,3361,5101,7611,25297123.4120.8419.477.656.58
1 and under 55204104676663199.115.665.174.072.16
5 102701661692901954.732.291.871.771.32
10 151481421512221672.591.961.671.361.13
15 202212631884832323.873.632.082.951.57
20 252723203457512734.774.423.824.591.85
25 302482904261,2463264.354.004.717.622.21
30 352352693311,4163224.123.713.668.652.18
35 402562713751,3133764.493.744.158.022.55
40 452672823269864624.683.893.606.033.13
45 502903043898975645.084.204.305.483.82
50 552903283958148435.084.534.374.975.72
55 602764414107251,1684.846.094.534.437.92
60 652634934918231,3524.616.815.435.039.16
65 702375747188661,5874.167.927.945.2910.76
70 752134157759991,6793.735.738.576.1111.38
75 801583866791,1371,5462.775.337.516.9510.48
80 and over2063806471,4782,3723.615.257.159.0316.08

Some remarkable changes in the age-distribution of persons dying have occurred during the last fifty years. The total deaths in 1938 were over two and a half times as numerous as in 1888; but the number of deaths under one year in 1938 was considerably less than the corresponding number recorded in 1888. This is an eloquent tribute to the efficacy of the steps taken to preserve infant life (a subject which is dealt with later on in this subsection), as over the fifty-year period the annual number of births increased by 44 per cent. The 1918 influenza epidemic took a heavy toll of life, especially in the 15 to 50 age-groups. The effect of this is clearly seen in the deviation in that year from the normal downward trend of the proportions at these age-groups.

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 even greater success in the prolongation of the human life-span through the amelioration of the degenerative diseases of old age, the death-rate must continue to advance fairly rapidly.

During the earlier period covered by the next table the fall in the death-rate was common to all ages and to both sexes. In comparison with 1931, however, the 1938 figures reveal increases in the rates for infancy and early childhood and for the groups beyond middle age, while the intervening age-groups (15 to 55) have recorded slight decreases.

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:—

Period.Males. Years.Females. Years.


Country.Quinquennium.Average Rate per 1,000.
* Registration area.
New Zealand1934-388.9
Union of South Africa1933-379.7
United States*1934-3811.1
England and Wales1934-3811.9
Northern Ireland1934-3814.2

After enjoying for many years the enviable reputation of having the lowest death-rate in the world, New Zealand's position at the head of the above list of countries has now been taken by the Netherlands.

An analysis of death-rates by sex and age-groups for various countries shows that, while the Netherlands is the only country to show a lower total death-rate than New Zealand, several other countries as well as the Netherlands also record lower death-rates at certain age-groups. For males, the Netherlands in 1937 (the latest year for which the requisite statistics are available) recorded a lower death-rate than New Zealand for all ages from 10 to 65. The total death-rate for females was lower for New Zealand than for the Netherlands, and the latter country had lower rates for only seven of the sixteen age-groups into which the statistics are divided.

Investigation into the causes of deaths in the two countries suggests diseases of the heart as being responsible for the higher death-rate in New Zealand, this factor being particularly well illustrated in the higher age-groups.


All death-rates quoted previously in this section are crude rates—i.e., those ascertained by applying the total deaths during the year to the mean population for the year.

Crude rates are easily compiled and readily understood, and are consequently generally used. However, changes in the age constitution of a population and, to a lesser extent, changes in sex composition have a material effect on death-rates. This is obvious, for, on the one hand the very young, and on the other hand the very old, are particularly subject to the risk of dying, while females have, generally speaking, lower average death-rates than males. Consequently, differences in crude death-rates as between one period of time and another, or as between one country (or part of a country) and another, reflect not only the incidence of mortality, but also differences in age and sex constitution of populations. A country with an abnormally high proportion of very old people will, other things being equal, have a high death-rate, but this high death-rate does not by any means necessarily imply that the country is relatively unhealthy.

In New Zealand the age and sex constitutions of the people have changed very materially within a comparatively short span of years, so that death-rates for recent years relate to a differently constituted population than do death-rates for earlier years. This factor has had a marked influence on the risks—and causes—of dying. In order to eliminate the effect of changing age constitution from other causes influencing the death-rate, the device of standardization is resorted to. The principle of this method is to compute death-rates on the assumption that the sex and age composition of the population has not varied. A “standard” population is selected, and the mortality experience of any particular year is weighted according to the age-distribution of that standard population.

The standardized death-rates thus calculated for each of a number of countries, or for a number of years for the same country, may then be regarded as indexes to the relative mortalities free from the distortion which might arise through differences in their respective sex or age constitutions.

A system of standardization of death-rates was introduced some years ago in New Zealand the age and sex constitution of the population as disclosed at the census being taken as the basis. The following table gives both recorded and standardized death-rates per 1,000 of population (on the 1911 standard population) for each fifth year from 1875 to 1935 and for the year 1938:—

Year.Recorded Rates./Males.Females.Totals.Standardized Rates./Males.Females.Totals.

The above standardized rates, of course, apply only to New Zealand and do not afford adjusted comparisons with other countries. For purposes of international comparisons, a standard population, based on the age-distribution of the population of nineteen 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 death-rates per 1000 of population:—

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 many years been lower than the corresponding recorded rate; in other words, the standard population has a more favourable age constitution from the mortality viewpoint than the actual population. Since 1934 the standardized death-rate for females has also receded below the recorded rate.

Unfortunately, as far as is known, only three countries—viz., New Zealand, Australia, and England and Wales—publish standardized death-rates based on the international standard population of the International Institute of Statistics.

While it is thus not possible to obtain direct comparisons of the death-rates in various countries on a comparable basis, it is possible to secure standardized death-rates for the majority of the larger units of the British Empire on the basis of the population of England and Wales at the census of 1901. These rates are given in the following table for each of the five years 1933 to 1937:—

New Zealand.England and Wales.Canada.Northern Ireland.Union of South Africa.
* Not available.

Important as it is to eliminate the distortion in comparative death-rates due to variance in the sex and age constitution of different populations as a whole, it may be even more important to do so when a comparison is made between death-rates from certain causes of death in various countries, or at widely separated periods of time in the same country.

Such diseases as cancer and tuberculosis, groups of epidemic diseases, degenerative diseases, &c., take their greatest toll at varying periods of the human life-span. If, therefore, there is variation during the passage of time, of the proportion of persons exposed to the risk of death from certain causes at specified age-groups, it is possible that a proportion of the variation in the recorded death-rates from such causes may be fictitious in the sense that the rates have been distorted by the influence of the age- or sex-constitution factor.

It is possible to eliminate this factor by the compilation of standardized death-rates for individual causes of death on a similar basis to that for the death-rate from all causes. England and Wales is the only country in the world that has regularly published standardized death-rates by sex for a considerable number of the principal causes of death.

Standardized death-rates were computed for New Zealand for a number of causes for each of the ten years 1928-37, and details relating to the years 1932 to 1936 were published in the 1939 issue of the Year-Book (pp. 114-115), while details covering a ten-yearly period are included in the “Annual Report on Vital Statistics.” The standard population used was that of England and Wales at the census of 1901, in order that the death-rates so calculated might be comparable with those published for England and Wales.

Some remarkable variations were revealed in the standardized death-rates from different causes in the two countries. Epidemic diseases are apparently not nearly as prevalent in New Zealand as in England and Wales. In both countries, a higher rate is recorded for females than for males for scarlet fever and whooping-cough. For diphtheria, however, while the female rate is higher in England and Wales, the reverse is the position in New Zealand. Influenza, on the other hand, shows a higher rate for males in both countries. Particularly outstanding is the excessively high death-rate from tuberculosis recorded for England and Wales in comparison with that for New Zealand.

The group of diseases including syphilis, with its associated causes of death tabes dorsalis and general paralysis of the insane, on the whole shows a greater death-rate for males in England and Wales, although the respective rates for syphilis alone are fairly even. The female rate for these causes is approximately equal in both countries.

An interesting feature of the comparison is that, even when the age-constitution of the population factor is eliminated by standardization of the death-rates, the fatal incidence of cancer appears to be considerably higher in England and Wales than in New Zealand.

The respective death-rates from diabetes reveal a curious position. The figures for both countries for males indicate a similar incidence of the disease among the male population, but the New Zealand death-rate for females maintains a level distinctly above that for England and Wales throughout the period covered. It is difficult to account for this marked variation in the fatal incidence of diabetes among females.

Deaths from heart-disease (all forms) claim a greater proportion of victims in England and Wales than in New Zealand. But it is of interest to note that deaths from diseases of the coronary arteries and angina pectoris, which have exhibited a tendency to increase rapidly in recent years, out of all proportion to the rate of increase for all forms of heart-disease, exact a heavier toll in New Zealand.

Probably the most significant aspect of the comparative statistics of the two countries is an enormous disparity in the standardized death-rates for the principal diseases of the respiratory system, the disparity being definitely in favour of New Zealand for both sexes.

Chronic nephritis is one of the few major diseases for which New Zealand has a higher death-rate for both males and females. The male death-rate from accidental causes is definitely higher in this coun