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The Day New Zealand Became Part of Australia



It is not widely known that New Zealand was invited to join the Federation of Australian States in 1901, that it took part in the negotiating process and was even on the drafting committee that drew up the federal Constitution, but eventually opted out. What is even less known by people of both countries is that there was a time when New Zealand was actually a part of the Colony of New South Wales.

In 1788 the colony of New South Wales had been founded. According to Phillip's amended Commission dated 25 April 1787, the colony included "all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean" and running westward on the continent to the 135th meridian. Until 1835, this technically included New Zealand, but this had no real impact as the New South Wales administration had little interest in New Zealand.

In response to complaints about lawless white sailors and adventurers in New Zealand, the British government appointed James Busby as Official Resident in 1832. In 1834, he encouraged Maori chiefs to assert their sovereignty with the signing of the "Declaration of Independence" in 1835. This was acknowledged by King William IV. Busby was provided with neither authority nor military support, and was thus ineffective in controlling the European population.

In 1837, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a sometime British political figure who was the driving force behind much of the early colonization of South Australia, took up the idea of the New Zealand Company, which planned to establish private settlements in New Zealand. In that year the British Colonial Office had given the New Zealand Association a charter to promote settlement in New Zealand, however, they attached conditions that were unacceptable to the members of the Association. After considerable discussion interest in the project waned.

Wakefield took up the idea and established "The New Zealand Association" which was based on the idea of a "Systematic Colonisation Theory", but in 1839 discovered that although his company now complied with the conditions the Government had laid down for the old New Zealand Company, the Government was not prepared to honour its promises. Furthermore it was actively considering making New Zealand a British Colony, in which case land sales would become a Government monopoly. Wakefield hastily sent out The New Zealand Company ship "The Tory", in May 1839, with his younger brother, Captain William Wakefield, aboard to secure land before the British Government annexed New Zealand. William Wakefield had instructions from his brother to buy as much land as possible from the Maori.

What the brothers did not know was that, as a temporary measure to secure New Zealand for the British Crown until such time as a formal agreement could be made with the Maori population, the Colony of New South Wales had already been given instructions to formally extend its boundaries to include New Zealand as a dependency, which it did on 16th June 1839. In so doing, the British Government showed it gave little creedence to the "Declaration of Independence" of 1835 and the man who had implemented it, their Official Resident.

In September of that year, The New Zealand Company sent it's first three migrant ships to New Zealand. These ships were "The Oriental", "Aurora" and the "Adelaide". Before leaving, the future settlers agreed to a code of law by which they would be governed until Britain officially took over New Zealand, being unaware of the Annexation to New South Wales that effectively made their code null and void.


Part of Lambton Harbour, in Port Nicholson, New Zealand. Drawn in April, 1841, by Charles Heaphy. Lithography created by Thomas Allom and published in 1891. Hocken Collections.

In August 1839 the British Government sent Captain William Hobson out to New Zealand aboard "The Herald", as British Consul, with orders to annex a part of New Zealand and place it under British rule. His mission was to organise a treaty and persuade Maori chiefs to accept British sovereignty over all, or at least over parts of the country. The British Government was anxious to establish sovereignty in order to stabilise the degrading situation in New Zealand. It was therefore not long after the arrival of the New Zealand Company settlers at Port Nicholson (the North Island) that Captain Hobson obtained the first signatures from Maori chiefs for the envisaged Treaty of Waitangi.

Hobson promised that all land which had been unfairly rush-purchased by the New Zealand Company would be returned to Maori hands. It was also promised that all land transactions made before 1840 would be investigated by a Land Court.



The Treaty of Waitangi (Waitangi means weeping or noisy waters) was finally signed by Maori chiefs of New Zealand and representatives of Queen Victoria on 6th February 1840, after a great gathering at Waitangi (Bay of Islands), which commenced on the morning of 5th February. Discussions and arguments for and against the Treaty continued until the morning of the 6th. Among those chiefs in favour of the Treaty were Rawiri Taiwhanga, Hone Heke and Tamati Waka Nene.

The Treaty granted sovereignty over all New Zealand to Queen Victoria, but only guaranteed the Maoris the land they wished to retain. The treaty remained a source of friction to the present day. Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over New Zealand on 21st May. On 1st July 1841 the New South Wales Government recinded its annexation of New Zealand, and New Zealand became an independent colony when the first Legislative Council was declared.

Perhaps because of that long-forgotten tie that once existed between the two countries, the Australia-New Zealand relationship is today more one of brotherhood than of friendship: Australians and New Zealanders often fall out over relatively minor matters - there are few more bitterly-contested sporting events than the trans-Tasman rugby matches; New Zealanders have never forgiven Australia for cricketer Trevor Chappell's underarm delivery; Australia's anger over the Air New Zealand/Ansett Airlines fiasco was sharper than could be easily explained by the mere facts, and so on.

And while appearing similar to outsiders, nationals of both Australia and New Zealand are quick to point out real or perceived differences. In particular New Zealanders will use their anti-Australian "otherness" as a defining point of national identity.

Despite these so called slights, the two countries are exceptionally close on both the national and interpersonal scales, indeed a former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore declared that Australians and New Zealanders have more in common than New Yorkers and Californians. One often finds that the fierce rivalry and competitiveness between the two nations is more than justified from a kinship point of view, the best example of which is the congregation of Australian and New Zealand overseas travellers and the common economics policy.



Canberra's New Zealand Connection

When town planner Walter Burley-Griffin drew up his plans for Canberra in 1912, there was much optimism that New Zealand might join the Federation of Australia, and New Zealand was included in the eight avenues radiating out from Capital Hill both as an incentive to join and to make New Zealand feel welcome if they accepted the invitation to become Australia's seventh state.

Thrown into Griffin's original mix of eight state avenues was Wellington Avenue, which was to terminate at Manuka Park. Readers with a knowledge of New Zealand geography will recognise Wellington as being the name of New Zealand's capital city and Manuka as being the common name of the New Zealand tea tree Leptospermum scoparium.

Before the name Wellington Avenue was gazetted it was realised that New Zealand was not going to become part of a Confederation of Australasia and the name was changed Canberra Avenue. Manuka, now the name of the locality at the end of Canberra Avenue, was left unchanged.

The area around Manuka Park, which was at the point where the suburbs of Forrest, Griffith and Kingston met, was already known as Manuka, though it does not officially exist as a suburb. The name had come into common use very early as it was around Manuka Park that the majority of homes to house the builders of early Canberra were built. Ironically, the most well known suburb of Canberra today is not only not a suburb, but its recalls a union within the federation of Australian states and territories that was never forged.

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