New Zealand-United Kingdom Relations
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New Zealand%E2%80%93United Kingdom Relations
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the UN General Assembly, 23 September 2019

New Zealand - United Kingdom relations refers to bilateral relations between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. New Zealand has maintained a strong and steadfast relationship with Britain.[1]

The two countries are related through mutual migration, through shared military history, through a shared system of government, through language, through the Commonwealth (formerly British Empire), and their sharing of the same person as constitutional monarch (Queen Elizabeth II).


Pre-independence relations

During his first voyage, British navigator James Cook reached New Zealand on 6 October 1769. Secret directives had been supplied to Cook for this portion of his expedition, instructing him to search firstly for the fabled Terra Australis and, if unsuccessful, to make instead as extensive an exploration of the New Zealand coast as resources allowed. The document that Cook was given declared that these missions were intended to further demonstrate Great Britain's maritime prowess, to bring honour to the Crown and to explore new opportunities for trade and navigation.[2]

Almost sixty years later, formal British representation in New Zealand began with the posting of James Busby to the islands as the British Resident, who was sent in response to the concerns of a number of northern M?ori leaders over the lawlessness of local European settlers. Since 1816, a number of M?ori chiefs had travelled to England and the colonies to explore options for the establishing of a M?ori government and, in 1834, Busby drafted the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, ratified by a number of northern chiefs in 1835. As part of this process, King William IV recognised and agreed to act as protector for the newly formed state.

The Treaty of Waitangi was formed, which was signed by a number of M?ori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown on 6 February 1840. British sovereignty was declared later in May of that year.

New Zealand became a separate British Colony in 1841 and, eleven years later, the British Parliament passed the first fully implemented Act to grant self-governance to the new colony. Formal British influence gradually diminished, as the power of successive Governors waned with respect to that of the nascent New Zealand Parliament. Dominion status followed in 1907, providing almost complete independence from the government of Britain and New Zealand separately joined the League of Nations in 1926. The Balfour declaration of 1926 emphasised the equal status of members of the British Empire and their free association in the British Commonwealth, (latterly the Commonwealth of Nations).

With the 1931 Statute of Westminster, the complete independence of the Dominions was confirmed by the British Parliament, though this was not adopted in New Zealand until some time later, through the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947.


Much of the migration to New Zealand took place from the constituent countries of the British Isles. This was facilitated from 1839 by the New Zealand Company founded for the purpose of colonization. The work of the Otago Association and Canterbury Association in establishing the primarily Scottish settlement in Dunedin and the primarily English settlement in Christchurch, respectively, encouraged further New Zealand-bound emigration from Britain.

Around 80% of New Zealanders are of at least partially British ancestry, and an estimated 17% are entitled to British passports.[3]

In recent years there has been growing support for the idea of freedom of movement between the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with citizens being able to live and work in any of the four countries - similar to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement between Australia and New Zealand.[]


Captain James Cook's map of New Zealand, using a mixture of English and M?ori place-names.

From the anglicisation of the Dutch appellation Nieuw Zeeland onward, historical ties with the United Kingdom have contributed substantially to New Zealand's toponymy.[] James Cook's early map combined local M?ori place-names with a number of his own coinages. Subsequent settlers added references to places in United Kingdom, aristocratic sponsors, early British explorers, the Royal Family, battles in which the United Kingdom was involved and notable institutions such as Christ Church, Oxford.[4]

Many of these contributions have been retained in common usage, often alongside pre-existing M?ori placenames.


Through the first Act of the First New Zealand Parliament (in 1854), those applicable English laws that were enacted prior to the appointment of William Hobson, were adopted in New Zealand.[5] As such, New Zealand inherited an uncodified constitution but, unlike the other former dominions, it has not been codified through an overarching document or documents.[6]

Enactments by the UK Parliament specifically and substantially relating to New Zealand include:

A number of these acts were repealed through the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1989.[10]

Citizenship and nationality

The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 established the legal concept of New Zealand citizenship; prior to this, all people born or naturalised in New Zealand had the status of "British subject", just as those born or naturalised in the United Kingdom, or any of the other dominions.[11] At a similar time, those in the dominions were omitted from a new status, defined in the British Nationality Act 1948, of "Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies", a forerunner to the modern concept of British citizenship. New Zealand passports carried the wording "British Subject" until the Citizenship Act 1977.

Economic relations

Britain tied itself somewhat to European trade in recent years though its membership of the European Union between 1973 when it first joined what was then known as the European Communities (the Common Market) and 2020 when it left the bloc, forcing New Zealand and Australia to seek new markets and trade with the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand has a large influence over former British colonies in the Pacific and the British territory of Pitcairn.

Up to about the 1960s, New Zealand also had extremely close economic relations with the United Kingdom, especially considering the distance at which trade took place. As an example, in 1955, Britain took 65.3 percent of New Zealand's exports, and only during the following decades did this dominant position begin to decline when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973, with the share of exports going to Britain having fallen to only 6.2 percent in 2000.[12] Historically, some industries, such as dairying, a major economic factor in the former colony, had even more dominant trade links, with 80-100% of all cheese and butter exports going to Britain from around 1890 to 1940.[13]

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, recent annual New Zealand exports to the United Kingdom have accounted for at least NZ$1.76 billion worth of trade, and over NZ$1 billion in the opposite direction. Meat products make up almost half of exports and the largest imports are machinery and vehicles.[1]

A bilateral business association, British New Zealand Business Association Inc., was established in 1917 and aims to promote reciprocal trade and the interests of association members undertaking trade between the two nations.[14]


New Zealand residency grants by country - 2004

According to the New Zealand High Commission in London, Britain is the third largest source of tourists to New Zealand.[15]

London has the highest density of people born in New Zealand of all British regions, 47% of them choosing to live there according to the 2001 census.[16]


Several popular sports in New Zealand find their origins in English sporting history such as rugby union, rugby league and cricket. The first interclub rugby union match in New Zealand, in Nelson, took place in 1870 and was inspired by a teacher returning from England with a knowledge of the new game.[17] The London New Zealand Cricket Club is a popular cricket team which plays in the United Kingdom.

Co-involvement in international organizations and multilateral treaties

New Zealand and Britain are both members of a number of international bodies, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and the OECD. Defence arrangements involving both Britain and New Zealand include the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and the UK-USA Security Agreement for intelligence sharing. Since 2006, New Zealand has been a party to the ABCA interoperability arrangement of national defence forces, which has always included Britain. ANZUK was a tripartite force formed by Australia, New Zealand and Britain to defend the Asian Pacific region after Britain withdrew forces from the east of Suez in the early seventies. The ANZUK force was formed in 1971 and disbanded in 1974. The SEATO anti-communist defence organisation also extended membership to both countries for the duration of its existence from 1955 to 1977.

Bilateral representation

New Zealand has maintained a resident Head of Mission in the United Kingdom since 1871. The current High Commissioner from New Zealand to the United Kingdom is Sir Jerry Mateparae. The current High Commissioner from the United Kingdom to New Zealand is Laura Clarke. The governor-general of New Zealand fulfilled the role of the High Commissioner from the United Kingdom to New Zealand from its inception until 1939. Subsequently, separate appointments were made; this distinguished the representation of the British Government in New Zealand from that of the shared monarch, in sympathy with the principles set out under the Balfour declaration thirteen years earlier.

Several New Zealand public bodies have official representatives in Britain and Honorary Consuls are based in the UK constituent countries of Scotland and Northern Ireland.[18]

Official visits

Regular ministerial and VIP visits from New Zealand to Britain, and vice versa, take place each year. During 2009, at least 10 such official visits took place from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and at least 8 from the United Kingdom to New Zealand.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b "United Kingdom Country Information Paper". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ). Retrieved 2010.
  2. ^ "Secret Instructions to Captain Cook, 30 June 1768" (PDF). National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^ "Country Profile: New Zealand". Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK). Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 2010.
  4. ^ Carrington, C E (4 September 2008), John Robert Godley of Canterbury, CUP, p. 69, ISBN 978-0-521-07275-5
  5. ^ "Law and the Economy". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2010.
  6. ^ Contrast with Constitution of Canada, Constitution of South Africa, Constitution of Australia, Constitution of the Irish Free State
  7. ^ "New Zealand Boundaries Act 1863 (c.23)". Office of Public Sector Information (UK). Retrieved 2010.
  8. ^ "The Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (New Zealand) Order 2004". Office of Public Sector Information (UK). Retrieved 2010.
  9. ^ "The Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Taxes on Income and Capital) (New Zealand) Order 2008". Office of Public Sector Information (UK). Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ "Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1989 (c. 43)". Office of Public Sector Information (UK). Retrieved 2010.
  11. ^ "Celebrating 60 Years of New Zealand Citizenship". The Department of Internal Affairs (NZ). Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  12. ^ "New Zealand's Export Markets year ended June 2000 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. June 2000. Archived from the original on 15 May 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  13. ^ New Zealand Historical Atlas - McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); David Bateman, 1997, Plate 61
  14. ^ For more information: "About Us". British New Zealand Business Association Inc. Archived from the original on 2010-11-19.
  15. ^ "Relationship between the United Kingdom and New Zealand". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ). Retrieved 2010.
  16. ^ "Born Abroad: An immigration map of Britain". BBC. 7 September 2005. Retrieved 2010.
  17. ^ "Rugby Union Football; History". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2010.
  18. ^ "New Zealand Representatives Overseas; United Kingdom". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ). Retrieved 2010.
  19. ^ "United Kingdom Country Information Paper (Visits)". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ). Retrieved 2010.

External links

Media related to Relations of New Zealand and the United Kingdom at Wikimedia Commons

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