Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Bank Notes

Paper currency in use in New Zealand comprises bank notes issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand which, as the central bank, has the sole right of note issue. For nearly 80 years prior to 1 August 1934, when the Reserve Bank commenced business, the trading banks had the right to issue notes. On the establishment of the Reserve Bank, this right was withdrawn. Two years later, on 1 August 1936, the Reserve Bank assumed liability for all trading bank notes outstanding, then some £549,000; in 1976 all such notes will be deemed to be no longer in circulation and will be treated as unclaimed moneys. At the end of 1963 the value of outstanding trading bank notes was £346,000. It is probable that a substantial proportion are either in collections or have been lost or destroyed.

Reserve Bank notes are issued in denominations of 10s., £1, 5, 10, and 50. So far two issues of notes have been made, the second one being on 6 February 1940, partly to commemorate New Zealand's centenary and partly to replace gradually the first temporary issue. A £10 note was introduced with this issue. Unlike those on notes of some countries, denominations in New Zealand are readily distinguished by differences in size, colour, and design. In design the notes incorporate historical features. All, for example, have an engraved portrait of Captain Cook on the face. On the back the design for the £5 note, for example, includes a fantail (bird) and a scenic engraving of Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook while for the £10 note the design on the back is an engraving of a New Zealand sheep-farming scene.

Over the years there has been a distinct trend towards a relatively greater use of £5 and 10 notes. The table below, which expresses each denomination as a percentage of the total net note circulation (i.e., excluding notes held by the banks as till money), clearly illustrates this trend.

Last Wednesday in March
1945 1963
10s. 2.9 3.0
£1 24.7 16.1
£5 55.0 58.2
£10 10.0 18.0
£50 7.4 4.2