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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.



The Provincial Era

The Constitution Act of 1852 outlined the legislative responsibilities of the Central Government and of the six provinces that it created, but it did not define their respective administrative duties or the relationships between the legislatures and the executives. Problems associated with the parliamentary control of the Central Government's executive were resolved by the introduction of responsible government in 1856 and by the eventual transfer to the colonists of the powers reserved to the British Government.

The difficulties associated with the division of administrative responsibilities were intensified by Governor Grey's action in establishing the provinces and delegating work to them before he convened the General Assembly. Subsequently, the General Assembly tried to devise a more satisfactory allocation of administrative and financial responsibilities, but the solutions were only temporarily successful, and had to be revised at frequent intervals. In the end, because some of the provinces were financially unstable as a result of the Maori Wars, dwindling land revenue, and heavy overseas borrowing, the Central Government assumed responsibility for immigration and works — two of the major functions within the jurisdiction of the provinces. In addition, the Central Government began to create Departments of State to administer the more important new tasks arising from social legislation — for example, the sale of life insurance and the administration of estates. Slowly, a more stable pattern of administration began to emerge. Had this progress continued, New Zealand would have developed substantial, effective units of local government. Instead, the provinces were abolished in 1876, and replaced by a large number of small territorial local bodies.