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.



Growth in the Number of Departments

By 1887 there were 30 independent Departments. An attempt was made to create a more compact administration by amalgamating nine of them under the title of “Treasury and Revenue”, but this grouping was never an administrative reality, and the process of expansion continued unchecked.

In 1890 the Liberal Government assumed office with the intention of correcting injustices in the industrial system, raising the living standards of wage earners and the aged, and facilitating the settlement of farm labourers and unemployed on the land. The legislation passed to achieve these objectives increased the duties of the Public Service. Existing agencies expanded in size, and by 1910 thirteen new Departments had come into existence. The 20 years from 1890 to 1910 set the pattern for New Zealand's machinery of government. Instead of placing related activities, such as life and fire insurance, under the care of an existing Department, the Government created new agencies to administer new duties of any size and importance. As a consequence, so many Departments came into existence that from 1910 onwards the question of securing a reduction in numbers was to be reconsidered at regular intervals.