Designing of the Cross
A Royal Commission was appointed on 12 July 1870 to decide upon a design for the decorative distinction, the selected design being forwarded to England for approval by Queen Victoria in January 1871. On 7 June 1871 the Agent-General of the colony in London was instructed to have 20 crosses made to the approved design, and the work was entrusted to Messrs Phillips Bros. and Son of Cockspur Street, London. The Agent-General, Dr I. E. Featherston (who was later to be awarded the cross), in conjunction with Colonel Whitmore who happened to be in London at the time, authorised various modifications of the design as suggested by the goldsmiths. These included a major change in the shape of the crown and the introduction of a suspender clasp having a V-link that was a direct copy from the Victoria Cross. By the time the Government received notification of the design changes, it was too late to do anything as the crosses were already being struck.
The decoration consists of a silver cross pattée, 1 in. across the limbs, surmounted by a gold crown. In the centre of the cross is “NEW ZEALAND”, surrounded by a gold laurel wreath, and on each limb is a six-pointed star in gold. The reverse of the cross is plain in the centre except for two concentric circles in relief, between which are engraved the recipient's rank, name, and unit. The date of the action is engraved within the inner circle, while some of the crosses also record the place of the action above the date. The silver suspender clasp, ornamented with a sprig of laurel in gold, bears on the lower edge a V-link to which the cross is attached by two gold rings. A two-pronged buckle brooch in gold was provided to attach the decoration to the jacket or coat.
A Royal Commission was appointed on 25 September 1873 to examine a number of recommendations submitted following the award of the first seven crosses, and to make recommendations to the Governor for any further awards. A number of recommendations were rejected on the grounds that the events concerned had taken place prior to the institution of the decoration, and the Commissioners considered that no retrospective authority was contained in the Order in Council. In spite of the fact that the Commissioners were required to report to the Governor within 10 days and a number of recommendations were upheld, no further awards were made for almost two years.
In August 1875 the Governor, on a recommendation forwarded from London by General Sir Trevor Chute, late Imperial General Officer Commanding the Forces in New Zealand, approved of the award of the cross to Dr I. E. Featherston for meritorious and intrepid services rendered in 1865–66. The Governor's action was the subject of considerable discussion in the Legislative Council as some of the members were of the opinion that the General should have recommended Featherston for the Victoria Cross at the time, as he was competent to do so, and not to have waited until the New Zealand Cross was instituted several years later. A special board of officers appointed to review the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1873 reported in April 1876 that all were upheld, as was also the case of some that had been declined by the Commissioners on the grounds that they were time-barred for the award. No doubt this change of view was influenced by the award made to Dr Featherston a few months previously.