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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 need for security of person and property is a fundamental one in any community. It was a prime motive for the establishment of British sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840. Already, however, in 1838, residents of Kororareka (now Russell) had formed a Vigilantes' Association for enforcing law and order, and they provided the first place of detention in this country of which there is any record – an old sea chest, ventilated by gimlet holes. After 1840 more orthodox prisons were established, although the first ones were scarcely escape proof. The Akaroa gaol was typical. It was described as a mere mud cottage quite unfit to hold prisoners, who could have pulled it down with their hands. Until 1854 the worst offenders were transported to Tasmania. Penal servitude within New Zealand was then substituted; it was in turn abolished in 1893.


Bruce James Cameron, B.A., LL.M., Legal Adviser, Department of Justice, Wellington.

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