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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.



Provincial Districts

The old provincial areas were accorded the legal status of provincial districts. These have never had administrative functions of any sort, but have been used for the publication of some statistical data since they retain unchanged the boundaries of the provinces abolished in 1876. They also correspond broadly to areas of community of interest and have sentimental and historical associations which have deepened rather than diminished through the years. For some time after 1876 provincialism remained a force in colonial politics, although in an obstructionist rather than positive manner. Southland Province had been merged with Otago in 1870 and was not created a provincial district. The Department of Statistics has for many years published data for the “Southland portion” of the Otago provincial district. This area comprises the four counties of Southland, Wallace, Fiord, and Stewart Island, and is considerably larger than the former Southland Province.

In abolishing the provinces the legislators of the 1870s ignored their geographical distinctiveness as possible administrative areas. Had the financial relationships between the provinces and the Central Government been more rationally defined, and had the provinces acquired fewer powers and defended them less stubbornly, there would have been less need to abolish them. A modification of the provincial areas could have provided a more effective basis for local government than did the subsequent proliferation of local bodies, such as counties, power boards, rabbit boards, catchment boards, and education boards with their frequently overlapping boundaries. M.MC.C.

  • New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 1875
  • The Provincial System in New Zealand, Morrell, W. P. (1932)
  • Government in New Zealand, Webb, L. (1940)
  • Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958).