Although ice skating has been a popular pastime in European countries for many centuries, it was not introduced into New Zealand until the mid-1920s. Because of the relatively mild New Zealand winters, the skating season is short and often uncertain. Conditions are best in inland Canterbury and Otago where there are numerous natural rinks. At first only speed skating was practised but dancing, figure skating, and ice hockey were introduced in the 1930s.
In June 1937, following the first Erewhon Cup final, the New Zealand Ice Skating Association was formed at Opawa Station, Canterbury. It exercises a general supervision over all aspects of the sport and arranges the various national championship meetings. There are also three district associations – Canterbury, South Canterbury, and Otago – which run provincial championships. The N.Z.I.S.A. Championships are usually held in three divisions, generally at different meetings. These are the New Zealand National Ice Skating Championships, the New Zealand Ice Speed Skating Championships, and the New Zealand Short Track Speed Championships. The National Ice Skating Championships – covering figure skating, pairs skating, dancing and waltzing -and the Ice Speed Skating Championships have been held annually since 1946. Until 1959 the latter events were held over English linear distances, but in 1960 the N.Z.I.S.A. reorganised its speed championships to bring them in line with international standards. Since 1961 the various events, over metric distances, have been competed for on the standard 400–metre, two-lane oval track. It has thus been possible to record times on a basis comparable with similar recordings overseas. In 1963 an ice marathon (26 miles 385 yards), open to men and women competitors, was instituted. Although the short track speed championships on indoor or small outdoor rinks have been held for many years, it was not until 1964 that official times have been kept for these events.
In 1964 the N.Z.I.S.A. became affiliated to the International Skating Union in Switzerland. As a result, New Zealand skaters will be eligible to compete in the World Championships and at the Winter Olympics.
Since 1947, the N.Z.I.S.A. has published annually an official organ, Ice Tracings.