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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 Dioceses

The Church of England in New Zealand had its beginnings with the arrival of the Rev. Samuel Marsden at the Bay of Islands in 1814, when on Christmas Day he preached the first sermon in New Zealand. Towards the close of 1838 Bishop Broughton, who had been consecrated Bishop of Australia on 14 February 1836, paid a visit to the Bay of Islands in response to an earnest request from the Church Missionary Society, and while there held confirmations in English and Maori. After this, Bishop Broughton reported to the society that the appointment of a bishop for New Zealand was a matter of urgent necessity. The Secretary of State of the Colonies (Lord John Russell) considered this impossible because New Zealand was not part of the British Dominions. The Proclamation of the Queen's sovereignty in New Zealand on 21 May 1840 by Captain William Hobson, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, was followed by the appointment, by Royal Letters Patent dated 10 October 1841, of George Augustus Selwyn as Bishop of New Zealand. He was consecrated at Lambeth on 17 October 1841. Through a drafting error in the Patent, Bishop Selwyn accepted his boundaries literally and claimed authority over a part of what now forms the field of the Melanesian Mission. The various islands of Polynesia (mainly Fiji and Tonga groups) were considered to be under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, but became associated with the New Zealand church by a statute of General Synod dated 6 February 1925. Bishop Selwyn's original diocese of New Zealand was reduced in the first place by the resignation by the bishop of the area included in the diocese of Christchurch by Royal Letters Patent dated 31 July 1856, and then by the constitution by Royal Letters Patent dated 27 September 1858 of the dioceses of Waiapu, Wellington, and Nelson. This left an area which was changed from the diocese of New Zealand to the diocese of Auckland when Bishop Selwyn returned to England to become Bishop of Lichfield in 1868. The diocese of Auckland was divided when General Synod created the diocese of Waikato in 1925. The diocese of Dunedin was originally part of the diocese of Christchurch and was created a separate diocese as from 1 January 1869 by General Synod on 17 October 1868. These seven dioceses in New Zealand, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Waiapu, Waikato, and Wellington and the two associated missionary dioceses of Melanesia and Polynesia make up “the Church of the Province of New Zealand (commonly called the Church of England)” the correct title as defined by a canon of General Synod. By an Act passed by the Parliament of New Zealand in 1955 the General Synod has power to define the extent, nature, and terms of association of missionary dioceses with the Church of the Province of New Zealand.


Laurie Henry Wilson, formerly Secretary and Treasurer of the Church of England in the Province of New Zealand, Christchurch.

Auaina ake: The Constitution