Publication Details

Brett, A. (2015). Did War Cause the Abolition of New Zealand's Provincial System?. History Australia, 12 (2), 165-187.


Some historians identify warfare in the North Island between settlers and Maori as the key to the abolition of New Zealand's provinces in 1876. This requires reconsideration. I suggest that warfare had notable but not dire consequences for provincialism, and that other issues were of greater significance. Although the central state gained powers during wartime, these rarely came at the expense of provincial powers. The botched implementation of the New Zealand Settlements Act, which has been cited as evidence of provincial failure, actually reflected poorly on both levels of government. The centralising impulse must be found elsewhere. Rather than being caused primarily by wartime expansion of the central state, major centralising reforms were more due to provincial mismanagement and reckless borrowing for public works that provoked a public desire for change. When settlers were presented with an alternative central vision of development, they embraced it and rejected the provinces.



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