Exploring the Canada - New Zealand Comparison



This keynote lecture was delivered at the joint conference of the British Association for Canadian Studies and the New Zealand Studies Association at Canterbury, Kent in April 2005.


[Published in Ian Conrich, Dominic Alessio and Itesh Sachdev, eds, Small Nations, Big Neighbours: New Zealand & Canada (Kakapo Books, Nottingham, 2011)]

John A. Macdonald’s alarm should remind us that Canada-New Zealand comparisons do not always ‘work’, and solutions certainly do not transfer automatically from one to the other. None the less, he was aware of New Zealand precedents from as early as 1852 and his favourite sister-in-law later emigrated to Canterbury.[1]

          Macdonald’s dismissal of the New Zealand model came during the Quebec Conference in November 1864, when delegates from the still disunited British North American colonies met to draw up a common scheme of government. One of the key issues that faced them was the division of powers between central and local governments ─ and how best to define the boundary between them. Jonathan McCully of Nova Scotia was a centraliser, and he appealed to the New Zealand constitution as the best way forward. McCully pointed out that Section 53 listed the areas that the provinces could not touch. The General Assembly was not only given power to legislate for the whole country, but was also authorised to override any conflicting legislation at local level.[2]

            Macdonald was a centraliser himself and, privately, he probably sympathised: there is an annotated copy of the New Zealand constitution among his papers.[3] But he was also a realist and a compromiser: he knew that French Canadians and most Maritimers would not accept so overtly centralised a scheme of government. Only staccato notes survive of his response. He pointed out that emigrants had gone out to different settlements in New Zealand ‘under different guarantees. Local charters jarred.’ To protect local institutions, the New Zealand provinces were granted specified powers, but since the intention was to fuse them into a single legislative union ─ the sort of constitution that he would privately have preferred for British North America ─ ‘the General Government had powers to sweep these away. That is just what we do not want. Lower Canada [the contemporary name for the province of Quebec] and the Lower [i.e. Maritime] Provinces would not have such a thing. There is no analogy between New Zealand and ourselves in such respects.’[4] He might have added that New Zealand’s constitution act was passed in 1852, just twelve years after the assertion of British sovereignty over the islands. The South Island provinces of Otago and Canterbury dated from 1848 and 1850, and so were hardly ancient entities, whereas the British North American colonies had experienced local representative government since the eighteenth century.

            However, the pregnant phrase ‘peace, order and good government’ (so often taken as the epitome of the Canadian identity) somehow made its way from the New Zealand constitution to the preamble of the British North America Act. Macdonald’s own draft of the Act used the existing phrase ‘peace, welfare and good government’, taken from the British Act of 1840. It was the Colonial Office draughtsman who substituted ‘order’, almost certainly from the New Zealand constitution act of 1852, for ‘welfare’.[5]

            There has been relatively little direct overlap between the mainstream histories of the two countries. In the 1850s, New Zealand maintained an emigration office in Toronto, and there is the famous example of the Waipu settlement, established by the followers of the Reverend Norman McLeod after the potato famine had helped drive them out of Nova Scotia. James Edward FitzGerald, a major figure in early Canterbury, originally planned to emigrate to Vancouver Island, but the infrastructure of this tiny colony was so disrupted by the California gold rush that he opted for ‘the next best colony’, as he put it, and sailed to New Zealand instead.[6] The colonisation theorist Edward Gibbon Wakefield was briefly elected to the Canadian Assembly in the 1840s, before attempting a political career in New Zealand, but he seems to have been an exception.[7] Arthur Gordon, governor of New Brunswick on the eve of Confederation, spent two frustrating years representing the Queen in New Zealand from 1880-82.[8] Gold rushes in Otago from 1861 and on the west coast of the South Island in 1865 can be seen as part of a Pacific-wide process that included mainland British Columbia in 1858[9] ─ but it would be a long time before either Canadians of New Zealanders recognised the implications of their respective Pacific orientations. By the end of the twentieth century, Canada was New Zealand’s eleventh largest export market, and about one New Zealand resident in every five hundred was Canadian-born.

            Direct historical comparison ─ and the point has its bearing on modern assessments too ─ is complicated by the fact that the European experience in New Zealand is strikingly recent, even within the timescale of the overall European impact on the wider world. It is unlikely that the islands were even sighted by Europeans before Tasman named them in 1642.[10] By the time that Captain Cook arrived in 1769, the main outlines of eastern British North America were firmly in place. (Cook, who gave European names to many of the main coastal features, had recently explored the west coast of Newfoundland and was running out of toponymic originality: both acquired a Bay of Islands.)[11]

            From the 1790s a few sealers established semi-permanent residence. The first Anglican missionary arrived, briefly, in 1814, and the Methodists erected the oldest surviving European building at Kerikeri in 1822. By the late 1830s, the white (‘pakeha’) population was only a few thousand. Annexation came about in 1840 not because of settler numbers but out of fear of the greed of those who backed them. As James Stephen of the Colonial Office wrote in 1839, ‘New Zealand will ere long be like Prince Edward’s Island, the property of some Forty to Fifty Absentees’.[12] One of the intending land grabbers was Lord Durham of the still-celebrated Durham Report on Canada.

            This is a reminder that the rebellions of 1837-8, landmark if not necessarily formative events in Canada, took place before the British flag was hoisted over New Zealand. The two major South Island settlements, Otago and Canterbury, were established in 1848 and 1850. Until the 1860s, European settlements in the North Island were little more than enclaves surrounded by and to some extent at the mercy of Maori people. It was not until 1877 that the first New Zealand-born pakeha politician achieved local cabinet rank, by which time British-born figures like John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie in Canada were approaching their political sell-by dates. By the mid-twentieth century, it would have been almost unthinkable for an adult migrant from Britain to rise to the office of Prime Minister of Canada (John Turner went out at the age of three), but in New Zealand Walter Nash, prime minister 1958-61, retained his unlikely loyalty to West Bromwich Albion throughout his political career.

            The fact that what we might call the ‘business end’ of New Zealand’s European history falls in a much later period than that of Canada points up some direct and important differences between the two experiences. One is that New Zealanders probably felt closer to Britain, despite their greater distance, for much longer than Canadians ─ or perhaps we should say that, for more of them, the nature of their identification was more personal and immediately familial.

            Two other conclusions may be suggested more tentatively. A far greater proportion, indeed almost all, of the New Zealand European experience has been directly and immediately shaped by the advanced technology that has dominated the world since mid-Victorian times. Sailing ships, notably the famous clippers, continued to have a role on the New Zealand run until well into the twentieth century, but essentially the European experience in New Zealand has been coterminous with the steam engine, especially in shipping if less prominently in railways (as discussed below). Most notably, the introduction of refrigeration in the 1880s dramatically reoriented the New Zealand economy from wheat and wool to an agriculture dominated by dairying and meat production, supported by the local growth of animal feed. (Canada, of course, experienced a parallel and precisely contemporary technological development, when the transcontinental railway similarly plugged the prairie economy into a European orbit, and in the Canadian case advanced technology underpinned the creation of a whole new region of settlement. But whereas canoes feature in the early history of European engagement with western Canada, in the New Zealand story canoes belong firmly to the Maori world the pakeha brushed aside.[13])

            The second connects time, New Zealand’s mid- and late-Victorian origins, with distance and the nature of the early colonisation. It is a simple but important fact that European colonisation of New Zealand essentially occurred after the Irish Famine. Historians and demographers now see post-Famine emigration as equally important to the outflow of the 1840s, but overall emigration patterns from Ireland were influenced by chain migration. Irish Catholics were not absent from the New Zealand story, but they established fewer footholds. Otago was settled by the Free Church of Scotland, Canterbury was Anglican. (Legend holds that its chief city, Christchurch, was named after an Oxford college: it is more likely that it reflects the dedication of the metropolitan cathedral of the Church of England.) In any case, because New Zealand was so far away, the passage money cost much more, and that deterred if it did not entirely eliminate people fleeing from poverty.[14]

            Whatever the reasons, we can identify one outcome. The New Zealand population has never been more than about 15 percent Catholic ─ roughly half its weighting in Australia and a little more than a third of its share in Canada. Catholicism, of course, is not a socially monolithic influence. In Canada, French Catholicism was frequently conservative, while the example of D’Arcy McGee is a reminder that the political division of North America acted as a filter within Irish Catholicism, siphoning off most of the more turbulent elements south of the border. As a result, Irish-descended Catholicism in Canada has generally been less radical than in Australia, as may be symbolised by comparing Brian Mulroney and Paul Keating.

            One historical cameo that tells something about the way in which the pattern of religious allegiance shaped New Zealand was the attempt in 1922 by the prime minister, William Ferguson Massey from Limavady, to prosecute the Catholic Bishop of Auckland for sedition, the sedition of course being the vehement expression of an alternative view of the future of Ireland.[15] But while the pattern of religious allegiance points to overall difference between New Zealand and Canada, it may draw attention to parallels, notably in the expression of loyalty to Britain, with the more specific experience of Ontario, which was for long also predominantly Protestant and imperial in its culture.

            One other point may be tentatively sketched, in a general and tangential relationship to New Zealand’s late settlement, contemporaneous development in an era of technology and relatively small Irish Catholic influence. From the outset of organised colonisation, in the 1840s, New Zealand was regarded as a suitable destination for ‘gentlemen’ settlers. In 1869 a British MP remarked in a parliamentary debate that there was hardly a member of the House of Commons ‘who had not a friend or a relation in New Zealand.’[16] Canada, by contrast, was generally seen as a low status colony, a place to send labourers and artisans ─ not until after the Second World War did it become a desirable place for educated and professional emigrants from Britain and, by Gramscian transfer, the disdain of the nineteenth-century governing classes has been imbibed by many British intellectuals of today. Something of the difference in ethos, from the point of view of the cultured classes, may be captured in the contrast between Susanna Moodie’s cry of genteel pain in Roughing It In The Bush (1852) and Lady Barker’s Station Life in New Zealand (1870), which claimed to be ‘an exact account of a lady’s experience of the brighter and less practical side of colonization’.[17] But Lady Barker was first cousin to Agnes Bernard, second wife of John A. Macdonald, so we must not make too much of these extreme opposites.

            So far as relates to New Zealand, what did all this mean in practice?  Not a great deal, it would seem. Many of the gentlemen colonists headed back to Britain as soon as they had made their money.[18] Even if the gentlemen dominated colonial public life in the early days, the mysterious and rampantly factional form of politics that they generated can hardly be described as gentlemanly.[19] In any case, they soon made way for more raucously plebeian figures. At Dominion level, Canada has few equivalents to the adventurer Julius Vogel, premier in the 1870s, or to Richard John Seddon, the Lancashire publican known as ‘King Dick’, who ran the country from 1893 to his death in 1906. To find Canadian equivalents of these figures we would have to turn to someone like Newfoundland’s Joey Smallwood in provincial politics.[20]

            But two implications may be suggested as having arisen from the involvement of the sprigs of gentrydom, and the wider mythology of the Wakefield system of attempting to colonise a whole cross-section of society.

            First, as early as the 1860s, Anthony Trollope noticed a sense of superiority among New Zealand settlers, which by 1902 had crystallised into the claim that they were not simply British but ‘best British’.[21] This in turn helped distinguish New Zealanders from Australians, behind whose strident self-confidence New Zealanders invariably claimed to detect the clanking of the chains of their convict origins.

            Secondly, and even more speculatively, the presence of an educated minority within colonial society may help to explain why, in 1893, New Zealand led the world in the enfranchisement of women: it was not so much the gentlemen who mattered as the ladies. In terms of immediate explanation, votes for women slipped through by accident. Seddon needed to clean up his image in the eyes of the temperance lobby, which was heavily officered by articulate women. The suffragist argument that it was absurd to give the vote to the roughest of males while excluding the most genteel of females had evident validity in a colony which was producing its first women university graduates. Seddon pushed the legislation through the lower house on the eve of an election, confident that the nominated and generally conservative upper house would throw it out, so giving him a cheap cry at the polls. The Legislative Council declined to stroll into the trap, and so New Zealand accidentally clinched its reputation for radical political experiment.[22]


Turning from history to geography, the most obvious limitation on comparison relates to simple statistics of size. Canada has an area of 3.8 million square miles (almost 10 million square kilometres) and a population of 32.5 million. New Zealand is 104,000 square miles (270,000 square kilometres), with a population which recently passed four millions. In other words, Canada is about 35 times larger than New Zealand in area, and has about eight times as many people. To ram home the point, seven of Canada’s ten provinces and all three of its territories are larger in area than New Zealand, while today Ontario alone has three times New Zealand’s population and Quebec about double. The Greater Toronto area alone has a population equal to the whole of New Zealand.

            Clearly, there are gradations of ‘smallness’: New Zealand in 1996 had fewer people than the Dominion of Canada in 1871. Can we assess the qualitative effect of smallness of population? In cultural terms, New Zealand has found it hard to assemble a ‘critical mass’ ─ the adjective can be used in more than one sense ─ sufficient to generate a self-sustaining intellectual life: the outflow of talent, also part of the Canadian experience, has been a marked feature of New Zealand.[23] Although in recent decades, New Zealand artists have experimented with Polynesian symbols, they have been operating within a relatively standardised international abstract movement. Historically, there has been no defining moment in the history of New Zealand painting equivalent to the impact of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven in Canada. But here we may need to be cautious in imposing the statistical yardsticks of demography upon the evolution of national art-forms, for Heidelberg had performed much the same role in Australian art two decades before the Group of Seven, at a time when Australia had a far smaller and much more dispersed population than Canada.[24]

            Relative smallness of population may help to explain why New Zealand became one of the world’s ‘social laboratories’, but even more important was the fact that for long periods of its history, New Zealand was prosperous enough to afford such social experimentation as old age pensions: it is hardly coincidence that the first great wave of welfare legislation dates back to the 1890s, soon after the New Zealand economy was revolutionised by the introduction of refrigeration, which made possible high quality and high earning exports of farm produce to Britain.[25]

            Canada as the classic ‘middle power’ accepts some form of international role but insists upon defining by projecting its own image as the part of North America that is not the United States. New Zealand is hardly large enough to aspire even to ‘middle power’ status and its remoteness allows it the luxury of high-mindedness that leaves its critics alleging that it has contracted out of the world altogether. The country’s ban on visits by nuclear-powered warships has become a national shibboleth akin to the slightly muddled Irish insistence upon neutrality (of a generally pro-American kind). More recently, New Zealand has virtually abandoned the attempt to maintain a combat air force. In these instances, smallness has pushed New Zealand far beyond the independent defence position recently reiterated by the Canadian government in relation to US missile defence.

            But the cliché that terms New Zealand a ‘small democracy’[26] masks internal distance: Dunedin is about as far from Auckland as Windsor is from Quebec City. Does this comparison suggest that we should think of New Zealand as a ‘corridor’, the familiar image applied to southern Ontario and southern Quebec?[27]

            One obvious riposte to a ‘corridor’ comparison would be to point out that New Zealand is made up of two islands, although R. Cole Harris’s view of the ‘Canadian archipelago’ reminds us that to some extent the French-dominated St Lawrence lowlands and the anglophone Great Lakes peninsula also have island characteristics.[28] Railways played a lesser role in New Zealand development, with the main North Island link between Auckland and Wellington not completed until 1908, 22 years after the transcontinental CPR. But it would be more accurate to say that railways played a different role in New Zealand, acting more as feeders than as arteries. Moreover, coastal steamship services have always been important, as they remained important on central Canadian waterways even after the arrival of the iron horse.[29]

          We should not forget that New Zealand has more than two islands. Indeed the South Island was originally called the Middle Island (or, more poetically, New Munster), a name which it retained for official purposes until 1907.[30] In the nineteenth century, the South Island also had most of the population: throughout the twentieth it fell steadily behind. It retains the slightly derisive nickname of ‘the mainland’, although North Islanders have long joked that there is a notice in the ferry terminal at Lyttelton asking the last person who leaves the South Island to turn out the lights. A minor legacy of the original South Island dominance can be found on maps: where place-names are duplicated, it is the North Island example that is singled out, as in Palmerston North. More substantial, and with a strong parallel to Quebec in Canada, the country’s electoral system specifically entrenches a minimum level of South Island representation.[31]

            In reality, the overall population of the South Island has increased in every five year period during recent times except one:[32] it just grows more slowly than the North Island. Christchurch rivals the capital, Wellington, for the unofficial status of the country’s second largest city.[33] However, the southern end of the South Island fares less well. ‘In any climate approaching to our own,’ wrote George Rennie, who inspired the Otago settlement, ‘a knot of us can make at any time a Scotland for ourselves.’[34] In recent decades, the knot has shown signs of unravelling. By convention, Dunedin is one of the four principal cities, and is the home of New Zealand’s oldest university (Scots influence again). But Hamilton in the North Island, home of the modern University of Waikato, now has far more people, and the twin cities of Napier and Hastings on Hawkes Bay have drawn level.[35] Napier also has the unexpected distinction of being one of the most notable art deco cities in the world: it was rebuilt in contemporary style after being virtually destroyed in a severe earthquake in 1931.

          The stagnation of Otago-Southland (in some senses, New Zealand’s equivalent of Canada’s Maritime provinces) has formed part of a long-term population shift within New Zealand that resembles the historical shift of the centre of gravity within central Canada from Lower Canada-Quebec to Upper Canada-Ontario, and especially from Montreal to Toronto. In New Zealand, however, the shift has been even more spectacularly focused upon a single city. More than one New Zealander in four now lives in the Auckland area, which is thus proportionately twice as dominant as Toronto is within Canada. Toronto is at least located about midway across Canada, but Auckland is isolated at one end of the Kiwi corridor. Toronto’s centrality is also continental, underlining and transmitting North American influences throughout Canada. Auckland’s centrality is Polynesian, with huge implications for the future composition of the country’s population. The arrival of people from island cultures such as Samoa and Tonga has raised issues for the indigenous Maori population similar to, and potentially far greater than, the challenges felt by Quebecers de vieille souche in response to immigration from francophone Africa and the Caribbean.

            Even if New Zealand may appear a ‘small democracy’ from afar, like Dr Who’s Tardis, it can seem infinitely large within. There was a dramatic example of this in the great storm of January 1968. The inter-island ferry Wahine sank within sight of the Wellington suburbs, with the loss of 51 lives ─ proportionally equal to a disaster claiming over thousand people in modern Britain. New Zealand’s state television service was able to fly news film out to the world through Auckland in the north, where the airport was still open, but all communications were cut off to the south, and this in the days when news film was still airlifted from studio to studio. The Wahine was of especial significance both as an economic link and as a national symbol to South Islanders. In Christchurch, two amateur television enthusiasts braved the elements and managed to record pictures direct from Wellington for re-transmission locally. But the news room in Dunedin, two hundred miles further south, received a telex which was long remembered as a talisman of regional resentment. It simply said: ‘You are on your own.’[36]

            If we think of New Zealand as the physical equivalent of ‘central Canada’, then its relations with the nearby Pacific region might perhaps be compared with Canada’s ‘westward expansion’ and the subsequent internal strains of transcontinental partnership. The New Zealand push towards control over the nearby Pacific, mocked as the howling of empire from an empty coastline,[37] was contemporary with Canada’s absorption of the prairies. But a more specific comparison may lie between New Zealand and British Columbia, in terms of area and topography, population and economics. Both evolved class-based party systems, although the fusion of anti-socialist forces in British Columbia under the distinctly un-theoretical banner of Social Credit came two decades after the merger that created the National Party in New Zealand.[38] British Columbia is also dominated by a single non-central city. The European histories of the two territories are roughly contemporary ─ both were late starters ─ and there are other obvious parallels in their contemporary economies, which are largely resource-based and Pacific-focused. Both British Columbia and New Zealand have unresolved issues of land claims by native peoples. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it should be a New Zealander, Robin Fisher, who is one of the leading historians of race relations in British Columbia.[39]

            New Zealand’s Maori population constitutes a key element of comparative ambiguity. In recent years there have been fruitful contacts between Canada’s First Nations and Maori people, and their common agenda will be obvious. But, unlike Canada’s native peoples, Maori shared a common culture and language. While Maori-pakeha [European] conflict cannot be entirely separated from the story of the Australia/South Pacific region in general, New Zealand’s remoteness gave Maori some advantages in managing and resisting white intrusion. Historian James Belich has argued that Maori were both tactically innovative and militarily effective in fighting the ‘New Zealand [formerly ‘Maori’] Wars’.[40] By contrast, if the story of race relations has often been portrayed as relatively benign in Canada, this was for the brutal and blatant reason that native people had already lost the substantial battles south of the international border. However, in other respects, Maoritanga prompts a very different Canadian comparison. Since Pierre Vallières called his memoirs Nègres blancs de l’Amérique, the anglophone scholar may tread warily in drawing parallels ─ but in some social and political issues, such as bilingualism and political representation, Maori and French Canadian concerns may perhaps be mutually illuminated.

            Identifying the formative role of founding peoples points to comparisons and contrasts in basic myths and fundamental charters. Although much overlain by the confident vigour of recent decades, deep in the Quebec psyche lies the memory of the Conquest of 1759-63. In New Zealand, the same process traces back to the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, by which some, but not all Maori chiefs handed over some, but not very clearly defined, measure of authority to the British Crown. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, ‘the Treaty’ was politically rediscovered, and became regarded as a fundamental element in New Zealand political and judicial debate, in which it has come to play a role parallel to that of the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But whereas the Charter, with its 34 clauses, plus sub-clauses, seeks to define the whole range of citizenship rights in around two thousand words, the Treaty, in four clauses and around five hundred words, was deliberately opaque. Given that the Canadian Charter has generated some judicial surprises, it is not surprising that the Treaty has operated as something of a wild card in recent New Zealand history.[41]


This exploration of comparison was stimulated by a conference entitled: ‘Small Nations, Big Neighbours’. The English language is surprisingly casual in its use of the word ‘nation’: it can mean ‘independent state’ or ‘culturally homogenous community’.[42] In Canada and in New Zealand, both concepts of nationhood seem to have been slow in emerging. This is evidently because, in both countries, a specific sense of nationhood emerged from the wider context of British imperial identities. Comparison may suggest that the processes displayed some differences in emphasis, even when the study is narrowed to the English-speaking sections of the population. As already suggested, this may be partly explained by the chronology of colonisation: the effective formation of a European population came several decades later in New Zealand than in Canada. As a result, public life continued for much longer to be influenced by a sense of immediate kinship with ‘Home’, even though New Zealand was further away. Thus, whereas in Canada, Britishness for long contained a large element of being ‘not-American’, in New Zealand (even allowing for a smug sense of being ‘not-Australian’) it was much more a question of a seamless web of self-image: ‘one flag, one Queen, one tongue’ as Premier Seddon (Lancashire-born ‘King Dick’) put it in 1899.[43] More strikingly, Prime Minister Savage, Australia-born (which was unusual enough) and of Irish-Catholic background (which was even more remarkable) said of Britain in 1939: ‘Where she goes, we go; where she stands, we stand.’[44] New Zealand declared war on Germany (within hours of Chamberlain’s famous broadcast) but, unlike Canada’s more cerebral parliamentary route into the conflict, there was no doubt that the formal action was a mere reflex.

            The Canada-New Zealand comparison may perhaps encourage us to look again at the importance of the British inheritance in both countries. Even in 2005, it is hard to touch upon this question without hearing the strains of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ in the background. Liberal and constitutional elements in the British inheritance have certainly co-existed with racism, expropriation and injustice, and the legacy can only be fully assessed in terms of how Canadians and New Zealanders have made use of it. New Zealanders at least hit the ground running: responsible government was formally introduced in 1856, just sixteen years after annexation, although (as in pre-Confederation New Brunswick) its operation was undermined by the absence of a strong party system that could provide clear alternative governments.

          In the western hemisphere, there are seventeen independent republics from the former Spanish empire. Of these, only Uruguay could be said to have been experienced long, although interrupted, periods of democratic stability. Presumably we should look in part to the inheritance of institutions to explain the contrast, for it can hardly be coincidence that Canada and New Zealand should be two of the world’s more long-lasting constitutionally based states. They share with Australia the unusual conundrum of not only lacking an Independence Day but of not being sure just when independence happened. Indeed, New Zealand’s national day marks the beginning, not the end, of colonial rule. Hardly anybody is bothered by the anomaly, and it does have the effect of reminding us that pakeha New Zealanders brought a great deal with them. The ‘Treaty House’ at Waitangi, home of the generally ineffectual first British ‘Resident’ in New Zealand, was a prefabricated building brought over from New South Wales. European New Zealanders arrived with a whole lot of prefabricated ideas as well.

            Some historians have insisted that we should deconstruct the late nineteenth-century professions of ‘British’ identity to see them as nascent forms of local nationalism: Carl Berger advanced this view for Canada, Keith Sinclair in his analysis of New Zealand enthusiasm for imperial federation.[45] All that can be said here is that pressure to establish the formal trappings of national independence seems to have been muted in Canada and largely absent in New Zealand. New Zealand adopted the 1931 Statute of Westminster only in 1947 and only then as a necessary preliminary to getting rid of its nominated upper house altogether (Canadian Senate reformers take note).[46] When a separate New Zealand citizenship was created in 1948, the government ─ and it was a Labour government ─ expressly indicated that the step was taken reluctantly and only because Canada had broken the unity of British subject-hood.[47] Four years after adopting the Statute of Westminster, New Zealand signed up the ANZUS treaty, which looks a little like leaving one empire only to join another.[48]

            There may seem a certain oddity that New Zealand, the least locally nationalistic of British colonial societies, should be the only one where the right-wing party is called ‘National’.[49] But this is another ‘colonial’ usage: ‘National’ came together as a merger of the former United and Reform parties in 1931, when Britain too was replacing a Labour ministry with a coalition National government.

            ‘Empire’ solidarity, of course, was interpreted selectively in both countries. Both Canadians and New Zealanders managed to evolve local identities within an imperial matrix while simultaneously blocking out those subjects of the Empire who were racially inconvenient. Indeed, both countries complimented themselves on being far nicer to their own indigenous people than their raucous American and Australian neighbours.[50]            Some may suspect that in New Zealand, imperial identities were the product of the pocket rather than the passions. For about ninety years from the 1880s, refrigeration enabled New Zealand to supply meat and dairy products to consumers in Britain, with the unhealthy result that the UK dominated the export market of ‘Britain’s overseas farm’. I suspect that this was as much the product of coincidence as causation, but Canadian comparisons of self-image with self-interest might be fruitful here.

            It may be that looking at nationhood through the external trappings of sovereignty is to approach the question from the wrong end. In 1989, the New Zealand historian Miles Fairburn published an important book, although (no doubt typically) one that has not been much noticed beyond home shores. The Ideal Society and its Enemies was not primarily concerned with the concept of nation but with its  building block, the sense of community.[51] Fairburn argued that between 1850 and 1900, New Zealand did not constitute a society at all, but was rather an atomised collection of uprooted individuals. (In this, as in the political world, it is generally accepted that the picture had largely changed by the 1920s, at least in the cities and most country towns.)

            Fairburn’s critics did not accept his argument in anything like its entirety. Some pointed to diaries and rich collections of letters that painted a much more positive picture of integrated and mutually supportive lives: one of the best known, the Richmond-Atkinson Papers, includes a pre-emigration description of a lively election campaign in Kent.[52] Of course, it can be said that diary-keepers and letter-writers represent only a minority of any society. Others felt that Fairburn was unnecessary negative in the way he interpreted available evidence: one historian asked acerbically why he had omitted the incidence of wife-swapping from his definition of local community.[53]

            If Fairburn’s analysis is contested in New Zealand, can it apply in any way to Canada? The work of Michael B. Katz on the Canadian Hamilton, and David P. Gagan on Ontario’s Peel County, would seem to point to more stable family-based structures. Herbert Mays has micro-studied one township in Peel County, in what we would instinctively think of as in every sense a settled part of Canada, from 1851 to 1890. Although the township never contained more than 318 households, Mays traced 826 households living locally during that period ─ over four thousand people in total, double the maximum population at any one point. For a forty year period that sounds little more than the reflection of natural turn-over, but when we recall that it represents just a series of snapshots at ten-year intervals from the census, which cannot catch those who came and went in between, we do get a picture of a relatively mobile rural population.[54] In western Canada the comparisons may be even stronger. As late as 1911, Vancouver had 1.5 males for every female, and the city did not establish a gender balance until the 1940s.[55]

            Most discussions of national identity come round to Benedict Anderson’s definition of ‘imagined community’. Miles Fairburn’s work suggests the possibility that, in New Zealand and Canada, it was not merely the nature of the community that had to be imagined, but the fact that any form of shared society existed at all. Here Fairburn becomes even more discouraging. He argues that New Zealand was projected as an ideal society and that, since an ideal society by definition cannot exist, the mere imagining was enough to condemn the venture to failure. Perhaps Canadians have been less willing to portray their country as an instant paradise and, correspondingly, have been less disappointed when it has proved not to be one.


Big neighbours? We may preface a brief glance outward with two points. First, the organisers of the conference which spawned these papers adopted a Chinese boxes approach, postulating the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state within the two countries as the small-and-big comparison. Secondly, it is something of a paradox that New Zealand, the smaller of the two, should have a big-neighbour role of its own that Canada has never cultivated. New Zealand invented the notion of associated statehood to define its relationship to the Cook Islands, and has a less structured links with countries such as Western Samoa and Tonga.[56] The New Zealand record points up the notable absence of any sub-imperial tradition in Canadian history. Occasional suggestions that the Dominion should absorb the British West Indies never went much beyond trade talks.[57] Canada’s only venture into the fire sale of decolonisation was in the special case of Newfoundland, where Canadian banks already dominated the commercial sphere and the almighty Canadian dollar ruled a very small roost.

            In terms of identity, the most obvious big neighbour comparison is that between Canada (or, at least, English-Canada) and the United States, alongside New Zealand’s perennial problem with Australia. In both instances, outsiders confuse the smaller with the larger. In each case, there are small but notable differences in spoken English: the celebrated Canadian ‘eh?’ at the sentence can be paralleled by the New Zealand emphasis on the final syllable of the adverb: at keynotes lectures, New Zealanders are the ones who are hoping that the speaker will finish quick-lee.[58]

            The inability of outsiders to distinguish Canadians and New Zealanders from their neighbours creates a more insidious problem: is being not-American or not-Australian a starting for the definition of identity (as in the process of explanation to third parties it often has to be) or a culminating summary? While mis-identification is a problem that mainly irritates the majority communities, English-Canadians and New Zealand pakeha, in both cases the minority partner-group has been appealed to as an anchor for distinctiveness: even in Alberta, the existence of Quebec can be prized as a bastion against Americanisation, while a persistent element in the New Zealand case for remaining aloof from the Australian Commonwealth was that their fellow colonials lacked the sophistication to deal with Maori. On the other hand, while Canada’s First Nations magnificently dismiss the recent white man’s partition of the continent and call themselves ‘native Americans’, Maori culture is Polynesian and contact with Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples is a recent development, on a political and land rights level.

            In both relationships, the larger partner has encroached, identity-wise, on the territory of the smaller. Australian intellectuals trace their self-definition to the military experience of the First World War, laying claim to the ANZAC tradition, oblivious of the fact that forty percent of the acronym belongs across the Tasman. Canadians are shouldered aside even more totally. Although some Canadian intellectuals have suggested that the people of the USA should be labelled ‘Usanians’, the citizens of the Great Republic have laid claim to the whole continent, and call themselves ‘Americans’. In fact, Australians know little and care less about New Zealand, while many Americans seem only vaguely aware that Canada exists at all. In the smaller neighbour this is irksome: but millions of Canadians and New Zealanders have moved next door anyway. (The flow in the other direction is much smaller, certainly in overall numbers ─ between one and two percent of total Canadian and New Zealand population.)

            In 1996, New Zealand became the largest single source of immigrants to Australia ─ the sort of distinction that a small nation can do without. By 2003, 428,000 people of New Zealand birth were resident in Australia ─ more than two percent of the Australian total, and around ten percent of the population of New Zealand itself. It is perhaps inevitable that a larger society will offer more opportunities: in Sydney’s nightclub district, Kings Cross, for instance, the slang term for a transvestite is ‘kiwi fruit’.[59] But the outflow is worrying: the median age, for instance, of Australia’s New Zealand-born population is 38, just a shade above the median age of the South African-born, who are the youngest immigrant community, and who have had easily explainable incentives in recent years to get out. Some of Australia’s New Zealanders will no doubt return home: New Zealand English has a well-established abbreviation, ‘OE’, meaning ‘overseas experience’. But if they do not, New Zealand may be paying a high price for having so accessible a big neighbour.[60]

             The apparent neatness of equivalence in the Australia / United States ‘big neighbour’ role should not disguise some very real differences. Canada shares a border with the USA; Australia is twelve hundred miles away, a statistic that a century ago persuaded many New Zealanders that there were twelve hundred reasons for not joining the Australian Commonwealth. But air travel has narrowed the qualitative difference, and terrorism means that it is probably easier for a New Zealander to enter Australia than for a Canadian to gain resident status in the United States.

             Still, the Tasman Sea for long remained a barrier to other forms of communication: the whole world may be infested with Australian soap operas, but that is to some extent a self-inflicted wound. Where there has been some sharing of media, it may well have accentuated the distinction between the two countries.[61] The radical Sydney Bulletin (nowadays Australia’s equivalent of Maclean’s) circulated widely on both sides of the Tasman in the years around 1900, but its description of New Zealand as ‘Maoriland’ conveyed a certain sense of otherness, no doubt reinforced in the modern world by cricket and rugby test matches.

              Although the umbrella term ‘Australasia’ fell out of use early in the twentieth century, and is definitely not recommended vocabulary in talking to New Zealanders today, there was for some time an element of trans-Tasman commonality of a political-cultural kind that has barely existed in the Canadian-American context, at least since the pioneer days when the Loyalists moved north. Richard John Seddon had lived in Victoria before moving on to New Zealand; Michael Joseph Savage was born there, and did not come to the country of which he was to become first Labour prime minister until the age of 25. His predecessor as leader of the Labour party, Harry Holland, also arrived in New Zealand already a veteran of industrial conflict at Broken Hill in New South Wales. Apart from C.D. Howe, I cannot think of a major figure in Canadian political life who had left the United States in adult years. Indeed, American influences in all forms are strikingly few among the country’s prime ministers: Mackenzie King worked in the United States for a few years, Mulroney headed the Canadian subsidiary of a US mining company. King and Trudeau both studied at Harvard, although far more Canadian political leaders, Trudeau included, spent time at the LSE or Oxford.[62] Perhaps the point is of mere historical validity, since New Zealand political life today is largely the preserve of locally-born New Zealanders.[63]

              The basic point remains: Australia is not the United States, and can only exercise a pastiche of the pressures intrinsic in Americanisation. Throughout the twentieth century, Australia’s population has generally stood at four or five times that of New Zealand, while the USA has usually counted around ten times as many people as Canada. As shown by the creditable but under-reported role of Australian armed forces in the recent Indian Ocean disaster relief effort, Canberra is an effective regional power ─ as well as an American ally in Iraq. But even Sir Les Patterson would be hard pressed to represent Australia as a super-power.

              New Zealand’s ‘big neighbour’ relationship with Australia frames its wider view of the world, giving it at the same time a screen through which to peep at American domination and a context which has, at least until recently, ensured that most discussion of identity has taken place within a ‘British’ framework. The dominance and raucous proximity of the United States left Canadians in doubt that, whatever identity they evolved, it had to be in some degree North American in nature. But New Zealand and Australia evolved within the same empire, loyal to the same distant Crown. In 1959 the historian Keith Sinclair noted that New Zealanders believed themselves to be ‘better British than the British’. This, he explained, partly reflected pity for the lack of initiative that prevented their metropolitan fellow-subjects from emigrating to New Zealand. The slogan implied an obvious back-flip against Australia, but Sinclair believed that its real meaning was ‘better British than the Americans’.[64] One of the shibboleths of New Zealand public life, the ban on visits by nuclear-powered ships, reflects a combination of tweaking the eagle’s tail with a continued assertion, in the face of several decades of economic adversity, of the enduring purity of the New Zealand sense of utopia.

              But the British context to New Zealand identity, underlined by the proximity and shared heritage of Australia, has powerfully affected New Zealand perceptions of neighbourhood, until recent times making Britain itself seem unnaturally real to the people of a south Pacific island group. Thanks to the relatively small size of the country’s population, there was a heavy reliance upon both literature and media from the United Kingdom. Indeed, this triggered some debate as late as 1963 over the impact of the world’s first near-global and near-instantaneous news event, the murder of President Kennedy. Kennedy’s assassination was first announced to the New Zealand public via a BBC newscast, routinely re-broadcast by NZBC as its 8 a.m. bulletin ─ almost half an hour after international news networks had confirmed the President’s death.[65] Simon Potter has shown that right from the birth of the era of cable news, in the late nineteenth century, imperial enthusiasts consciously sought to shape the kind of material that would reach newspapers in the Dominions. In New Zealand this dominance was particularly strong.[66] During the Second World War, for instance, re-broadcast BBC bulletins formed the main news output on New Zealand radio.[67]

              It was the Second World War that brought home the mismatch between real and imagined neighbourhood. While New Zealand forces were fighting for the mother country in North Africa, and later in Italy, a sudden but hardly unpredictable threat to the country’s existence exploded from Japan. It is a curious fact that neither Canada nor New Zealand participated to any large extent in the Pacific war, although the two countries would become very aware of the potential of the Pacific Rim in the half century that followed.

             There is a pessimistic moral, lying deep in the traditional history of Canadian external relations, which took the form of a dark thread in historian Donald Creighton’s presentation of the Laurentian interpretation of Canada’s history. It was that, whenever push comes to shove, especially where the Americans are involved, the British will let you down. If Canadians wanted to save Canada for the empire ─ and, by extension, for Canadians ─ they would have to do it themselves. By contrast, the New Zealand colonial project assumed that the New Britain of the South would not be troubled by neighbours at all. Americans appeared fleetingly in the story as whalers and fornicators, Germans and French were minor irritants with their gimcrack colonial projects below the Pacific horizon: when New Zealand troops seized Samoa in 1914, they became first allied forces to occupy German territory anywhere in the world. There was only the British motherland, New Zealand alias God’s Own Country, and that slightly embarrassing elder sibling, Australia.

             In the early 1950s, about 60 percent of New Zealand exports by value went to the United Kingdom: the figure had been even higher before the War. But the evident British wish to form trade links with the European mainland taught New Zealanders that essential Canadian lesson: if they think it is worth their while, the Poms will let you down. New Zealand began to broaden its export markets, although the UK’s accession to the EEC in 1973 was still a substantial blow. But as a small country New Zealand had only restricted potential to diversify its actual exports, leaving it particularly vulnerable to the Oil Crisis of 1973-4. The upshot was that New Zealand steadily slipped down the international league tables of comparative wealth, from its enviable 1950s position when it had been generally regarded as one of the two or three most prosperous countries in the world, and one of the few to provide comprehensive welfare services as well.

              By the early 1980s, New Zealand had fallen to eighteenth place in the OECD league table of per capita income. Life still seemed good: unemployment was low, and motor cars appeared on the roads in colours other than the previously uniform black. But as the OECD itself insisted, the command economy which sustained the country’s welfare state was unsustainable.[68] From 1984 onwards, New Zealand entered a prolonged and disturbing phase of deregulation and uncertainty.[69] The scholarly debate on Fairburn’s ‘atomisation’ theory should perhaps be seen against this background.

               The introduction of proportionally-based electoral reform (‘MMP’) in 1996 certainly seemed to reveal disturbing levels of fragmentation within New Zealand society (although by the time of the third MMP election in 2002, the pre-existing two-party National-versus-Labour dichotomy seemed to have re-emerged in coalitionist guise).[70] More to the point, many New Zealanders felt alienated in their own country but unable to forget the memories of the quarter-acre, half-gallon, Pavlova paradise of the recent past.[71]

              Some of the changes were no doubt overdue. I vividly recall the blank look on the face of a government agricultural officer when I asked him, in 1973, how many varieties of cheese were made in his district. ‘We make cheese’, he responded, with defiant incomprehension. For a country that claimed to be the world’s largest cheese exporting nation, New Zealand’s blind faith in cheddar was almost touching. Happily, nowadays New Zealand makes many different types of cheese and it produces for export some very fine wines to go with them. But while kiwi fruit, bungee jumping and Lord of the Rings are tributes to New Zealand energy and entrepreneurship, cumulatively they still do not equal the comfortable security of life on Britain’s overseas farm, and the outlook for the country remains, to say the least, adventurous.

              One of the formative texts in New Zealand economic history bears the title, The Instability of a Dependent Economy.[72] Canadians will no doubt be reminded of their eggs are also marketed in a single basket, with (to take the 1996 figure) 82.3 percent of exports by value going to the United States. They may perhaps console themselves with the thought that they are not so much dependent upon a foreign market as integrated within a continental economy. North American free trade is the inverse of New Zealand’s experience of Britain and the EEC: it proves that the United States has no immediate intention of taking a political decision to seek resources elsewhere. In any case, with by far the smallest population of the G8 nations, Canada must by definition be also highly industrialised.

             The story of an economy trapped within the production of a limited range staples, which is what New Zealand is about, belongs, it would seem, to a very early and vanished phase in Canada’s history. But a large part of the Canadian economy is still directly or closely linked to resource extraction, and in the quarter century that I have been actively engaged in the field of Canadian Studies, it has been a constant complaint that the country makes inadequate investment in research and development. In years to come, resources may well become depleted, and the cost of extracting what is left could make them less marketable.

             When countries are prosperous and successful, they do not feel the need to learn lessons from others. But it could be that, decades from now, Canadians will find themselves studying the way New Zealanders have handled adversity. No doubt, like John A. Macdonald back in 1864, they will look at some aspects of the New Zealand experience and say, ‘That is just what we do not want’.



* Canadian lawyer and politician, John A. Macdonald, at the Quebec Conference that drew up the outline scheme for the union of British North America, 24 October 1864. Macdonald was responding to a suggestion that Canada should adopt the New Zealand constitution of 1852. See Note 2.

Canadians seeking an entry into New Zealand Studies should consult G.A. Wood, Studying New Zealand: A Guide to Sources (various editions, e.g. Dunedin, 1999).


[1] Macdonald had earlier referred to the New Zealand upper house in an Assembly debate on 11 October, 1852. Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, XI [i], 1852-53 (ed. E.Gibbs at al.), pp. 970-1. Ann Macpherson (née Clark), sister of his first wife, emigrated to New South Wales c. 1848 after her husband’s finances collapsed. They moved on to Canterbury about ten years later. I am grateful to Dr Jim McAloon of Lincoln University (now, 2016, Professor Jim McAloon of Victoria University Wellington) for this information.

[2]G.P. Browne, ed., Documents on the Confederation of British North America (Toronto, 1969), pp. 123-25. Arthur Gordon, the argumentative governor of New Brunswick, appealed to the centralising powers of the New Zealand constitution, Gordon to Cardwell, 5 December 1864, ibid., p. 171. Also citing the New Zealand example, Sir Richard MacDonnell, governor of Nova Scotia, went further, urging the British government to insert a provision in the constitution of a united British North America giving the central government the power to abolish the provinces altogether after a two-year transitional period. UK National Archives, CO 217/235, MacDonnell to Cardwell, separate, 23 November 1864, fos 187-212. Charles Tupper of Nova Scotia argued, perhaps disingenuously, that the Canadian and New Zealand constitutions were designed to create the same balance of central and local authority. P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation (Toronto, 1963), p. 204. Chichester Fortescue, parliamentary under-secretary at the Colonial Office, felt that New Zealand experience pointed to a ban on dual membership of central and local legislatures: in New Zealand, he claimed, the presence of local politicians tended to ‘provincialize’ the General Assembly. CO 217/235, minute of 22 December 1864, fo. 271. The senior civil servant at the Colonial Office, Frederic Rogers, argued in 1866 that ‘the problem of establishing bodies politic which shall be more than municipal corporations but less than confederate states’ was one ‘which the New Zealand Constitution Act has attempted to solve without success indeed, but without that total failure which discredits the attempt’. The comment was made during discussion of the merger of Vancouver Island with British Columbia. Waite, Life and Times of Confederation, p. 326 (abbreviations given in full). For the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852 (15 & 16 Vic., c. 172), W.D.McIntyre and W.J. Gardner, eds, Speeches and Documents on New Zealand History (Oxford, 1971), pp. 73-84. W.P. Morrell, The Provincial System in New Zealand 1852-1876 (rev. ed., Christchurch, 1964) remains useful.

[3]  Garth Stevenson, Ex Uno Plures: Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada 1867-1896 (Montreal & Kingston, 1993), p. 15 for Macdonald’s interest in the New Zealand constitution. In December 1864, Macdonald privately assured a wavering 42-year-old supporter that ‘you, if spared the ordinary age of man, will see both Local Parliaments & Governments absorbed in the General Power.’ This is the sole evidence that Macdonald may have envisaged a unitary state but, as he added, ‘it does not do to adopt that point of view in discussing the subject in Lower Canada [Quebec].’ Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii, p. 598. In July 1866, when introducing legislation to create provincial machinery in Upper Canada (soon to be renamed Ontario), Macdonald justified its single-chamber structure by reference to the New Zealand provinces. However, pressure for a unicameral legislature had come from Reformers, and Macdonald was perhaps engaged in his habitually cautious lawyer-like habit of disguising innovation by citing precedent. As a normally sympathetic Toronto newspaper, the Leader, sharply pointed out, New Zealand provinces did ‘not legislate for a million and a half people’. Waite, Life and Times of Confederation, pp. 285-87. As early as June 1868, Macdonald made it clear that the Dominion [central] government would make systematic use of its implied power of disallowance of provincial legislation on jurisdictional grounds ─ and this at a time when discontent in Nova Scotia might have pointed to decentralisation of power. E. Forsey, ed., Freedom and Order: Collected Essays (Toronto, 1974), pp. 178-79. However, at no point that anyone in Canada seek to emulate New Zealand’s New Provinces Act of 1857, which allowed small numbers of settlers to demand sub-division of existing units. Arguably it was the multiplication of provinces, and their consequent financial vulnerability, not constitutional subordination, that brought about abolition in 1876. The British North America Act of 1867 made provision for the admission of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland into the Dominion but, as early as 1870, Westminster legislation was thought to be necessary to confirm the admission of Manitoba, carved out of the recently acquired Hudson’s Bay Company territories.

 4   See note 2. Perhaps Macdonald later regretted his dismissive attitude to the New Zealand when, in 1876, New Zealand’s central government simply blew away the country’s inconvenient provinces. To avoid any confusion in a comparative Canadian context, it should be made clear that today, they survive in memory and for the purposes of cricket and rugby.

 5. Mysteriously, an early Colonial Office draft of the British North America Bill (23 January 1867) used the term ‘Superintendents’ to describe the lieutenant-governors of the provinces. It was at this point that ‘Peace, Order and good Government’ appeared in the outline powers of the central legislature. In their ‘Rough Draft’, the British North American delegates had used the earlier phrase ‘peace, welfare and good government’: Joseph Pope, ed., Confederation: Being a Series of Documents … (Toronto, 1895), pp. 152, 132. This seems to point to the influence of the New Zealand Act. Ironically, Section 18 of the New Zealand Act had used the phrase to describe provincial powers. McIntyre and Gardner, eds, Documents, p. 76. Section 3 of the Canadian Union Act of 1840 (3 & 4 Vic., c. 35) had used ‘Peace, Welfare and good Government’. Three further points may be noted. First, Professor Tom Brooking points out to me that the preamble to the Treaty of Waitangi contained a promise of ‘peace and good order’: if this influenced the wording of the New Zealand Act, then a key phrase in Canadian governance can be traced back to a central event in New Zealand history. Secondly, because the British North America Act was used as a quarry for subsequent constitutional legislation, the optimistic target of  ‘peace, order and good government’ appears in Home Rule bills for Ireland from 1886 to 1920, and in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution ─ but only Canadians have come to identify with the phrase as a national symbol. Lastly, what would have been the constitutional and political implications for social policy in modern Canada had ‘welfare’ remained in the mantra?

 [6] McLeod has the unusual distinction of appearing in both Dictionary of Canadian Biography,  ix, pp. 516-17 and Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, i, p. 258. FitzGerald explained to Gladstone in 1849 that he had thought of emigrating to the new colony of Vancouver Island, but saw no point in attempting to settle there while labour was being drawn off to San Francisco. ‘If there had been a Colony there before the Californian gold was found, it is possible that personal influence might have done much to retain the settlers ─ by personal influence I mean the mutual attachment of settlers to one another and to a government of which they were experiencing the wisdom and excellence.’ As it was, Fitzgerald had failed in his campaign to overturn Hudson’s Bay Company control. ‘Therefore I turn my attention to the next best colony at present existing ─ New Zealand.’ British Library, Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44368, FitzGerald to Gladstone, 3 October 1849. Another Canterbury pioneer, J.R. Godley, had visited Canada and campaigned for massive state-sponsored Irish emigration there.  C.E. Carrington, John Robert Godley of Canterbury (Christchurch, 1950), pp. 16-23. His brother, Denis, was private secretary to Lord Monck, Canada’s governor-general from 1861 to 1868, where he was known as ‘Almighty Godley’. There was other contact between the two colonies: e.g. the Toronto Globe carried a long account of settler life at Akaroa on 18 July 1856, and there was a New Zealand Emigration Society in the city in 1858; Cambridge History of the British Empire, vi [ii], p. 200. But the two colonies were rivals for emigrants. Martha Reid, who had settled in Canada, was scathing about her brother-in-law’s decision to settle in Auckland in 1862: ‘What freak could possess David Kilpatrick to start for New Zealand[?] If he wished to make money faster, he might have tried Canada, or some place within Christendom but to start of a 10 months voyage, sepculating, what an idea…[!]’ Angela McCarthy, Irish Migrants in New Zealand, 1840-1937: ‘The Desired Haven’ (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2005), p. 71 (abbreviations given in full), p. 71.

[7]  My reasons for playing down the importance of Wakefield in either country are outlined in Ged Martin, Edward Gibbon Wakefield: Abductor and Mystagogue (Edinburgh, 1997).

[8] Although he had found his exile in New Brunswick irksome, Gordon was not prepared for the unpleasantness of New Zealand politics, and secured a fresh appointment after just eighteen months. He was ‘very profoundly disgusted by the treatment of the Maoris’ and felt that the colony’s parliamentary institutions lacked ‘distinct political parties’. Gordon to Gladstone, private, 6 May 1882, in P. Knaplund, ed., Gladstone-Gordon Correspondence, 1851-1896 (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, li [iv], 1961), p. 86; J.K. Chapman, The Career of Arthur Hamilton Gordon First Lord Stanmore 1829-1912 (Toronto, 1964), pp. 234-64; D.K. Fieldhouse, ‘Sir Arthur Gordon and the Parihaka Crisis, 1880-1882’, Historical Studies Australia and New Zealand, x, 1961, pp. 30-49.

[9] P.R. May, ‘Gold Rushes of the Pacific Borderlands: A Comparative Survey’ in L. Richardson and W.D. McIntyre, eds, Provincial Perspectives: Essays in Honour of W.J. Gardner (Christchurch, 1980), pp. 91-105.

[10] The possibility of an earlier European sighting is discounted by E. Stokes, ‘European Discovery of New Zealand: A Review of the Evidence,’ New Zealand Journal of History, iv, 1970, pp. 3-19. It was uncannily predictive of future relations with Australia that Tasman named the islands after the province of Zeeland, very much the junior partner in the Dutch Republic, since New Holland had already been appropriated for their larger neighbour.

[11] Although evidently long-enough established to create prior rights to the islands, Maori occupation of New Zealand is of much more recent origin than can be claimed by Canada’s Native peoples. James Belich begins his Making Pakeha: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century  (Auckland, 1996) with a striking image of two invading peoples, Maori and Saxons, on the move towards island groups at opposite ends of the world, and at much the same time, p. 13.

[12] Minute of 15 March 1839, McIntyre and Gardner, eds, Documents, p. 10., and cf. H.T. Manning, ‘Lord Durham and the New Zealand Company’, New Zealand Journal of History, vi, 1972, pp. 1-19.

[13] Tom Brooking, ‘Economic Transformation’ in G.W. Rice ed., The Oxford History of New Zealand Second Edition (Auckland, 1992), pp. 230-53 and Alan Grey, Aotearoa & New Zealand: A Historical Geography (Christchurch, 1994), esp. pp. 223ff. The Waikato River is navigable by small vessels for about 100 kilometres, and was so used by imperial forces in campaigns against the Maori. But no other New Zealand river is navigable and access to most harbours and almost all rivers (including the Waikato) is impeded by sandbars. Hence it would have been useless to build what may seem New Zealand’s most obvious canal project, a link between Auckland’s east-facing deep-water Waitemata Harbour and nearby west-facing Manukau Harbour, although in 1901 a critic cited the absence of the project as evidence of the city’s lack of initiative. Ged Martin, Australia, New Zealand and Federation, 1883-1901 (London, 2001), p. 108. Arguably, the only canal to have influenced New Zealand’s economic development is a distinctly external project: Panama Canal, which opened in 1914, shortened the distance to Britain. It is generally accepted that the Panama route enabled Vancouver to displace Winnipeg as the largest city in western Canada, but general histories of New Zealand barely note its impact.

[14] D.H. Akenson’s 1993 comment that the study of the Irish in New Zealand is ‘in its early stages’ would call for more upbeat revision today, but his overview remains useful. D.H. Akenson, The Irish Diaspora: A Primer (Toronto and Belfast, 1993), pp. 59-90, 281. Cf. also the 2005 study by Angela McCarthy cited in note 6.

[15] R.P. Davies, Irish Issues in New Zealand Politics 1868-1922 (Dunedin, 1974), p. 205. Davies adds that Liston, who was acquitted, went on to receive the CMG in a 1968 Honours List.

[16]  W.P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Mid-Victorian Age (Oxford, 1969), p. 364. As early as 1843, Charles Buller claimed that ‘more men of good family’ had settled in New Zealand in the three years since annexation in 1840 than in Canada during the previous thirty years. Belich, Making Pakeha, p. 323, and cf. his discussion of the formative role of gentility, pp. 321-28. The distinction between wealth and social elite is explored by Jim McAloon, No Idle Rich: The Wealthy in Canterbury and Otago 1840-1914 (Dunedin, 2002).

[17] Lady Barker, Station Life in New Zealand (Christchurch, 1950 ed., first published 1870). ‘I have regretted that the rapid advance of civilization in New Zealand precludes the possibility of being really uncomfortable,’ she wrote (p. 123), a sentiment that cannot be traced in Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It In the Bush.

[18] Godley spent two years and four months in the Canterbury settlement before returning to England. His fellow-colonists still erected a statue in his memory. M. Stocker, ed., Remembering Godley (Christchurch, 2001).

[19] It is clear, for instance, that Thomas King, of genteel if not gentry background, was out of his depth in the factional politics of the first General Assembly. Margot Fry, Tom’s Letters: The Private World of Thomas King, Victorian Gentleman (Wellington, 2001), pp. 152-60, 182-84, 192-98.

[20] In politics, as in many aspects of society, there was a marked transition in New Zealand towards a more staid environment by the 1920s. Symbolic of this shift from the world of Vogel and Seddon is the 1925 election, which was won, in a landslide, by the solid and respectable figure of J.G. Coates, on slogans ‘Coats off with Coates’ and ‘He Can Be Trusted’.

[21] K. Sinclair, A History of New Zealand (Harmondsworth, 1959), p. 297.

[22] Patricia Grimshaw, Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand (Auckland, 1972). Raewyn Dalziel argues that the success of New Zealand women as home-makers helps explain their early achievement of political rights. But it would be hard to argue that women made a proportionately greater contribution to domestic bliss in New Zealand than in Canada, where it took another twenty years to break the franchise barrier. If there was any part of Canada where women accepted the ‘helpmeet’ role, it was Quebec where, in provincial politics, the right to vote was withheld until 1940. R. Dalziel, ‘The colonial helpmeet: women’s role and the vote in nineteenth-century New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of History, xi [ii], 1974, pp. 112-23. An authority on the Canterbury gentry throws doubt on the political impact of their womenfolk: S. Eldred-Grigg, ‘ “The Beauty and Fashion of the Province”:  Women of the Landed Gentry of Canterbury 1880-1910’, in Richardson and McIntyre, eds, Provincial Perspectives, pp. 74-90. Eldred-Grigg (p. 75) drew attention to the comment of New Zealand intellectual W.P. Reeves in his Long White Cloud of 1898 that the colony’s female population was ‘as distinguished for womanly modesty, grace, and affection as Englishwomen in any other part of the Empire.’ In a revised edition a quarter of a century later, Reeves felt able to assure overseas readers that New Zealand women were not ‘in the least degree either “wild”, or “new”, or belong to any shrieking sisterhood. Though one or two have them have entered learned professions, most of them are engaged in domestic duties.’ They were definitely not ‘a spectacled, angular, hysterical, uncomfortable race, perpetually demanding extravagant changes in shrill tones’. W.P. Reeves, New Zealand: Ao Tea Roa (rev. ed., Boston, 1925), pp.  313-14. His daughter, Amber Reeves, was a feminist, and sexual partner of H.G. Wells. New Zealand’s pioneering role in female enfranchisement has created an intriguing paradox: internationally, it forms part of the image of the country’s distinctiveness, but this may be compared with important scholarly work on masculinity at home. R. Dalziel, ‘Presenting the Enfranchisement of New Zealand Women Abroad’, British Review of New Zealand Studies, viii, 1995, pp. 37-58; J.O.C. Phillips, A Man’s Country: The Image of the Pakeha Male (Auckland, 1987).

[23] But cf. W.H. Oliver, ‘The Awakening Imagination, 1940-1980’ in Rice, ed., Oxford History of New Zealand, pp. 539-70, for a more positive view of intellectual and cultural life.

[24]  I draw here on speculations in my untitled review article of Michael Dunn’s excellent New Zealand Painting: A Concise History (Auckland, 2003), in British Review of New Zealand Studies, xiv, 2003/4, pp. 131-37.

[25] The notion of New Zealand as a social laboratory owes much to a book by a New Zealand exile, W.P. Reeves, State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand  (first published 1902). The appropriate comparison in relation to social legislation is probably not so much Canada as the Republic of Ireland, which is roughly equal in population but has until recently combined relative poverty with social conservatism. A New South Wales politician complained in 1900 that ‘New Zealand is a regular hotbed of social legislation and has thriven in spite of it.  The prosperity of that colony is due to its butter and its mutton, and to its bounteous rainfall, and it has progressed in spite of the disastrous legislation which has been passed there.’ He had old age pensions in mind. C.M.H. Clark, ed., Select Documents in Australian History 1851-1900 (Sydney, 1977 ed.), p. 651

[26]  A still valuable collection of essays, R. Chapman and K. Sinclair, eds, Studies in a Small Democracy: Essays  in Honour of Willis Airey (Auckland, 1963), copper-fastened a tag which has become a cliché.

[27]  In both countries, the term ‘corridor’ may inadvertently over-estimate the number of people who regularly make long-distance internal journeys. It is certainly not the case that the population of Quebec City commutes up and down to Windsor, Ontario, just as it is still possible to encounter South Islanders who have never visited Auckland.

[28] R.C. Harris, ‘Regionalism and the Canadian Archipelago’ in L.D. McCann, ed., Heartland and Hinterland: A Geography of Canada (2nd ed., Scarborough, Ont., 1987), pp. 532-59.

[29]  S.Ville, ‘The Coasting Trade of New Zealand prior to World War One,’ New Zealand Journal of History, xxvii, 1993, pp. 75-89

[30] Cambridge History of the British Empire, vi [ii], p. 34n. New Munster also included the lower North Island.

[31] In 1965, the Electoral Act was amended to guarantee 25 MPs to the South Island. In contrast to the Quebec situation, it is striking how little attention this provision attracts in New Zealand debate. Alan McRobie, New Zealand Electoral Atlas (Wellington, 1989), p. 111. One reason why the North Island overtook the South in the 1901 census was that Maori were counted for the first time. Until the Waitangi Tribunal heard the Ngai Tahu claim in 1987-92, many pakeha New Zealanders were only vaguely aware of a Maori population on the South Island. Cf. H.C. Evison, The Long Dispute: Maori Land Rights  and European Colonisation in Southern New Zealand (Christchurch, 1997), esp. pp. 347-52.

[32] New Zealanders count one another a lot: censuses are held at five-year intervals. The South Island lost population slightly between 1976 and 1981, but its increase subsequently resumed.

[33] John Cookson discusses the dominance of Christchurch over the South Island in J. Cookson and G. Dunstall, eds, Southern Capital: Christchurch, Towards a City Biography (Christchurch, 2000), pp. 361-3. With a third of the South Island population, and the challenge of access to a mountainous interior, Christchurch offers parallels to the dominance of Vancouver and Lower Mainland within British Columbia, especially as both cities have only limited functions as centres of government.

[34] McIntyre and Gardner, eds, Speeches and Documents, pp. 23-4.

[35] Indeed Napier is now a test cricket venue.

[36] For the Wahine tragedy, P. Day, Voice and Vision: A History of Broadcasting in New Zealand, ii (Auckland, 2000), pp. 144-45.

[37] Sinclair, History of New Zealand, p. 213.

[38] Social Credit occasionally surfaced as a third party in New Zealand. But Social Credit thinking was influential among Labour grass-roots in the 1930s, and this probably explains the Savage government’s bizarre economic policy of ‘insulation’. K. Sinclair, Walter Nash (Auckland, 1976), esp. 103-5, 115-17. This New Zealand comparison tends to support the argument of Alvin Finkel that Alberta Social Credit was originally a radical movement, A. Finkel, The Social Credit Phenomenon in Alberta (Toronto, 1989).

[39] Robin Fisher, Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890 (Vancouver, 1977/1992). Fittingly, and among many other publications, Fisher was also co-editor, with Hugh Johnston, of Captain James Cook and His Times (Vancouver, 1979), a collection of essays from a conference that marked the 200th anniversary of Cook’s landfall on Vancouver Island.

[40] J. Belich, The New Zealand Wars and the Mid-Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict  (Auckland, 1986).

[41] Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington, 1987).

[42]  The ambiguity was dramatically identified, but not linguistically resolved, when many English-speaking Canadians reacted angrily to a Quebec slogan of the 1960s which encapsulated Canada as ‘deux nations’.

[43] Seddon’s phrase has been recently called to mind by a useful set of essays, J. Crawford and I. McGibbon, eds, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue: New Zealand, the British Empire and the South African War 1899-1902 (Auckland, 2003).

[44] Recalling New Zealand’s incipient foreign policy, and especially the idealism with which the first Labour government embraced the failing League of Nations, Sinclair memorably described Savage’s statement as ‘recently … so demonstrably untrue’: History of New Zealand, p. 268. The official notice of the outbreak of war in the New Zealand Gazette seemed to imply that the country was automatically committed because the king was at war. McIntyre and Gardner, eds, Speeches and Documents, p. 284. But when Savage’s deputy, Peter Fraser, encountered the hauteur of Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, Sir John Simon, in London late in 1939, he bluntly stated that ‘they were not there as suppliants but as partners’. Sinclair, Walter Nash, p. 203.

[45] C. Berger, The Sense of Power; Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914 (Toronto, 1970); K. Sinclair, Imperial Federation: A Study of New Zealand Policy and Opinion, 1880-1914 (London, 1955).

[46] W.K. Jackson, The New Zealand Legislative Council (Dunedin, 1972).

[47] McIntyre and Gardner, eds, Speeches and Documents, pp. 294-5.

[48] W.D. McIntyre, ‘From Dual Dependency to Nuclear Free’ in Rice, ed., Oxford History of New Zealand, pp. 520-39.

[49] I exclude apartheid South Africa, and its successive Afrikaner Nationalist parties.  

[50] This complacency is slightly undermined by K. Sinclair, ‘Why are Race Relations in New Zealand Better than in South Africa, South Australia or South Dakota?’, New Zealand Journal of History, viii, 1974, pp. 121-27. Hypocrisy in immigration policy is argued by S. Brawley, ‘ “No ‘ White Policy’ in NZ”: Fact and Fiction in New Zealand’s Asian Immigration Record, 1946-1978’, New Zealand Journal of History, xxvii, 1993, pp. 16-36.

[51] M. Fairburn, The Ideal Society and Its Enemies: The Foundations of Modern New Zealand Society, 1850-1900 (Auckland, 1989). In a lengthy engagement with Fairburn’s views, Belich points out that reported suicide rates in late nineteenth-century New Zealand appear to have been low, and argues that Fairburn ‘tries too hard to show that New Zealand was exceptional’. Belich, Making Pakeha, pp. 412-50, esp. pp. 414. 

[52] G.H. Scholefield, ed., Richmond-Atkinson Papers (2 vols, Wellington, 1940). Rollo Arnold stressed similar evidence in ‘Community in Rural Victorian New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of History, xxiv, 1990, pp. 3-21.

[53] John Hirst, ‘Australia, Argentina and Atomization’, New Zealand Journal of History, xxv, 1991, pp. 91-7. Clyde Griffen, ‘Fairburn’s New Zealand from a Vantage Point of North American Studies, ibid., pp. 98-111, drew largely on evidence from the United States. Fairburn replied loftily to his critics in ‘A Discourse on Critical Method’, ibid., pp. 158-77. For another approach to the question of community, H. Jackson, ‘Churchgoing in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of History, xvii,   1983, pp. 43-59.

[54] M.B. Katz, The People of Hamilton Canada West: Family and Class in a  Mid-Nineteenth Century City  (Cambridge, Mass., 1975); D.P. Gagan, Hopeful Travellers: Families, Land and Social Change in Mid-Victorian Peel County, Canada West (Toronto, 1981), H.J. Mays, ‘ “A Place to Stand”: Families, Land and Permanence in Toronto Gore Township, 1820-1890’, Canadian Historical Association Annual Papers, 1980, pp. 198-9. The evidence is surveyed in D. McCalla, Planting the Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada 1784-1870 (Toronto, 1993), pp. 218-19.

[55] P.E. Roy, ed., Vancouver: An Illustrated History (Toronto, 1980), p. 169. Gold rush immigration reduced the proportion of women among the European population of New Zealand to a low point of 620 per thousand males in 1861. This has risen to 817 per thousand males in 1871. In 1874, only four of the 68 European electorates (constituencies/ridings) had an adult population that was 50 percent female: all were suburban, three in the Auckland and one in Dunedin. Since the First World War, female numbers have averaged between 97 and 101 percent of the male population. M.McKinnon et al., eds, Bateman Historical Atlas of New Zealand: Ko Papatuanuku e Takoto Nei (Wellington, 1997), plate 53;  A.H. McLintock, ed., An Encyclopedia of New Zealand (3 vols, Wellington, 1966), ii, pp. 829-30.

[56] A. Ross, New Zealand Aspirations in the Pacific in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1964).

[57] R.W. Winks, Canadian-West Indian Union: A Forty-Year Minuet (London, 1968).

[58] T. Deverson, ‘ “Criticising New Zealand Speech Unkindly”: Attitudes to New Zealand English’, British Review of New Zealand Studies, iii, 1990, pp. 65-76.

[59] G.A. Wilkes, A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney, 1985 ed.), p. 242. The example is from 1982.

[60] Perhaps the single most notable New Zealand contribution to Australian political life was Joh Bjelke-Petersen, long-time right-wing premier of Queensland, who arrived in 1914 at the age of three. He is probably not typical. There have, of course, been phases in Canada’s history that have witnessed an alarming outflow of human talent.

[61] R. Arnold, ‘Some Australasian Aspects of New Zealand Life, 1890-1913’, New Zealand Journal of History, iv, 1970, pp. 54-76.

[62] Negotiating the CER agreement (later appealed to by Brian Mulroney as a model for Canada-US free trade), Hugh Templeton referred to their Oxford connections in breaking the ice with both Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke, H. Templeton, All Honourable Men: Inside the Muldoon Cabinet 1975-1984 (Auckland, 1995), pp. 130, 182-3.

[63] This statement applies primarily to the country’s political leadership. The introduction of national party lists in MMP was hoped to increase the representation of immigrant communities, but as it was also expected to assist Maori and women it may be that too much has been expected. Cf. E. McLeay, in J. Boston et al., New Zealand Votes: The General Election of 2002 (Wellington, 2003), p. 296.

[64] Sinclair, History of New Zealand, pp. 297-8.

[65] Day, Voice and Vision, ii, pp. 79-80.

[66] S. Potter, News and the British World: The Emergence of an Imperial Press System 1876-1922 (Oxford, 2003), esp. pp. 31-2.

[67] New Zealanders complained that the optimistic tone of BBC broadcasts often left them poorly prepared for bad news: N.M. Taylor, The New Zealand People At War: The Home Front (2 vols, Wellington, 1986), ii, pp. 941-2.

[68] The OECD view is summarised in OECD Economic Surveys: New Zealand (Paris, 1989).

[69] For analyses of the crisis by a diplomat and a historian, see B. Harland, ‘New Zealand and the Emerging Tripolar World,’ British Review of New Zealand Studies, v, 1992, pp. 37-50 and K. Sinclair, ‘Hard Times (1972-1989)’in K. Sinclair, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand (Oxford, 1990), pp. 353-72.

[70] Everything You Need To Know About Voting Under MMP: New Zealand’s Electoral System (Wellington, 1996). Legislation in 2001 required any MP who changed parties to resign their seats. Shortly afterwards, the Alliance Party fragmented and its leader indicated that he would lead a new party at the 2002 election. However, the Alliance parliamentary caucus remained in formal existence and nobody resigned. As a form of proportional representation, MMP evidently has a life of its own. Its key feature is a national list of candidates from which parties are allocated top-up seats to bring their strength in parliament roughly into equilibrium with their share of the popular vote. For Canada, such a system would help address the perennial under-representation of Liberals in Alberta and the frequent invisibility of Conservatives in Quebec, but would probably founder in the face of regional objections to a single national voting structure. However, if Canada is entering a phase in which even first-past-the-post voting cannot ensure majority governments, the argument that MMP favours representative democracy over political stability may lose some of its force.

[71] The phrase comes from the title of an affectionate portrait of Kiwi life, published in 1974, by the British Labour MP Austin Mitchell, who was a lecturer in New Zealand from 1959 to 1967.

[72] C.F.G. Simkin, The Instability of a Dependent Economy: Economic Fluctuations in New Zealand, 1840-1914 (Oxford, 1951).