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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Internal Affairs Department

Internal Affairs Department


The year 1940 provides a particularly fitting occasion for reviewing the origin and functions of the Department of Internal Affairs. Only this Department has a history extending over the full period since New Zealand became a British possession. Immediately British sovereignty was established in 1840 a Colonial Secretary's office was established (called the Department of Internal Affairs since 1907, when New Zealand was raised from the status of a Colony to that of a Dominion), and, in the early years, many of the functions which have since become the separate work ofpage 48large Departments were carried on in the Colonial Secretary's office. Among Departments which have thus branched off can be mentioned Agriculture, Health, Public Works, Transport, and Scientific and Industrial Research.


It is, therefore, appropriate that this Department should have the control of the arrangements for the celebration in 1940 of the Centennial of organised govern  ment in New Zealand.

Constitutional Functions:

The Department handles the various constitutional functions in regard to:—

(a)Questions involved in the assumption of government by the Governor-General, Deputy Governor-General, and Administrator of the Government, and miscellaneous matters in relation to those off ices.
(b)Summoning, proroguing, and dissolving of Parliament; appointment of Members of the Executive Council, Ministers of the Crown and Members of the Legislative Council.
(c)Issue of Writs for Parliamentary Elections.
(d)Messages of Assent to Bills passed by Parliament.
(e)Receipt of Dispatches from Imperial Government.


Because of its constitutional functions, the Department has accumulated, in the course of years; many historic documents, among which may be mentioned:—

(a)Declaration of Independence of Northern Chiefs, 1835.
(b)Treaty of Waitangi (and the original rough draft).
(c)Appointment of Captain Hobson as first Governor and to other offices.
(d)Commission for inclusion of New Zealand in New South Wales.
(e)Constitution of New Zealand as a Colony.
(f)Charter to New Zealand Company.
(g)Letters Patent relating to annexation of Kermadec Islands.
(h)Notification of accession of all Sovereigns since Edward VII.

King George V Memorial Fund:

The Department was charged with the arrangements for the National Appeal for subscriptions for the establishment of a Fund to commemorate the reign of King George V.

Local Government:

The general control of Local Government throughout the Dominion is entrusted to the Department. Consequently it is responsible for the administration of such important Acts as the Municipal Corporations Act, 1933, the Counties Act, 1920, the Town-planning Act, 1926, and similar Acts relating to the activities of all types of local authorities.

General Activities:

Among the more general activities of the Department may be mentioned the various Governmental functions in relation to:—

  • Control of acclimatisation matters, involving the protection of native birds and animals, importation of birds and animals, regulation of game-shooting seasons, destruction of deer, establishment of game farms, and trout fishing in Rotorua and Taupo districts.page 49
  • Registration of dogs.
  • Encouragement of tree planting.
  • Granting of naturalisation.
  • Issue of passports.
  • Editing of New Zealand Gazette.
  • Appointment of High Commissioner and his staff.
  • Registration of accountants.
  • Registration of architects.
  • licensing of auctioneers and land agents.
  • Protection of names, uniforms, etc., of chartered associations.
  • Recognition of Consular representatives.
  • Cinematograph films, including registration and censorship of films and
  • posters. Licensing of exhibitors, projectionists, etc. Storage and inspection of explosives and dangerous goods. Inspection of fire brigades.
  • Establishment of mutual fire-insurance associations. Art unions and raffles. Preservation of Maori antiquities. War memorials and soldiers' and historical graves. National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. Race meetings (including totalisator inspection). Fixing period of Summer Time. Administration of war funds. Repatriation of New Zealanders stranded abroad.
  • Control of Messenger, Night-watching and Charing Services for Government offices.
  • Newspaper advertising for Government departments.
  • Physical Welfare and Recreation Movement.
  • Approval of boxing associations.
  • Observance of Anzac Day.

Distinguished Visitors:

The Department organises and controls the tour through New Zealand of any member of the Royal Family, arranges State functions, and attends to the reception and entertainment of distinguished visitors generally.

Alexander Turnbull Library:

The Alexander Turnbull Library is under the control of the Department. This library, which originated as the private collection of Mr. Alexander Turnbull, is one of the "show places" of the Dominion. Not only does it contain an excellent collection of manuscripts, first editions, and examples of early printing, but it is maintained by the Department as a complete library of New Zealand literature.


From the above, it can be seen that the Department is responsible for a wide variety of functions affecting the general administration of the Dominion.

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