Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A History of the New Zealand Civil Service, 1840-1866

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posted on 2021-11-11, 21:45 authored by Zohrab, Balfour Douglas

The New Zealand Civil service is a typically British growth; it has developed from an inchoate, unregulated aggregation of disorganised departments along no settled line of growth, following no definite policy, aiming at nothing in particular; it sprang in the first instance rather from an imitation of Engliah models than from a real local need; it has been the prey of Governor after Governor, and Ministry after Ministry, and has changed its form and even to some extent its functions according to the ideas of the country's rulers every few years; not until the adoption of the recommendations of the Hunt Commission in 1912 did the service emerge into the regulated atmosphere that is essential to the smooth working of a modern administrative system. It can therefore be said that not until the twentieth century was the New Zealand Civil Service a modern institution; not until 1908 did the Government realise how far New Zealand then lagged behind Great Britain; even now, when we still lag behind, there are few signs of improvement. From the establishment of British sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840 until the passing of the Civil Service Act twenty-six years later there was no system either in the departments themselves or in the service as a whole; if indeed, it may be considered a whole during that time. From 1866 until 1912 the service drifted back towards chaos, as the authorities either did not carry out the provisions of the 1866 Act, or avoided its provisions and winked at its implications. The basis provisions of the Act, indeed, could not be ignored; but loopholes were many, and several of its most beneficial reforms were vitiated by systematic evasion.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations