New Zealand

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with The Queen as Sovereign. The Sovereign and the House of Representatives together make up the Parliament of New Zealand. As a constitutional monarch, The Queen of New Zealand acts entirely on the advice of New Zealand Government Ministers. She is fully briefed by means of communications from her Ministers, and has audiences with them where possible.

The Queen's role

The Queen is responsible for appointing a Governor-General for New Zealand, which she does on the advice of the country's Prime Minister.


This is The Queen's personal representative in New Zealand, who usually serves for a term of five years.

The Queen recognises events affecting New Zealand - for example, sending messages for national celebrations or tragedies. She also honours New Zealand achievements at events in the UK - for example, holding a reception for members of the All Blacks rugby team at Buckingham Palace in 2005.


As Head of the Armed Forces, The Queen holds colonelcies in a number of New Zealand regiments, and commemorates the service of New Zealanders in various conflicts throughout the past century.

When The Queen visits New Zealand, she performs many of the duties normally delegated to the Governor-General - for example, presiding over the opening of Parliament.

She also makes a pointing of travelling widely throughout the islands, meeting New Zealanders from as many different walks of life as possible.


The Queen of New Zealand's formal title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

In the Maori language, The Queen is known as Kotuku, which means "the white heron", a cherished bird rarely seen in New Zealand.




Royal visits

Developments in air travel have made it possible for The Queen to make the 12,000 mile journey to New Zealand on ten occasions during her reign, but she was not the first member of the Royal Family to travel there.

The first Royal visitor was Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria. He arrived at Wellington in 1869 as Captain of HMS Galatea. 

After nearly a week in Wellington, His Royal Highness proceeded to Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Auckland, being received everywhere with enthusiasm.

The next Royal visit was not until 1901, when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Lyttelton and Dunedin.

The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited New Zealand in 1920 during a tour of the Empire.

In 1927 the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) arrived in Auckland by boat. 

After unveiling a First World War memorial to the Arawas in Rotorua, they visited many North Island towns before arriving in Wellington.

In Nelson the Duchess was taken ill with tonsillitis and forced to abandon the trip. The Duke continued alone by road and rail to the West Coast, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Bluff.

The present Queen made her first visit in 1953 during the first, long Commonwealth tour of her reign. 

She was the first reigning monarch to open the New Zealand Parliament, and made her Christmas broadcast for 1953 from Government House in Auckland.

More frequent visits have been possible in recent decades. Together with The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, The Queen attended Commonwealth Games at Christchurch in January 1974. The tour included a visit to the Cook Islands.

In February and March 1977 The Queen visited New Zealand at the start of her Silver Jubilee year.

In 1990 The Queen visited Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and spent time at the Commonwealth Games, opened by Prince Edward. The Queen also opened a session of Parliament. 

The Queen last visited New Zealand to share her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, visiting Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington before travelling on to Australia.

Other members of the Royal Family have also been regular visitors to New Zealand.

The Earl of Wessex, as Prince Edward, spent two terms in 1982 as a house tutor and junior master at the Collegiate School, Wanganui, New Zealand.

Notable among the visits of The Princess Royal was that of 1990, when she was present on Anzac Day, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings during the First World War.

The Queen has visited New Zealand on ten occasions: 1953-1954, 1963, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1995 and 2002.

When attending a Powhiri or Maori welcoming ceremony, The Queen dons a ceremonial Korowai cloak, made from prized kiwi feathers, and speaks a few words of Maori.

History and present government

Monarchy in New Zealand dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century.

After Captain Cook's exploration of New Zealand in the late eighteenth century, an increasing number of European settlers came to New Zealand. In 1833, with growing lawlessness amongst traders and settlers, the British government appointed James Busby as British Resident to protect British trading interests.

Despite Busby's presence, trouble increased. In 1840 the British Government sent Captain William Hobson to New Zealand as Lieutenant Governor, to acquire the sovereignty of New Zealand, by way of a treaty with the native Maori chiefs.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840, at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Over 500 Maori Chiefs signed the treaty as it was taken around the country during the next eight months.

Following the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the islands of New Zealand became a British colony.

In 1907 New Zealand achieved the status of Dominion, which meant it was a country of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth, with autonomy in domestic and foreign affairs. The term fell into disuse after the Second World War.

In 1917, the powers, duties and responsibilities of the Governor-General (as the Sovereign's representative) and the Executive Council were set out in a Royal letters patent.

In 1926, the Balfour Declaration at the Imperial Conference in London confirmed the status of New Zealand, along with that of Australia, the Irish Free State, Canada, South Africa and Newfoundland, as self-governing Dominions under the British Crown.

The Statute of Westminster in 1931, an act of the British Parliament, gave legal form to this declaration. It gave New Zealand and other Dominions the authority to make their own laws. New Zealand ratified the Statute in 1947.

More recently, the Constitution Act 1986 has become the principal formal statement of New Zealand's constitution. This Act recognises that the Queen, the Sovereign in right of New Zealand, is the Head of State of New Zealand and that the Governor-General appointed by her is her representative. Each can, in general, exercise all the powers of the other.

Today the Realm of New Zealand comprises New Zealand, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency, and the self-governing states of the Cook Islands and Niue.



The role of the Governor-General

The Governor-General is The Queen's representative in New Zealand. As such, he or she performs the same constitutional role in New Zealand as The Queen does in the United Kingdom.

The Governor-General has three overlapping roles - constitutional, ceremonial and community-related.

Constitutional roles include receiving the writ that dissolves Parliament before a general election is held; formally requesting the leader of the political party which gains the support of a majority in Parliament to form a government; and assenting to the enactment of legislation.

Ceremonial duties include opening new sessions of Parliament; presenting honours at Investitures; welcoming visiting Heads of State; receiving the credentials of foreign diplomats; and attending Waitangi Day commemorations.

The Governor-General also provides non-partisan leadership in the community, acting as patron of many charitable, service, sporting and cultural organisations, and attending functions throughout the country, from Northland to Stewart Island, and from Fiordland to the Chatham Islands. 

Although the day-to-day affairs of state are delegated to the Governor-General, The Queen continues to have a close and personal relationship with New Zealand and her people.

The Queen and Governor-General both send messages to members of the public celebrating notable birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

The Queen's Young Leaders

The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.

Among the first group of Queen's Young Leaders in 2015 was New Zealander Tabitha Besley.

Tabitha has helped to draw attention to an international campaign to support young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The National Day of Silence in New Zealand was run by Tabitha and her team from InsideOut, an organisation which aims to make schools more inclusive places for young people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Symbols and ceremonies

The Queen of New Zealand's emblems are unique to New Zealand.

The Queen's personal flag for New Zealand is flown only by The Queen when in New Zealand.

It features the shield design of the New Zealand coat of arms in the form of an oblong or square. Superimposed in the centre is a dark blue roundel bearing an initial E surmounted by a Royal crown within a gold chaplet of roses.

The only time the flag is flown in the absence of The Queen is at parades held on and in honour of Her Majesty's official birthday.

The most familiar image of The Queen to many people is the portrait which appears on the obverse of New Zealand coins. All banknotes feature a portrait of The Queen as the watermark.

In New Zealand, The Queen's official birthday is a public holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in June.

An honours list is also published to mark The Queen's birthday.

Related content

The tenth anniversary of the Christchurch earthquakes

While there are many sad memories of that terrible time, there is also solace in remembering how your community rose to the challenge of rebuilding your lives and supporting...

22 February 2021

A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at Al Noor Mosque, Christchurch, New Zealand

The message from Christchurch and the message from Al Noor and Linwood mosques could not be more clear - the global ideology of hate will fail to divide us.

26 April 2019
Press release 10 September 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's Autumn Tour

Read more

A message from The Queen on the sixth anniversary of the Canterbury Earthquake in New Zealand

I hope that the new memorial will provide a place to remember, to grieve for what is lost, and to give thanks for what remains

21 February 2017

A message from The Queen following the earthquakes in New Zealand

I send my condolences to the families of those who were killed and to the people whose homes and businesses have been affected

15 November 2016
Press release 21 March 2016

Announcement of a new Governor-General of New Zealand

Read more

The Queen's Message to the Athletes

The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth.

23 July 2014

Rugby World Cup 2015

13 October 2015

A speech by Prince Harry at Putiki Marae, Whanganui.

It is an honour to be here at Putiki marae, so close to the Whanganui River

14 May 2015

A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at Government House, Wellington, New Zealand

On this visit, I have no doubt that it will be Catherine and not just me who falls for New Zealand.

14 April 2014

A speech by Prince William at the memorial service in Christchurch, New Zealand

My grandmother once said that grief is the price we pay for love.

08 March 2011
Press release 07 March 2011

Appointment of new Governor-General of New Zealand

Read more
Press release 24 October 2010

Message following the New Zealand mining disaster

Read more
Press release 07 September 2010

Message following the earthquake in New Zealand

Read more
Press release 02 August 2010

Use of the title 'The Right Honourable' in New Zealand

Read more

A speech by Prince William to the New Zealand Supreme Court

New Zealand’s values are ones that I greatly admire.

18 January 2010
Press release 03 April 2006

Announcement of a new Governor General of New Zealand

Read more
Press release 16 May 2005

Prince William will visit New Zealand in July 2005

Read more

Maori gathering at Rehua Marae, Christchurch, New Zealand, 25 February 2002

New Zealand is working to improve and strengthen all the various relationships between Maori and the Crown.

25 February 2002

State dinner in Wellington, New Zealand, 25 February 2002

It is both a privilege and a pleasure to have served as Queen of New Zealand for these fifty years.

25 February 2002