Dominion status activities

Page 2 – What's in a name? - Dominion status

Historians agree that the switch from colony to dominion meant no real change, so why did New Zealand become a dominion? Using the feature Dominion status, complete any or all of the following activities that examine some of the arguments for and against New Zealand seeking dominion status.

1. Letter to the Colonial Office

In 1907 New Zealand’s prime minister, Sir Joseph Ward, visited London for an imperial conference. While there, he raised the idea of New Zealand becoming a dominion.

Imagine that you are Sir Joseph Ward. It is May 1907, and you are writing to Lord Elgin of the Colonial Office outlining why you believe New Zealand should be granted dominion status. Your letter must summarise the key arguments for New Zealand becoming a dominion and should be no more than 300 words in length.

2. Newspaper editorial

In 1907 the Otago Daily Times referred to Dominion Day as a ‘finger-post in the history of this land, but it is no land-mark’.

Imagine you are the editor of a New Zealandnewspaper in September 1907. Dominion status has been proclaimed. In an editorial of no more than 200 words, outline why your newspaper shares a similar view to the Otago Daily Times that this is not a moment of great change for New Zealand.

3. For and against

Complete the following chart summarising the arguments for and against New Zealand acquiring dominion status in 1907.

Arguments for dominion status Arguments against dominion status
  • New Zealand has outgrown the colonial stage
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  • New Zealanders did not ask for or want this change
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4. Debate in the House

Opponents of Sir Joseph Ward argued that most New Zealanders did not seek this change and that this was ‘Ward’s personal show’. Men such as the Leader of the Opposition, William Massey, supported the retention of the term ‘colony’.

  • Imagine you are Sir Joseph Ward. You are about to give a speech in the House of Representatives (Parliament) outlining why you believe New Zealand should seek permission from the Colonial Office to replace the term ‘colony’ with ‘dominion’. You must give at least three reasons why you believe this change is necessary. You must also outline why you believe this will advance New Zealand’s status as a nation.
  • Now imagine that you are William Massey and you are about to give a speech in the House of Representatives (Parliament) in reply to Sir Joseph Ward’s speech. Outline your reasons for opposing the adoption of dominion status. You must give at least three reasons why you believe things should be left as they are, that is, that New Zealand should retain the title of ‘colony’ as opposed to ‘dominion’.  You must also outline why you believe many New Zealanders are opposed to this change and how, in reality, nothing much will change as a consequence.

5. 'The new dominion'

One Aucklander was so enthusiastic about New Zealand’s new status that she or he wrote a poem called 'The new dominion' and sent it to Prime Minister Ward, who read it to Parliament. Read this poem and complete the activities that follow:

  1. Quote evidence from the poem that New Zealand was controlled by Australia at one point.
  2. How does the poem show that New Zealand is still a loyal part of the British Empire?
  3. What evidence is there in the poem that suggests dominion status is seen as a symbol of New Zealand maturing as a nation?
  4. Based on the evidence of this poem, what will change as a result of New Zealand adopting dominion status?
How to cite this page

'What's in a name? - Dominion status', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/ncea2/dominion-status/whats-in-a-name, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Aug-2014