Centennial - growth of New Zealand identity

Page 1 – Introduction

Case study: the 1940 Centennial

Related link on NZHistory.net.nz: The 1940 Centennial 

Between 8 November 1939 and 4 May 1940 more than 2.6 million people visited the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition in Wellington; this represents an average daily attendance of about 17,000 people. The government spent £250,000 – more than $19 million in today's money – on the exhibition.

The Centennial Exhibition was four years in the planning and involved considerable public investment. It represented the Labour government's and the country's values and celebrated New Zealand's progress as a nation over the preceding 100 years. It was a deliberate act of national self-definition. Prime Minister Michael Savage said that in the exhibition 'we have history in a nutshell'.

Topics covered in the feature include:

  • the role of the Centennial Exhibition in Wellington as a symbol of progress and the ingenuity of the national spirit
  • the centennial and the nation at play
  • local commemorations 
  • the centennial and the Treaty of Waitangi.
How to cite this page

'The 1940 Centennial', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/the-classroom/ncea-level-2-history/nz-centennial-1940, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 25-Jul-2014