The 1940 Centennial

Page 1 – Introduction

Centennial Exhibition souvenir
Centennial Exhibition souvenir (detail)

In 1940 New Zealand celebrated its national coming of age. Māori history and the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took a back seat to the celebration of a century of European effort and progress in New Zealand. Local and provincial events plugged into a full diary of national events - the unveiling of memorials, historical re-enactments, and music and drama festivals. An array of specially commissioned publications recorded the stories of progress, re-writing the country's past.

The jewel in the centennial crown was the vast 55-acre Centennial Exhibition in Wellington. To many New Zealanders, its modern buildings and soaring central tower seemed to symbolise 'the progress and ambition of the young nation'. Others were more interested in the thrills of Playland, the exhibition's big amusement park.

How to cite this page

'The New Zealand Centennial, 1940', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 27-Jun-2018