Joseph Ward proclaims Dominion status

26 September 1907

Parliament Buildings lit up on Dominion Day, 1907 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-080522-F)

Prime Minister Ward read the proclamation to the gathered crowd from the steps of the General Assembly Library in Wellington. This first Dominion Day was a public holiday.

As capital of the new dominion, Wellington put on a big show. At 11 a.m., the governor, Lord Plunket, invited the Ward to read the proclamation of dominion status. He did so, and then shouted out, ‘Three cheers for the King’. Cheers followed for the governor, Ward, and the new Dominion of New Zealand. Military and school cadets paraded, and Māori performed a haka. It was all over in just 15 minutes. The smallish crowd then set off for Newtown Park to watch a military review involving 1600 men.

As darkness fell, what is now the Parliamentary Library shone with bright lights spelling out ‘Advance New Zealand’ and the words ‘Colony 1840’ and ‘Dominion 1907’.

The change of name meant little in practice. New Zealand resisted accepting the full implications of independence from the United Kingdom until 1947; the country’s subsequent change of status from ‘dominion’ to ‘realm’ was equally underwhelming.