New Zealand adopts decimal currency

10 July 1967

Feeding obsolete banknotes into a furnace (Alexander Turnbull Library, EP-Economy-Currency-02)

Pounds, shillings and pence were replaced with dollars and cents − 27 million new banknotes and 165 million new coins.

The New Zealand government decided to decimalise in 1963, and set the date for 10 July 1967. There was much public discussion over what to call the new currency. Names suggested included ‘crown’, ‘fern’, ‘tūi’, ‘Kiwi’ and ‘zeal’. In the end, both Australia and New Zealand settled on ‘dollar’.

The new coins were in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. Designs for the coins were publicised in early 1966 but revised after being criticised. The notes – the first New Zealand paper money to show the reigning monarch – were kept under wraps until June 1967 to thwart counterfeiters.

The new $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 and $100 banknotes each had different native birds and plants on the reverse, and were distinguishable by colour. Their design featured complicated geometric patterns, including Māori iconography. A $50 note was introduced in 1981, and in 1990 the $1 and $2 notes were replaced by coins.