New Zealand and Australia sign the Canberra Pact

21 January 1944

Signing the Canberra Pact (National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23297501)

In the wake of Japan’s expansion across the Pacific Ocean during the Second World War, the New Zealand and Australian governments saw the value of working together more closely to enhance their joint influence.

The Australia–New Zealand Agreement (‘Canberra Pact’) was an undertaking by the two countries to co-operate on international matters, especially in the Pacific. In particular they agreed to:

  • a framework for consultation on matters of common interest
  • assert their right to be involved in setting peace terms and in the creation of any post-war international organisation
  • the creation of a regional defence zone stretching across the Pacific from Australia to Western Samoa and the Cook Islands
  • support the principle of trusteeship for the remaining Pacific island colonies
  • set up a regional commission to advance economic, political and social development in the ‘South Seas’.

The Canberra Pact was received unenthusiastically by the British and with hostility by the United States. Even its promise of closer co-operation between Australia and New Zealand was largely unfulfilled. But the two countries were closely involved in the creation of the United Nations, and a South Pacific Commission was set up in 1947.