On 1 January 1877, the era of Provincial Government in New Zealand slipped into the folds of the country’s history.
Established under the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, New Zealand was split up into six provinces. Each province was its own sub-government and these were built around the six original settlements. The Canterbury Province sat between the Hurunui and Waitaki River and stretched right over to the West Coast. In 1868, the West Coast became the Westland Province.
At the head was a Superintendent and below him, councilors. To be able to become a member of the Canterbury Provincial, you had to be over 21 years old and own land worth over £50.
From the very beginning, problems arose with these six provinces working in their own interest and boundaries were always being argued about. Things really came to a head in the 1870’s when different kind of railway rails were used in each province and real progress was slowed down.
Two kinds of politicians developed out of this: the ‘Centralists’ – wanting a central government and ‘Provincialists’ who wanted government to stay regional. The Public Works Act 1870 soon put all to rest. With the central government borrowing huge amounts of money for works such as streets, bridges, buildings, this decreased the power of the provinces greatly. The provinces were finally abolished by the Abolition of Provinces Act 1876.
Canterbury’s last Superintendent was William Rolleston and he was a Centralist and did much to have the provinces abolished – in short, doing himself out of a job. Our four Superintendents, James Edward Fitzgerald, William Sefton Moorhouse, Samuel Bealey and William Rolleston are remembered today in the naming of our four main avenues.
For a more in depth look at William Rolleston: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/
*image courtesy of The Alexander Turnbull Library – Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings, Christchurch. Barker, Alfred Charles : Negatives. Ref: 1/4-002584-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23100600