Planning for the commemorative 1940 Centennial of British Sovereignty issue
began in 1936. The stamps were designed by James Berry and Leonard
Mitchell, both of Wellington and were selected from designs submitted by 19
artists. Most of the stamp designs were dual-colour.
stamp features the designers impression of the arrival of Maori in New
Zealand. The stamp shows emaciated and exhausted Maori struggling up the
beach after weeks spent battling the oceans and weather in open
The penny stamp features the Endeavour and Captain Cook with
the map of New Zealand that Cook produced after circumnavigating both
islands in 1769.
The penny halfpenny Sovereigns stamp features
British Royalty at that time - King George VI in the centre with Queen
Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V and King Edward VIII. This is the
only New Zealand stamp with Edward VIII on as he abdicated from the throne
after less than a year as King. The 10d surcharge on this stamp is listed
separately under the 1944
The twopence stamp features Abel
Tasman, the first European to sight the New Zealand coast in 1642. Tasman
was unable to land on the rocky west coast, but continued to sail north and
then east, where one of his boats was attacked by Maori in waka, and four
of his men were killed. The country was subsequently named after the
Netherlands province of Neiuw Zeeland, but not being a viable trade partner
was not visited again for over a century.
The 2½d stamp
features the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on the 5th of February 1840
by representatives of the British Crown, and various Maori chiefs from the
northern North Island. The Treaty established a British governor in New
Zealand, recognised Maori ownership of their lands and other properties,
and gave Maori the rights of British subjects. After the initial signing at
Waitangi, copies of the Treaty were taken around New Zealand and over the
following months many other chiefs signed. However, the English and Maori
language versions of the Treaty differ significantly, and so there is
little consensus to exactly what was agreed to.
The three penny
stamp shows European settlers disembarking from their ships and meeting
local Maori. The New Zealand Company which was formed in 1839 to promote
the colonisation of New Zealand was a profit making organisation that
sought to buy land cheaply from the indigenous residents and sell it to
speculators and "gentleman settlers" at a much higher sum.
Emigrants would provide labour to break in the lands and cater to their
employers' everyday needs. They would eventually be able to buy their
own land, but high land prices and low rates of pay would ensure they first
laboured for many years. The company stridently opposed the Treaty of
Waitangi and was frequently criticised by the Colonial office and New
Zealand governors for its "trickery" and lies. Settlers often
arrived to harsh conditions nothing at all like the elaborate and false
advertisements they had seen before departing.
The four penny stamp
features land, sea and air transport. The development of New Zealand relied
on the establishment of road and railway links across the country. The
geographical isolation of New Zealand made it very dependent on sea and
later air links with trading partners.
The five penny stamp depicts
the assertion of British Sovereignty over the South Island with the
hoisting of the British flag at Akaroa on the 11th of August 1840. The area
was settled that same year by French settlers who had intended to establish
The sixpence stamp features the Dunedin's first
shipment of frozen mutton for the United Kingdom. In the 1870s, New Zealand
exported large amounts of wool, but the wool market was in decline. In the
United Kingdom, there was a shortage of meat to feed the expanding
population. The Dunedin (1876-82) was the first ship to complete a truly
successful transport of refrigerated meat. In its capacity, it helped set
the stage for New Zealand's success as a major provider of agricultural
exports despite its geographical isolation.
The sevenpence stamp
features a traditional Maori Council held in front of the meeting
The nine penny stamp features gold mining from the 1860s gold
rush and a more modern gold dredge. Gabriel Read's discovery of gold at
Gabriel's Gully in 1861 led to the Central Otago gold rush, with the
population of the gold field rising from virtually zero to around 11,500
within a year.
The one shilling stamp features "A Giant
Kauri", a coniferous tree found north of 38 degrees South in the
northern districts of New Zealand's North Island. It is the largest
species of tree by volume in the country, standing up to 50m tall above the
forest's main canopy.
The eight penny Maori Council stamp
replaced the seven penny when parcel rates were increased as a result of
the outbreak of war.