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.
halfpenny stamp features the designers impression of the arrival of Maoris
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 Māori 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 Māori chiefs from the
northern North Island. The Treaty established a British governor in New
Zealand, recognised Māori ownership of their lands and other properties,
and gave Māori 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
Māori 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 a colony.
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
The sevenpence stamp features a traditional Maori
Council held in front of the meeting house.
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
The one shilling stamp features "A Giant Kauri", a
coniferous tree found north of 38°S 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.