In the Beginning: Taxation in Early Colonial New Zealand

29 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2016

See all articles by Michael Littlewood

Michael Littlewood

University of Auckland - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 10, 2016


For the first five years of the colonial period, from 1840 to 1845, the New Zealand government was insolvent, spiraling deeper and deeper into debt and failing to pay salaries and other bills. It conscientiously adopted the revenue-raising methods proposed by London (mainly land sales and customs duties) plus several others (notably liquor licensing, a tax on auctions, and borough council rates), but the revenues raised never came close to covering spending. In desperation, it resorted to borrowing, printing money and experimenting with an income tax – an extraordinarily innovative move in 1844. Unsurprisingly, none of these measures proved satisfactory. London blamed the Colony’s governors, but the real problem was that its economy was simply too small to sustain a government even remotely resembling the British colonial norm.

Keywords: New Zealand, tax, history, British Empire, colony, 1840s

Suggested Citation

Littlewood, Michael, In the Beginning: Taxation in Early Colonial New Zealand (April 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Littlewood (Contact Author)

University of Auckland - Faculty of Law ( email )

Private Bag 92019
Auckland Mail Centre
Auckland, 1142
New Zealand

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