The legal history of money in New Zealand

Release date
Vol. 66. No. 1. March 2003
Ken Matthews
A central bank's stock in trade is money. This is no less true in New Zealand than in any other country. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the Reserve Bank takes more than a passing interest in the historical development of notes and coins in New Zealand. This articles summaries the legal history of money in New Zealand, beginning in the early days of colonisation and tracing the key developments through to the modern era. Although the focus of the article is on the development of the legal framework governing notes and coin, rather than other aspects of money, it also discusses some of the economic and social issues that shaped these legal documents. The history of money law in New Zealand is an example of how an emerging country developed an area of law necessary for the state to function, and how those laws were influenced by social and economic factors. In this article, we look at five key periods in the history of money in New Zealand: * The period of legal uncertainty (1840 to 1844) * Experimentation (1844 - 1861) * Privately issued money (1861 - 1893) * Periods of financial stress (1893 - 1933) * Nationalisation of the currency (1933 to the present).