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The New Zealand Coat of Arms

NZ Coat of Arms

History of the New Zealand Coat of Arms

The first recorded move to establish a Coat of Arms for New Zealand was 1906. Designs were called for a Coat of Arms, however those being considered were destroyed when fire swept through the Old Parliament Buildings in 1907.

The competition was readvertised in 1908 and some 754 designs featuring everything from kiwis, sheep, cows, moas and lions, to stars, ships, British soldiers, Maori warriors and Union Jacks were received. Three entries were sent to England for final judging. The winning entry was a design by James McDonald, a draughtsman in the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts.

A Royal Warrant granting armorial ensigns and supports was issued on 26 August 1911 and was published in the New Zealand Gazette of 11 January 1912. These arms, known as the 1911 arms, are no longer used.

Although the Royal Warrant of 1911 gave a description of the New Zealand Coat of Arms, by the mid 1940s it was found that there were at least 20 versions of the design in use. A committee was established to arrange for the redrawing and standardisation of the Arms, and a revised version received The Queen's approval in 1956. The principal alterations were; in the crest (which now is St Edward's Crown to symbolise the fact that The Queen is Queen of New Zealand); The quarterings in the shield which were redrawn; the supporters were redrawn so that they faced inwards instead of to the front with the Maori chieftain losing his hei tiki and gaining a kapeu ( a greenstone ear pendant); the scroll was replaced by two fern leaves and the name 'New Zealand' was used in the place of 'onwards' so as to give a more direct New Zealand touch. These arms are still in use today.

Description of the New Zealand Coat of Arms

The first quarter of the shield depicts four stars as representative of the Southern Cross, then three ships symbolising the importance of New Zealand's sea trade; in the second quarter is a fleece representing the farming industry. The wheat sheaf in the third quarter represents the agricultural industry, whilst the crossed hammers in the fourth quarter represent the mining industry.

The supporters on either side of the shield consist of a Maori Chieftain holding a taiaha (a Maori war weapon) and a European woman holding the New Zealand Ensign.

Surmounting the Arms is the St Edward's Crown which was used in the Coronation ceremony of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The crown symbolises the fact that Her Majesty is Queen of New Zealand under the New Zealand Royal Titles Act 1953.

Use of the Coat of Arms

The use of the New Zealand Coat of Arms is restricted to Government. It may not be used by private individuals or organisations.

Private persons and organisations may display the Arms as a decorative feature on particular national occasions, for example Royal Visits, and Jubilee celebrations provided the display is not a permanent feature. Use of the Arms may be permitted on permanent souvenirs of a particular event, for example a Royal Anniversary or Visit. Advice of permission to use the Arms in this manner is published in the New Zealand Gazette. Publishers of encyclopaedia, educational and heraldry books may be granted permission to reproduce the Arms in certain circumstances.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces