Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

GIPPS, Sir George

(1791–1847).

Governor of New South Wales and first Governor of New Zealand.

Gipps was born in 1791 at Ringwold, Kent, and was the son of the Rev. George Gipps. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Woolwich Military Academy. In 1809 he joined the Royal Engineers and, two years later, was posted to Portugal. He served throughout the Peninsular campaigns and was wounded at the siege of Badajoz. In November 1814 Gipps was ordered to Flanders, but was not present at Waterloo. After the war he travelled widely in Europe. In 1824 he joined the Colonial Service and served in the West Indies. His reports on the West Indian slave trade so impressed his superiors that he was asked to join the two Boundary Commissions which defined the parliamentary constituencies created by the first Reform Bill. In 1834 he became Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Auckland; and, a year later, he was sent to Canada as a Commissioner, together with Lord Gosford and Sir Charles Grey, to inquire into the discontent there. He returned to England in April 1837 and was knighted for his Canadian services.

Gipps assumed the governorship of New South Wales on 23 February 1838; but, on 15 June 1839, his powers were extended to give him, as Governor-in-Chief, jurisdiction over British interests in New Zealand. Owing to the fever of speculation in Maori lands, the Sydney merchants made strong attempts to induce Gipps and Hobson to recognise their immense claims in New Zealand. Gipps decided to issue a public warning against such transactions and, on 19 January 1840, the day after Hobson sailed from Sydney, he proclaimed that no title to land henceforth purchased in New Zealand would be recognised unless derived from a Crown grant. Commissioners would investigate all past purchases, and all future acquisitions of land from Maori chiefs or tribes would be illegal. These instructions were badly received in Sydney and led to trouble between Gipps and the New South Wales Government.

Because they realised the difficulties involved in setting up a legislative body in a country as sparsely settled as New Zealand, the Home authorities entrusted the Legislative Council of New South Wales with power to enact all laws necessary for its new dependency. The New South Wales Land Regulations were extended to New Zealand and the New South Wales Treasury made small temporary grants to finance the new administration which was staffed by five New South Wales officials. Until statutory authority could be obtained, New Zealand was governed directly from Sydney, and Hobson was listed as a member of Gipp's administration. For his part Hobson had to forward all his correspondence to the Colonial Office through Gipps in Sydney. As Governor-in-Chief, Gipps left the routine administration of his New Zealand dependency in his Lieutenant-Governor's hands and only retained for himself such matters where the Royal Prerogative or Imperial interests were involved.

When Captain Hobson became ill shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Gipps sent Major Bunbury to New Zealand with orders to assume the Government should the Lieutenant-Governor's health render it necessary. He also advised the proclamation of sovereignty which Hobson made on 21 May 1840. In October 1840 he received a deputation from the company's settlers who protested against Willoughby Shortland's brusque dissolution of the Port Nicholson Council. Gipps' connection with New Zealand ended on 3 January 1841 when by reason of the Charter of November 1840, the dependency became a Crown colony in its own right. He remained Governor of New South Wales until his return to England in November 1846 and died at Canterbury, England, on 28 February 1847.

In 1830 Gipps married Elizabeth, daughter of Major-General Sir George Ramsay, by whom he had one son, later, General Sir Reginald Ramsay Gipps.

Although, during his governorship, Gipps' actions aroused much ill feeling among the New South Wales settlers, he was rated highly by the Colonial Office at the time, and is now generally considered to have been an able administrator.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Hart's Army List 1847
  • Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958).


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This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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