Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

New Leinster, New Munster, and New Ulster

When the islands of New Zealand were separated politically from the colony of New South Wales in 1840 and erected into a separate colony, the Royal Charter effecting this provided that “the principal Islands, heretofore known as, or commonly called, the ‘Northern Island’, the ‘Middle Island’, and ‘Stewart's Island’, shall henceforward be designated and known respectively as ‘New Ulster’, ‘New Munster’, and ‘New Leinster’”. These provincial divisions were at first of geographical significance only, and were not used as a basis for the government of the colony, then centralised in Auckland.

The situation was altered in 1846, however, when a further Royal Charter divided the colony into two provinces and provided each with its own political institutions in addition to the central government at Auckland. The two provinces were called New Ulster and New Munster, New Leinster being merged with the South Island and the southern portion of the North Island up to the mouth of the Patea River, to form the new New Munster. Each province was provided with a Governor and Legislative and Executive Council, in addition to the Governor-in-Chief and Legislative and Executive Council for the whole colony. In 1851 the Provincial Legislative Councils were permitted to be partially elective.

Before the elections were completed, however, the United Kingdom Parliament, by the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, abandoned both the nomenclature and the boundaries of these provincial divisions, and divided the colony into six provinces bearing names of local significance. From that date onwards New Munster and New Ulster, like New Leinster, disappeared from the New Zealand scene and became of historical significance only.

by Donald Edgar Paterson, B.A., LL.M.(N.Z.), LL.M., J.S.D.(YALE), Lecturer in Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law, Victoria University of Wellington.

  • Constitutional Development of New Zealand in the First Decade (1839–1849), Foden, N. A. (1938)
  • Constitutional History and Law of New Zealand, Hight, J., and Bamford, H. D. (1914)
  • 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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