Story: Nation and government

‘God defend New Zealand’

New Zealand is unusual in having two national anthems of equal standing – ‘God save the queen’ (or king), and the more recent ‘God defend New Zealand’. When a member of the royal family is present the former is preferred. However, increasingly on public occasions and at international sporting fixtures ‘God defend New Zealand’ is sung. The words were written in the 1870s by the Irish-born journalist and poet Thomas Bracken, and the music was composed by the Tasmanian-born teacher John Joseph Woods, as part of a competition in 1876. ‘God defend New Zealand’ became the national song of New Zealand in 1940, and a national anthem in 1977. On public occasions it is now usually sung in both languages, with the first verse in Māori followed by the first verse in English. Here the first verses in both languages are sung by Frankie Stevens and the Department of Internal Affairs singers. The words are set out below:

Māori version

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa.

Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori; Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Aotearoa.

Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
Aotearoa.

Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Taiāwhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
Aotearoa.

Tōna pai me toitū
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;
Aotearoa.

English version

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nation’s van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

About this item

Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Heritage Operations

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How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Nation and government - Nationhood and identity', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/music/4483/god-defend-new-zealand (accessed 28 March 2017)

Story by John Wilson, updated 16 Sep 2016