William Hobson and the Origins of the New Zealand Tax System, 1840-1842

23 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019

See all articles by Michael Littlewood

Michael Littlewood

University of Auckland - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 5, 2019


The literature on the history of New Zealand in the 1840s is extensive but it does not address systematically the methods by which the colonial government attempted to finance itself. This article addresses that gap. The inaugural Governor, William Hobson, conscientiously adopted the revenue-raising methods proposed by London (mainly land sales and customs duties) plus several others (notably liquor licensing, a tax on auctions, and borough council rates), but the revenues raised were nowhere near adequate to cover spending. Government salaries fell into arrears and the colonial government found itself insolvent. In desperation, Hobson resorted to borrowing, which predictably proved unsatisfactory. London blamed him for the Colony’s insolvency, but the real problem was that its economy was simply too small to sustain a government even remotely resembling the British colonial norm.

Keywords: New Zealand, Tax, History, Colonial, William Hobson, Treaty of Waitangi, Colonial Office, Customs Duties, Taxes on Liquor, Land Tax, Land Sales

JEL Classification: K34, N97

Suggested Citation

Littlewood, Michael, William Hobson and the Origins of the New Zealand Tax System, 1840-1842 (March 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3346849 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3346849

Michael Littlewood (Contact Author)

University of Auckland - Faculty of Law ( email )

Private Bag 92019
Auckland Mail Centre
Auckland, 1142
New Zealand

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