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The issue of separate nationalities for dominions arose following the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which allowed dominions such as New Zealand to become fully independent countries. Canada created its own citizenship in 1947, with New Zealand and Australia following closely behind in 1949.
On 1 January 1949 the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 came into force and most people living in New Zealand became New Zealand citizens on that day. It also meant that children born in New Zealand from 1 January 1949 were automatically New Zealand citizens. The Citizenship Act 1977 replaced the 1948 Act and provides the legislative framework for our citizenship today.
Most people born in New Zealand or to New Zealand citizen parents are New Zealand citizens. Most people born in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau are also New Zealand citizens, and since 1949 we have welcomed into the New Zealand “family” a large number of migrants who have chosen to apply for a grant of citizenship.
2009 was the 60th anniversary of New Zealand citizenship. To commemorate this anniversary, and to raise awareness of the meaning and importance of New Zealand citizenship, the Department of Internal Affairs held some special commemorative events throughout 2009. These included:
- Holding a special citizenship ceremony at Parliament
- Holding a New Zealand Citizenship Secondary School Essay Competition
- Developing a special Citizenship Education website designed for use in New Zealand for schools; and
- Conducting a Public Awareness of New Zealand Citizenship Survey