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"God Defend New Zealand" is one of the national anthems of New Zealandmarker, together with "God Save the Queen". Although they both have equal status, "God Defend New Zealand" is the anthem that is in common use.


"God Defend New Zealand" was written as a poem in the 1870s by Irish-born, Victorianmarker-raised immigrant Thomas Bracken of Dunedinmarker, a freemason. A competition to compose music for the poem was held in 1876 by The Saturday Advertiser and judged by three prominent Melbournemarker musicians, with a prize of ten guineas. The winner of the competition was the Tasmanianmarker-born John Joseph Woods of Lawrence, New Zealandmarker who composed the melody in a single sitting the evening after finding out about the competition. The song was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Princes Street, Dunedinmarker, on Christmas Day, 1876.

The song became increasingly popular during the 19th century and early 20th century, and in 1940 the New Zealand government bought the copyright and made it New Zealand's national hymn in time for that year's centennial celebrations. While being used as New Zealand's national anthem at the British Empire Games from 1950 onward, it was first officially used at the Olympic Games in 1972 in Munichmarker. Following the performance at the Munich games, a campaign began to have the song adopted as the national anthem.

In 1976 a petition was presented to parliament asking for it to be made the national anthem, and, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth II, it became the country's second national anthem on November 21, 1977, on equal standing with God Save The Queen, months after Australia adopted Advance Australia Fair as its national anthem. Up until then "God Save The Queen" was New Zealand's national anthem.

An alternative official arrangement for massed singing by Maxwell Fernie was announced by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Allan Highet on June 1, 1978.


The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has responsibility for the national anthems. The Ministry's guidelines for choosing which anthem should be used on any occasion advise that "God Save The Queen" would be appropriate at any occasion where The Queen, a member of the Royal Family, or the Governor-General, when within New Zealand, is officially present or when loyalty to the crown is to be stressed; while "God Defend New Zealand" would be appropriate whenever the national identity of New Zealand is to be stressed even in association with a toast to Elizabeth II as Queen of New Zealand.


"God Defend New Zealand" has five verses, each in English and Māori. The Māori version is not a direct translation of the English version. The Māori language version was produced in 1878 by Thomas H. Smith of Auckland, a judge in the Native Land Court, on request of Governor George Edward Grey, and in 1979 this was back-translated into English by former Māori Language Commissioner, Professor Timoti S. Kāretu.

Copyright on the English lyrics for "God Defend New Zealand" expired from the end of the year which was fifty years after the death of the author (Bracken), i.e., from 1 January 1949. The copyright had been purchased by the government. Kāretu's back-translation is under New Zealand Crown copyright until 2079. Copyright information is at

Commonly, only the first verse of each version is sung, usually in Māori first, then in English. However, it has been known to be sung English first.

The second and last English verses may also be sung, but the third and fourth are rarely used.

Current English version

Maori version

Full English version

Full Maori version

There is some discussion, with no official explanation, of the meaning of "Pacific's triple star". Unofficial explanations range from New Zealand's three biggest islands (Northmarker, Southmarker, and Stewart Island/Rakiuramarker), the three stars on the shield of the New Zealand Anglican Church to the three stars on the flag of Te Kooti (a Māori political and religious leader of the 19th century) [701731]. Another explanation is that Bracken was referring to Alpha Centauri, the brightest triple-star system in the southern constellation of Centaurus, but this seems dubious since that system's third star (Proxima Centauri) was not discovered until 1915. There is also a joke that the phrase "Pacific's Triple Star" refers to the three stars on the Speight'smarker beer logo, and T-shirts can be purchased especially in the South Island with the line "Guard Pacific's Triple Star" above the three Speight's stars.

In favour of the first explanation, it should be noted that at the time Bracken was writing, New Zealand was perceived as composed of three principal islands. In his "Australia and New Zealand", published in 1873, the English writer Anthony Trollope wrote that the colony "consists of the North Island, the Middle Island, and Stewart Island".


  2. New Zealand's national anthems, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Retrieved 2009-11-21

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