New Zealand has the rare distinction of being the
world’s only country with two national anthems of
the same importance: 'God Save The Queen' and 'God
Defend New Zealand'. Both these anthems have
beginnings which have sparked the fire of patriotism
and yet were penned under very dissimilar
Hayley Westenra sang 'God defend New Zealand' in the
November Twickenham test with the All Blacks versus
The other NZ national anthem, 'God save the Queen', was
likewise sung, and the All Blacks performed the “Ka mate”, a
The Music Month of New Zealand would not be complete
without considering a song that does not get a lot
of endorsement on the radio. It is not a song that
MTV directors are vying to get hold of. It is not
listed on any of the greatest hits of New Zealand,
even though New Zealanders have sung it for more
than one hundred thirty years.
Although its tune is quickly recognized by every New
Zealander, many of them cannot sing it properly.
New Zealanders are used to hearing this anthem prior to
major events in sports such as All Black tests. But several
of them are not aware that ‘God defend New Zealand’ is one
of the country’s two official anthems.
The second national anthem, ‘God save the Queen’, harkens to
New Zealand’s colonial past.
It was not until 1977 that ‘God
defend New Zealand’ was raised to status of anthem and has
become the favored anthem for New Zealanders
both at in and outside the
‘God save the Queen’ is mostly played at
formal ceremonies which involve the Queen, the royal
family, or the Governor-General.
The practice in
recent years has been for the anthem ‘God defend New
Zealand’ which is called 'Aotearoa' in Maori to be
rendered in both English and Maori to recognize the
heritage of New Zealand which is bicultural. But
this practice is relatively new.
God defend New Zealand’ was a Thomas Brackens poem which was
put to music by a native of Lawrence in Central Otago named
J.J. Woods in 1876. At the request of Sir George Grey, who
had been Governor at the time, Thomas H. Smith (a Native
Land Court Judge) made the first Maori translation of the
song in 1878.
Nevertheless, even up to the ending decades of the
20th century the majority of New Zealanders knew
only the English-language version of the song.
This state of affairs changed suddenly at the Rugby
World Cup of 1999 in England. Prior to the All
Blacks versus England match, Hinewehi Mohi sang ‘God
defend New Zealand’ or 'Aotearaoa' purely in te reo
Many in the audience complained that this was not
appropriate due to the inescapable fact that most
New Zealanders could not understand or speak Maori.
Mohi responded by saying that it appeared a
perfectly natural thing to do.
Growing support for the singing of ‘God defend New Zealand’
in both English and Maori soon occurred after this incident.
A cause supported by the state, sporting organizations, and
the Maori Language Commission encouraged the correct manner
of singing the anthem with publicity and word sheets. There
is currently widespread support for the English and Maori
versions to be sung alongside each other.