New Zealand’s national anthems. Yes, anthems!

So how many people in New Zealand realise that we have two national anthems? I bet not a lot.

Everyone knows God Defend New Zealand/Aotearoa. Well, at least the first verse anyway.

There are actually five verses in total. You may have heard part of the third verse in the Royal New Zealand Navy ad.

The words to God Defend New Zealand/Aotearoa were written by Thomas Bracken back in the 1870s. These were then used in a competition to compose a national air (tune or song) for New Zealand, with John Joseph Woods, a teacher from Otago, winning with his now familiar composition.

Cover of Hear our voices, we entreatThe song’s popularity grew throughout the the 19th century and became one of the most popular songs in the 20th century.

It became our national song in 1940, but wasn’t adopted as one of our official national anthems until 1977! This was as a result of a petition to parliament the previous year.

Hinewehi Mohi sang God defend New Zealand/Aotearoa in te reo Māori only before the All Blacks versus England match at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, causing a huge public debate in New Zealand. Wow, I remember that. Some people were outraged and others said “about time”.

It just shows you how one person’s brave act can change history. Everyone now expects both languages to be sung. As it should be.

Our other national anthem is God Save the Queen. Yes, the British national anthem. I’m sure most New Zealanders wouldn’t know the words to this, but as a proud dual citizen – the child of a British parent, and with strong Loyalist Grandparents – I can belt this out. Well, verses 1 & 3, haha.

It is usually only used when Her Majesty The Queen, a member of the Royal Family, or the Governor-General is officially present, or when loyalty to the Crown is emphasised.

The Ministry for Culture & Heritage/Manatū Taonga website has lyrics to both God Defend New Zealand/Aotearoa and God Save the Queen if you’re feeling inspired to learn all the verses.

Or you could check out the following:

2 thoughts on “New Zealand’s national anthems. Yes, anthems!

  1. John Shone 1 May 2015 / 10:17 am

    As far as I’m aware the anthem title is still: God defend New Zealand, not God defend New Zealand/Aotearoa. Retrospective re-titling of material in this manner is rather dishonest. Now, I have no problem per se with the name Aotearoa when legitimately applied – the verses of said anthem both in Maori and English are perfectly acceptable and appropriate; but please don’t mess with the correct titles of songs/music/anthems (or anything else) just to be politically correct. To do so is silly and patronising.

  2. Mo-mo 1 May 2015 / 11:30 am

    Hi John, thanks for your comment.
    I suspect the double-barrel naming is an example of referencing both language versions of the song at once rather than a “re-titling” of the original version. I would take from this that the title of the reo Māori version of “God defend New Zealand” is “Aotearoa”. We do similar things with book titles sometimes. Though obviously there’s room for interpretation.
    In any event this is how The Ministry for Culture and Heritage refers to the song on their website. http://www.mch.govt.nz/nz-identity-heritage/national-anthems/god-defend-new-zealandaotearoa

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