The New Zealand Coat of Arms represents the sovereign nature of New Zealand and the Government’s authority. It is for government use only and is found on a range of documents and papers of constitutional significance, from Acts of Parliament to passports.
On some national occasions, such as Royal visits or jubilee celebrations, individuals and organisations can temporarily display the Arms.
Outside of its use by government, the Coat of Arms can only be used or published with the Ministry’s permission. If you have any questions about using the Arms please contact us.
What the Coat of Arms looks like
The first quarter of the shield shows four stars that represent the Southern Cross, then three ships symbolising the importance of New Zealand's sea trade. In the second quarter a fleece represents the farming industry. The wheat sheaf in the third quarter represents the agricultural industry, and the crossed hammers in the fourth quarter represent mining.
The supporters on either side of the shield are a Māori Chieftain holding a taiaha (a Māori war weapon) and a European woman holding the New Zealand Ensign. St Edward's Crown, shown above the shield, was used in the Coronation ceremony of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The crown symbolises Her Majesty as Queen of New Zealand under the New Zealand Royal Titles Act 1953.
The first recorded move to establish a Coat of Arms for New Zealand was a design competition in 1906.
The competition was readvertised in 1908 and 75 designs featuring everything from kiwis, sheep, cows, moas and lions to stars, ships, British soldiers, Māori warriors and Union Jacks were received. Three entries were sent to England for judging.
The winning entry was by James McDonald, a draughtsman in the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. A Royal Warrant granting armorial ensigns and supports was issued on 26 August 1911 and published in the New Zealand Gazette of 11 January 1912. These arms, known as the 1911 arms, are no longer used.
An image of the first New Zealand Coat of Arms is available on the NZHistory website.
Although the Royal Warrant described the New Zealand Coat of Arms, by the mid 1940s at least 20 versions were in use. A committee was set up to redraw and standardise the Arms and The Queen approved a revised version in 1956.
The main alterations included:
- the addition of St Edward's Crown to symbolise The Queen as Queen of New Zealand
- redrawing the quarterings in the shield
- facing the supporters inwards instead of to the front, with the Māori chieftain losing his hei tiki and gaining a kapeu (a greenstone ear pendant)
- replacing the scroll with two fern leaves
- replacing ‘onward’ with 'New Zealand' to give a more direct New Zealand touch.
These Arms are still in use today.
Guidelines for displaying the Coat of Arms
Attached is a one page pdf document providing guidelines for displaying the Coat of Arms.
Updated on 7th October 2019