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The South Island Independence movement is a term applied to a loose grouping of organisations that have called for separate nationhood for New Zealand's South Island.

A Premier of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was amongst the first to make this call,[1] which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington in the same year.

The question of South Island Independence remains a matter of public debate rather than a political issue, since no significant political party supports the idea.

Contents

History

During the Provincial period of 1853 to 1876, while the North Island was convulsed by the New Zealand Land Wars, the South Island, with its small Māori population, was peaceful and the southern provinces developed more rapidly than did those in the north. In 1861, gold was discovered at Gabriel's Gully in Central Otago, sparking a gold rush. Dunedin became the wealthiest city in the country, and many in the South Island resented financing the North Island's war and less ready to accept direction from a General Assembly whose impoverished members "looked with ill-concealed envy" on the resources of the South. It was, noted the Otago Colonist, "the sad but inevitable result of joining by artificial bonds of union countries that Nature (by Cook Strait) designed should be separate". Otago, argued its editor, Julius Vogel (who, ironically, was ultimately to lead the centralists to the abolition of provincialism), was in terms of shipping days three times as far from the capital of Auckland as it was from Victoria or Tasmania, and he looked forward to "a glorious future - the separation of the two islands". A well-attended public meeting in 1862 endorsed the principle of separation - though Southland, which had achieved independence from Dunedin only by appealing to central government, and Canterbury, understanding that Dunedin saw itself as the South Island's capital-to-be, were both unenthusiastic.[2]

The Europeans in the North Island received scant support from the South, Otago in particular being outraged at seeing the fruits of her prosperity wasted on a costly and needless attempt to deprive the Māori of land. A Southern Separation League was formed, but Vogel had by then recognised the signs of decay in the provincial system. Seeing that the weaker provinces were heading for insolvency, he opted in favour of centralism - and promptly changed his electorate to stand for a northern seat.

In an attempt to hold her place as a capital of some description, in 1865 Auckland joined forces with Otago to support a resolution in the General Assembly calling for independence for both islands. They lost by 31 votes to 17. The political concerns that the South Island would form a separate colony resulted in the capital being moved from Auckland to the more central Wellington. By 1870 only Canterbury and Otago could be said to be flourishing.[3]

A proposed independent South Island flag designed by James Dignan

The Cook Strait power cable (1965), which provides the North Island with its electricity power, has also served to arouse the "Mainlanders' " latent resentment of the North.

The NZ South Island Party (1999-2002) and its successor, the South Island Party (2008-2009) (neither currently registered) promoted a pro-South agenda, fielding candidates in the 1999 General Election. None of New Zealand's major political parties have made South Island Independence part of their election agenda. The South Island Party (2008-2009) chose not to register for the 2008 parliamentary elections, but decided that a more effective course of action would be to merge itself into the non-partisan, non-political South Island First, a lobby group advocating greater self-determination for the South Island.[4]

In a feature article in the New Zealand Listener on the future of a wind farm in Central Otago, Bruce Ansley expressed the view that the South Island independence movement is kicking back into gear.[5]

Today, demands for South Island independence are based on the idea that since political separation of New Zealand from New South Wales in 1841, the South Island has developed its own identity, and that the time has come for the people of the South Island to embrace a new sense of pro-independence nationalism. Several internet based groups advocate their support for an independent South Island[6].

Proposed state

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Name

There has been many names suggested for an independent South Island such as New Munster, South Zealand and Zealandia. The name New Munster was chosen because it was the name of a historical province which mainly consisted of the South Island.[7] The Zealand part of South Zealand comes from the whole country's name, New Zealand, while South is used because the proposed state would control at least the southern areas of New Zealand.

Capital

One of the issues presented for an independent South Island is deciding which city or town would be the capital. Dunedin has been suggested because it was previously proposed as a capital for an independent South Island.[8] Christchurch is another suggested capital for the proposed state because of its central location and roughly a third of the South Island's population lives in Christchurch.

National symbols

There are no official symbols for the proposed state but there are a few unofficial symbols such as the flags of the South Island. Another unofficial symbol of the South Island is the Southern Man which to some degree is the national personification of the South Island. A national anthem for the South Island was written by Southern Freedom, a group aimed at promoting South Island nationalism, but it only contains lyrics and no music to accompany these lyrics.[9]

See also

References


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