Seventy Years On

By Keith, Kenneth | New Zealand International Review, September-October 2004 | Go to article overview
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Seventy Years On


Keith, Kenneth, New Zealand International Review


Anniversaries encourage reflection. Looking back at what the NZIIA has achieved, what should it now be aiming to do? As the Prime Minister reminded us in her speech at the annual dinner, the NZIIA was established in a very different world. New Zealand in 1934 was coming out of the depression and, while some could see war clouds gathering over Europe and especially the Pacific, the central focus of New Zealanders and their government was very much on domestic matters. New Zealand's views on foreign policy issues had only very rarely differed from those of the United Kingdom. As a country we had refused to seize the opportunity offered by our separate membership of the League of Nations and the International Labour Organisation and to take the full legislative powers offered by the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

The establishment of the first Labour government following the election of 1935 saw a marked change, especially through the League of Nations, notably in the immediate prewar period when New Zealand was a member of the Council of the League and an outspoken supporter of collective security. The foundations for an independent foreign policy were being well laid. That wider international context was to be seen in the NZIIA's first book, Contemporary New Zealand, published in 1938 and largely written by A.D. McIntosh (the Secretary of External Affairs from 1943 to 1966), W.B. Sutch (later the controversial head of the Department of Industries and Commerce) and G.R. Powles (who, along with all his other responsibilities, was to be a stalwart member of the NZIIA for six decades). Another long-term member, Professor F.L.W. Wood of Victoria University College, early made accessible aspects of the history of our foreign relations in his centennial book New Zealand in the World and in his war history volume The New Zealand People at War." Political and External Affairs.

The Victoria connection has grown strongly over the years, with faculty members such as J.C. Beaglehole, C.C. Aikman and L.V. Castle taking major roles, and especially from 1969 when the Ford Foundation made a generous grant to enable the NZIIA to establish a fulltime staff, with Bruce Brown as the first director, housed ever since within the university. The staffing, maintained (if at a lower level) ever since with the important financial assistance of the Minis try of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has continued to enable the NZIIA to develop a programme of publications, meetings, seminars and conferences (with leading overseas contributors when that can be arranged).

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