Wealth in Colonial New Zealand

Rob Steven

Rob Steven, "Land and White Settler Colonialism," in Culture and Identity in New Zealand, ed. by David Novits and Bill Willmott, p. 28.

The source of wealth in the colony was 'differential rent,' that is, the difference in the resources which were needed to produce agricultural products on high-quality land, on the one hand, and the resources needed to make the goods which were traded in return, on the other. Trade therefore resulted in a net transfer of wealth from Britain to the colony, and not the exploitation of the colony by the imperialist power as occurs in extractive or cheap-labour colonies. But this transfer of resources did not overly trouble the British ruling class, since it still got its wool (and later on its meat and dairy products as well) more cheaply than if production had taken place on lower quality land somewhere else. Moreover, if the settler colony were to continue to fulfil its function of absorbing excess Britons, and even develop in time new functions, it could not be subordinated to the requirements of capital accumulation in Britain. The centre of gravity would have to remain in the colony, so that settlers could get rich there and want to stay.

Postcolonial Overview New Zealand Australia

Last Modified: 15 March, 2002