Family ties?

Family ties?

This hook explores the changing relationship New Zealand has with Britain.

The British Lion and his cubs aroused, by Trevor Lloyd, 1914. (external link)

The British Lion and his cubs aroused, by Trevor Lloyd, 1914. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19140820-38-4.


This cartoon shows four of Britain’s former colonies following Britain into war. (New Zealand is represented by the smallest cub at the back; the other three represent Australia, South Africa, and Canada). At the time of the First World War, most Pākehā New Zealanders accepted the idea of a parent–child relationship between Britain and its dominions, viewing New Zealand as a “British” country and a loyal member of the British Empire. Many New Zealand men were quick to enlist, joining the 2.5 million men who served in the armies of the Dominions. 

New Zealand’s ties with Britain were not just sentimental. The New Zealand economy depended on exporting agricultural products to Britain, and the British Royal Navy protected New Zealand’s trading sea routes. 

National security was also an issue. New Zealand’s isolated position made it feel vulnerable to rising powers such as Japan; and the increasing strength of the German navy threatened the security provided by British sea power. 

New Zealand’s participation in the First World War was inevitable. Most of the population were gripped by war fever that was fuelled by a nationalistic spirit, anti-German-Empire sentiment, loyalty to a country many still called Home, and a belief that the war would be over quickly. 

A hundred years on, the call to recognise “family ties” with Britain and “friendships” with countries such as the United States of America still exists, drawing New Zealand into armed-conflict situations. Economic priorities and perceived threats to national security also play a significant role. 

More positively, New Zealand has been actively involved in United Nations peacekeeping activities for over 60 years, contributing both personnel and funds. This commitment to peaceful resolution of global conflict situations has contributed to New Zealand’s recent appointment to the UN Security Council.

Possible discussion questions 

Why might the cartoonist have chosen these countries as Britain’s cubs? Why is India not included? 

At the time of the First World War, most New Zealanders supported New Zealand’s participation in the war. Why is New Zealand’s participation in global conflicts more contentious today? 

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recently described New Zealand as part of the family (along with the US and Australia). (The New Zealand Herald, 3 February 2015). He was discussing the deployment of troops to Iraq. What do you think Hammond meant when he referred to “the family”? Is it still appropriate to refer to this group of countries in this way? Why or why not? 

What might be some consequences of the changing relationship between New Zealand and Britain? What might have caused this change? 

How does this concept of family affect our relationships with other countries? 

How have beliefs about friendship and family ties influenced New Zealand’s involvement in current conflicts? How have beliefs about friendship and family ties changed and influenced New Zealand’s involvement in World War 2 and more recent conflicts? 

Who do we see as our economic and military allies today and why? What superpowers are currently operating in the Pacific. What is our relationship with them? 

What reasons should underpin our involvement, or non-involvement, in conflict situations? What processes should New Zealand follow in order to make such decisions?

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