Friday, September 28, 2007

A Light Century ... #128

Dominion Day is the name given to 26 September, the anniversary of the day New Zealand was granted dominion status within the British Empire in 1907. There is support in some quarters for the day to be revived as an alternative New Zealand Day, instead of renaming Waitangi Day, New Zealand's current national day.

Exactly 100 years after New Zealand was granted Dominion status and advanced from a colony towards independence, celebrations from a century ago were replicated by this light show. The arches and roof line of the Parliamentary Library were lit up from 6pm till midnight, just as the buildings were on September 26, 1907. Outside of Wellington it might have been difficult to determine that anything out of the ordinary was happening, but in the inner-city and in particular at Parliament the occasion was marked with dignity and debate. Politicians, academics and legal experts gathered for a symposium to consider the changes in symbols and meanings of nationhood in New Zealand over the last century, and to look to the future.

A stone's throw away at St Andrew's on The Terrace, the celebration was expanded to incorporate the centenary of The Dominion newspaper, which was launched to coincide with the nation's changed constitutional status on September 26, 1907. A lunchtime audience assembled to hear a selection of New Zealand music composed over the last 100 years, and Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst spoke of The Dominion newspaper's milestone. Mr Pankhurst told assembled guests that while the broadsheet, which merged with sister paper The Evening Post in 2002 to form The Dominion Post, was accused of being "both hopeless leftwing apologists and at the same time heartless Tory privateers," he said that was the way the paper preferred it.

Another book marking the day, David McIntyre's Dominion of New Zealand: Statesmen and Status 1907-1945, has also been published. It details the period just before New Zealand joined the UN, and before it dropped the term `Dominion of ' from its official letterheads. Sixty years ago, on November 25, 1947, Parliament formalised the nation's independence by adopting Britain's Statute of Westminster.

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