The New Zealand dollar (sign: $; code: NZD) is the currency of the Realm of New Zealand (including New Zealand proper and the territories of the Cook Islands, Niue, the Ross Dependency, and Tokelau), as well as a single British Overseas Territory, the Pitcairn Islands. It is divided into 100 cents.
It is normally written with the dollar sign $, or NZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. In the context of currency trading, it is often informally called the "Kiwi", since kiwi are commonly associated with New Zealand and the $1 coin depicts a kiwi. It is one of the 10 most-traded currencies in the world, being approximately 2.0% of global foreign exchange market daily turnover in 2013.
Prior to the introduction of the New Zealand dollar in 1967, the New Zealand pound was the currency of New Zealand, which had been distinct from the pound sterling since 1933. The pound used the £sd system, in which the pound was divided into 20 shillings and one shilling was divided into 12 pence, which by the 1950s was considered complicated and cumbersome.
Switching to decimal currency had been proposed in New Zealand since the 1930s, although only in the 1950s did any plans come to fruition. In 1957, a committee was set up by the Government to investigate decimal currency. The idea fell on fertile ground, and in 1963, the Government decided to decimalise New Zealand currency.
In April 1963 the Minister of Finance announced the Government's decision to adopt decimal coinage in 1967, and by July 1964 the following decision had been made:
1. That the date of the changeover be Tuesday, 11 July 1967;
2. That the major unit adopted be based on 10s., and divided into 100 minor units valued at 1.2d.;
3. That the names of the major and minor units be “dollar” and “cent”; and
4. That the denominations of coinage be ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. Thus there will be no 2½ cent piece equivalent to the present 3d., nor a 25 cent piece equivalent to the present half-crown, which is to be withdrawn from circulation by 1967.
The Decimal Currency Act was passed in 1964, setting the date of transition to 10 July 1967. Words such as "kiwi" and "zeal" were proposed to avoid confusion with the word "dollar", which many people at the time associated with the United States dollar. In the end, the word "dollar" was chosen anyway, and an anthropomorphic dollar note cartoon character called "Mr. Dollar" became the symbol of transition in a huge publicity campaign.
On Monday 10 July 1967 ("Decimal Currency Day"), the New Zealand dollar was introduced to replace the pound at a rate of two dollars to one pound (one dollar to ten shillings, ten cents to one shilling, 5⁄6 cent to a penny). Some 27 million new banknotes were printed and 165 million new coins were minted for the changeover.
On the introduction of the dollar, coins came in denominations of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, and 50c. The 1c and 2c coins were bronze, the others cupro-nickel. To ease transition, the 5c, 10c and 20c were the same size as the sixpence, shilling and florin that they respectively replaced. Until 1970 the 10c coin bore the additional legend "One Shilling". The obverse designs of all the coins featured Arnold Machin's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, with the legend ELIZABETH II NEW ZEALAND [date]. The reverse sides of coins introduced in 1967 did not follow the designs that were originally intended for them. Those modern art and sculpture themed designs were leaked to a newspaper and met a very negative public reaction. The final releases were given more conservative designs in line with public expectations.
In 1986, New Zealand adopted Raphael Maklouf's new portrait of the Queen. The 1c and 2c coins were last minted for circulation in 1987, with collector coins being made for 1988. The coins were demonetised on 30 April 1990. The lack of 1c and 2c coins meant that cash transactions were normally rounded to the nearest 5c (10c from 2006), a process known as Swedish rounding.
On 11 February 1991, aluminium-bronze $1 and $2 coins were introduced to replace existing $1 and $2 notes. In 1999, Ian Rank-Broadley's portrait of the Queen was introduced and the legend rearranged to read NEW ZEALAND ELIZABETH II.
On 11 November 2004 the Reserve Bank announced that it proposed to take the 5c coin out of circulation and to make the 50c, 20c and 10c coins smaller and use plated steel to make them lighter. After a three-month public submission period that ended on 4 February 2005, the Reserve Bank announced on 31 March that it would go ahead with the proposed changes. The changeover period started on 31 July 2006, with the old coins usable until 31 October 2006. The old 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c pieces are now no longer legal tender, but are still redeemable at the Reserve Bank. Prior to the change over these coins were similar, save for the legend and reverse artwork, to international (mainly Commonwealth) coins of the same British-derived sizes, which led to coins from other currencies, particularly older coins, being accepted by vending machines and many retailers.
In 1967, notes were introduced in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 and $100, with all except the $5 replacing their pound predecessors. The original series of dollar notes featured on the obverse a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II wearing Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik tiara, King George's VI festoon necklace, and Queen Mary's floret earrings, while the reverse featured native birds and plants. The notes were changed slightly in 1981 due to a change of printer (from De La Rue to Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co.) - the most noticeable difference being the portrait based upon a photograph by Peter Grugeon, in which Queen Elizabeth II is wearing Grand Duchess Vladimir's tiara and Queen Victoria's golden jubilee necklace. The $50 note was added in 1983 to fill the long gap between the $20 and the $100 notes. $1 and $2 notes were discontinued in 1991 after being replaced with coins.
A new series of notes was introduced in 1992. The obverse of each note featured a notable New Zealander, while the reverse featured a native New Zealand bird and New Zealand scenery. In 1999, polymer notes replaced the paper notes. The designs remained much the same, but were changed slightly to accommodate new security features, with the most obvious changes being the two transparent windows.