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Lyrics

The lyrics for our national anthem, ‘God Defend New Zealand’ and its Māori translation, ’Aotearoa’.

Aotearoa

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā,
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa.
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa.

Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Aotearoa.

Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai,
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
Aotearoa.

Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Taiāwhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
Aotearoa.

Tōna pai me toitū;
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;
Aotearoa.

God Defend New Zealand

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

 

New Zealand Sign Language version

This YouTube clip features ‘God Defend New Zealand’ | ‘Aotearoa’ in the New Zealand Sign Language.

Remote video URL
Credit: Deaf Aotearoa
English translation of the Māori lyrics of 'God Defend New Zealand'

E Ihowā Atua,
(Oh Lord, God)
O ngā iwi mātou rā,
(Of nations and of us too)
Āta whakarongona;
(Listen to us)
Me aroha noa
(Cherish us)
Kia hua ko te pai;
(Let goodness) flourish,
Kia tau tō atawhai;
(May your blessings flow)
Manaakitia mai
(Defend)
Aotearoa

History of 'God Defend New Zealand' | 'Aotearoa'

The words for ‘God Defend New Zealand’ were written by Thomas Bracken in the 1870s as a poem. In 1876, The Saturday Advertiser and New Zealand Literary Miscellany published a competition to compose a national song based on five verses of Bracken’s poem. The prize was 10 guineas, with the publisher retaining copyright of the successful tune, which would be selected by musicians in Melbourne, Australia.

Despite the growing availability of music and popularity of the piano at that time, the Advertiser only received 12 completed entries for the competition. Finding musicians willing to judge the competition also took a lot longer than expected. Finally, three German musicians were found, Alberto Zelman, Julius Siede and Thomas Zeplin, who judged the 12 scores independently.

They were in total agreement on the winning score, ‘Orpheus’, which they said ‘’had more melody than the other entries”. The Advertiser revealed that ‘Orpheus’ was composed by a young schoolteacher from Lawrence, John Joseph Woods, who had dashed off the music in a single sitting.

First performance of the national anthem

The new song, now called ‘God Defend New Zealand’, was first performed in Dunedin’s Queen’s Theatre on Christmas Day, 1876.

It was sung by the Lydia Howard Burlesque and Opera Burle Troupe, accompanied by the Royal Artillery Band. The patriotic hymn found immediate favour with the Dunedin public and its popularity continued to grow so that by 1900 it had become one of the country’s most popular hymns.

It became New Zealand’s national song in time for the 1940 Centennial celebrations. This was due to the efforts of many people, and mainly John McDermott, chief engineer of the Post Office and an admirer of Bracken’s work.

In 1976, almost 100 years after the first public performance, 7750 people signed a petition calling for ‘God Defend New Zealand’ to become our national anthem. With the permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Government adopted ‘God Defend New Zealand’ as a national anthem of equal status in New Zealand with ‘God Save The Queen’.

Origins of the Māori translation, ‘Aotearoa’

In 1878, Governor Sir George Grey requested a first Māori translation. The translator was Thomas Henry Smith of Auckland, a judge in the Native Land Court. From as early as the late 1880s, a number of versions of the Māori translation of the national anthem have been incorrect. A typescript of the translation by Smith uses ‘whakarangona’ as one word. ‘Whaka’ is a prefix and cannot stand alone, and ‘rangona’ and ‘rongona’ mean the same thing but Smith used the former. ‘Ihowā’ is the standard version of God (Jehovah) and was the one Smith used. The incorrect form, ‘Ihoa’, has been used for so long as to seem correct but ‘Ihowā’ is the correct version.

'The New Zealand Anthem' - newspaper report on first translation in 1878 (PapersPast).

Pacific’s triple star 

In ‘God Defend New Zealand’ the first verse refers to ‘Pacific’s triple star’ – a line that has intrigued many people. The meaning isn’t certain as Bracken didn’t leave detailed notes, but popular belief is that ‘Pacific’s triple star’ refers to New Zealand’s three main islands: the North, South and Stewart Islands. 

Whakarongona or Whakarangona?

Occasionally we are asked if the Māori words for ’God Defend New Zealand’ are correct as shown on our website. In particular, people ask about the spelling of ‘whakarangona’ versus ‘whakarongona

The original translation by T. H. Smith

A search of Books in Māori 1815-1900 - Ngā Tānga Reo Māori, an annotated bibliography, revealed that item 907, p.431 was the original version of the translation made by T. H. Smith which had been organised by Sir George Grey. In this document, the word 'whakarangona' was used to translate 'hear', rather than 'whakarongona'.

Is whakarangona grammatically correct?

According to the Williams dictionary the passive of ‘rongo’ (meaning apprehend by senses, except sight) can be either rangona or rongona

A search of the online database Niupepa: Māori newspapers gives 187 results for rongona compared to 1153 results for rangona and 33 results for whakarongona against 179 results for whakarangona.

A name and word index to Ngā Mōteatea by RB Harlow and AHF Thornton gives 28 results for rangona and none for rongona in the index for general words.  Additionally, there are two results for whakarangona but none for whakarongona.

These search results suggest that, historically, there was a general preference for the use of ‘rangona’ over ‘rongona’. So, it was appropriate for Smith to use ‘whakarangona’.

The use of ‘whakarongona’ was one of a number of errors introduced into the Māori text when ’God Defend New Zealand’ was first published as the national hymn in 1940.  These errors were then continued in 1979 when the words were published in the Gazette. 

Citation source

Basil Keane, Aotearoa and E te Atua Tohungia te Kuini: a history of the Māori translations of New Zealand's anthems, in Te Pouhere Kōrero 5, pp.47-66.

Videos of anthem performances
Remote video URL

The above YouTube clip features singer Naomi Bradford and was published by MāoriLanguage.net.

Remote video URL

The above YouTube clip by Cindy Ruakere features all 5 verses of God Defend New Zealand.

Sound files and musical scores

Sound files

From the Department of Internal Affairs CD

These two recordings of the national anthem are from a CD produced by the Department of Internal Affairs in 2000:

National anthem sung by Frankie Stevens
Audio file
National anthem backing track
Audio file

From Ministry of Education CD

In 2000 the Ministry of Education produced a CD titles The New Zealand National Anthem - versions of our national them for use in schools. We have provided audio files of two of the versions provided on this CD:

National anthem in the keys of C and D – for primary schools
Audio file
National anthem in the keys of E  and F – for primary schools
Audio file

From the NZ Youth Choir

The New Zealand National Youth Choir made a live recording of the anthem on their ‘On Tour’ North America 1994 album, Ode Record Company Ltd, Auckland, 1994. Arrangement by Guy Jansen:

Audio file

Copyright

No copyright restrictions apply to the use of the national anthem, ‘God Defend New Zealand’ | ‘Aotearoa’ as rights for its use passed into the public domain in the 1980s. However, copyright does apply to specific arrangements and recordings of the national anthem, including the MP3 recordings on this website.

If you wish to use these arrangements or recordings commercially, you will need to get permission from the holder of the copyright.

Contact us at [email protected] if you have any copyright queries. 

Musical scores

Public Domain musical scores for 'God Defend New Zealand' | 'Aotearoa' (Musescore)

More information

History of 'God defend 'New Zealand' (Te Ara) 

Biography of Thomas Bracken – anthem author (DNZB)

Anthem House – includes biography of anthem composer, John Joseph Woods (Heritage New Zealand)

Music collections and services (National Library)