What was the Poll Tax? The Poll Tax was an entry tax that was imposed on Chinese immigrants to deter them from entering New Zealand. When was it imposed? In 1881 under the Chinese Immigrants Act 1881. Who paid it? All Chinese immigrants to New Zealand had to pay the Poll Tax. Did anyone else pay it? No one else had to pay a Poll Tax to enter New Zealand. Why was it imposed? The Poll Tax was imposed to restrict Chinese immigration to New Zealand. New Zealand wanted to totally exclude Chinese from New Zealand but Britain would not allow this to occur due to the Treaty of Nanjing. The compromise solution was a Poll Tax. How much was it? When it was imposed in 1881 it was 10 pounds per person. In 1896 it was raised to 100 pounds per person, equivalent to around six or more years’ earnings for the average Chinese person. How much was paid in total? Approximately 308,080 pounds was paid by Chinese immigrants during the time the tax was enforced. New Zealand Chinese Association figures estimate this to be about $25-30 million in today’s terms. How many Chinese people paid it? It's been estimated that around 4,500 Chinese people paid the tax. When was it abolished? Payment of the tax was waived by the Government in 1934. The Poll Tax was officially repealed in 1944. Why was it abolished? For two main reasons, the first being the then Labour government's policy of repealing all discriminatory laws against Chinese people. The second was the Second World War. Because China was an ally in the war against the Japanese, Chinese people became "our brave allies". Did any other countries have a poll tax? Two other countries had poll taxes, both of which were colonies of Great Britain. From 1855 Australia's six colonies imposed a number of poll taxes on Chinese people. The last Australian poll tax was repealed in 1903, following the federation of the colonies in 1901. Canada imposed a poll tax on Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1923. What other statutory discrimination was there?
The Old-age Pensions Act 1898 discriminated against 'Asiatics' by preventing pension payments to Asians (including Chinese).
In 1908 Chinese people, including infants, were required to leave a thumbprint on their "Certificate of Registration" before leaving the country. No other ethnic group was required to leave a thumbprint.
In 1908 Chinese people were deprived of the right to naturalisation. This was not rescinded until 1951. The first Chinese became naturalised in 1952. No other ethnic group was deprived of this right. For example, in the period when Chinese people were deprived of the right to naturalisation, some Asians, mostly from India, were granted naturalisation.
In 1935 entry permits for reunification of family and partners of Chinese people working in New Zealand were introduced, but restricted to 10 permits per year, and to 15 per year in 1945. In 1939 temporary permits were granted to war refugees of families of Chinese working in New Zealand. In 1947 the refugees were granted permanent residence. In 1949 and in 1950 fifty Chinese people who had been here for over 20 years were able to apply for their families to join them.