DC day, money making 'cents'

New Zealand’s early money system was the same as England’s pounds, shillings and pence. It wasn’t an easy system to work with. With calls for change going back as early as 1908, the decision to convert New Zealand to Decimal currency was officially announced in 1963. The date of change-over would be the 10th of July 1967.

In 1964 New Zealand’s last pennies were minted. The Decimal Currency Board was set up with representatives from Treasury, Reserve Bank, Post Office, trading banks and commerce. A separate Coinage Design Advisory Committee was set up to advise on designs.

With the move away from the historic British system, the title of our new currency was a topic of much discussion. Suggested names tapped into notions of national identity and included zeal, kiwi, tui, zac, enzed, kupe, cook, moa and noble. The decision was made for New Zealand Dollar and although a bird theme had been rejected in the naming of the currency, it was certainly embraced in the artwork. Designs for the new coins were released in June 1966 followed by the note designs in June 1967.

It was important to prepare the public. On television, ‘Mr Dollar’ featured in catchy jingles and friendly advertisements explained the changeover and ensured everyone was aware of the date - 10th of July 1967. In schools, a Dollar Scholar Certificate was awarded to children who could pass a simple decimal currency test.

As the day drew closer Operation Overlander was executed – the physical roll out of the new currency. 27 million bank notes and 165 million coins, valued at $120 million were distributed to bank branches across the country under heavy police supervision.

10 July 1967 DECIMAL CURRENCY DAY  

All banks were closed from 3pm Wednesday 5 July 1967 until 10am Monday 10 July, to prepare for the changeover.  Staff worked on Thursday and Friday to convert all figures in all records to decimal currency. From 10 July, every bank deposit slip, cheque, withdrawal form had to be expressed in dollars and cents.

Why change?

  • Calculations would be simpler and errors less likely - there were 12 pennies to 1 shilling and 20 shilling to 1 pound.
  • Schools would spend less time teaching skills associated with currency equations.
  • New Zealand’s currency system would be in line with systems used in most countries.
  • Conversion to foreign currencies would be easier.
  • Decimal machines were easier to use and cheaper to manufacture.
  • New developments in mechanised accounting equipment always appeared first in machines using decimal.

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Mr Dollar - 1967

Wellington computer center

Wellington Computer Center - 1967

Te Aro inquiry counter 1967

Te Aro branch enquiry counter - 1967

Store closure notice

BNZ store notice advising of closure for DC changeover - 1967