The New Zealand Cross was introduced in 1869 during the Land Wars in New Zealand. Many acts of bravery, gallantry and devotion to duty were recorded among the local militia, armed constabulary and volunteers, but only the Imperial troops were eligible for the highest British recognition of valour, the Victoria Cross.
Recognising the inequality of this, the Governor of New Zealand of the time, Sir George Bowen, announced a new medal of equivalent rank to the VC. He was widely criticised in England, and accused of usurping the prerogative of Queen Victoria, but she eventually ratified his action and the New Zealand Cross, introduced on March 10, 1869, continued to be awarded through to 1881.
Only 23 New Zealand Crosses were awarded, making it one of the rarest medals recognising bravery in the world, and it has rarely been sold. The cross was awarded retrospectively for some actions that had taken place before it was instituted.
The New Zealand Medal was a campaign medal awarded to Imperial and Colonial troops in the New Zealand Wars of 1845-47 (and for 1848) and 1860-66. The New Zealand Wars were previously known as the Maori Wars, Anglo-Maori Wars or Land Wars. The medal was authorised in 1869.
The Imperial forces included British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The Colonial militia were recruited locally or in Australia, and included mobile forces like Von Tempskys Forest Rangers and the Arawa Flying Column from a Māori tribe for the guerilla war in the New Zealand bush. Colonial militia claimants had to prove that they had been under fire. Claims from colonial forces were closed in 1900 but reopened in 1910 and 1913 in association with land claims for service in the war. Claims were finally closed for Europeans in 1915 and Māori in 1916.