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Established by the Province of Westland Act, 1873, Westland was the last province to be declared in New Zealand. Formerly part of the Province of Canterbury, the administration of Westland was conducted from a Canterbury Provincial sub-office established at Hokitika. However tensions over the administration and direction of public works schemes with the West Coast community led to the formation of a separation league and the citizens of Hokitika and miners from Kaniere petitioned the Legislative Council concerning their desire for the "West Canterbury Goldfields" to be made a separate province.
The Legislative Council responded by establishing, in 1868, the County of Westland, with an administrative structure in control of education, public works surveys and goldfields, but with legislative powers held by central government. The experiment was not a success and in 1873 full provincial status was established. This situation lasted until 1876 with the dissolution of the provinces and the establishing of local government.
The surviving records of the Westland Provincial Government are sparse. All inwards correspondence and almost all office papers have been lost, and likewise the entry books of outwards letters from 1868-1874. The records, transferred to the Dominion Archives around 1930, consist of 7 volumes only, and are divided into three series; the Superintendents and Executive Officer's entry book of outward letters 1875-1878, office papers 1874-1877, and the Chief Surveyors letter books 1867-1876. The surveyors letter books include rural and suburban sections sold in the Grey District, plus mining surveys commenced and agricultural leases applied for.