Warfare in New Zealand during the 1860s has recently been linked to the rise of the central state and growth of the national debt in that colony. This article argues that any parallel to the growth of the European fiscal-military state is misguided. The fundamental cause of state centralisation and rising indebtedness was the same long-run dynamic of colonial development active in all settler societies during the nineteenth century. The colonial state functioned, in part, to raise capital for development, and if necessary the colonial state would be remodelled in order to achieve this. New Zealand was no exception.