The origins of the office of Notary Public arose in Ancient Rome. Public officials acted as scribes, and rose in rank from being mere recorders of facts, meetings and judicial proceedings, to a learned profession. At first, in England, Notaries were appointed by the Pope, but in 1279 the Pope authorised the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint Notaries in that country. This is still the position today, and all Notaries in New Zealand hold a warrant issued and signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A Notary can witness and certify signatures, declare the law of New Zealand for use in overseas jurisdictions, and certify documents as correct. There are also some curious functions, such as completing Ships Protests, about goods damaged in transit – not common in the Wairarapa.