IN New Zealand's National Archives, a 274-metre roll of yellowing paper covered in spidery signatures lies partly unfurled, proudly displayed in a special glass case. It is a petition, one of 13 presented to the New Zealand Parliament on the same issue in July and August 1893. That issue was women's suffrage, and all 25,519 signatories were women. At 11.45 am, September 19 1893, when New Zealand's Governor, Lord Glasgow, signed the Electoral Act, it became the first self-governing nation in the world to grant women the vote. It was the culmination of a campaign begun more than 20 years earlier andbitterly opposed by many men, including Members of Parliament. Wellington businessman Henry Wright summed up the feelings of many when he published his ''Notice to Epicene Women'' asking electioneering women ''not to look after their children, cook their husband's dinners, empty the slops, and generally attend to the domestic affairs for which Nature had designed them''. Now, 100 years on, New Zealand is winding up 12 months of centennial celebrations and extensive polls show 80 per cent of the population took part in some way - even if only by watching a special television programme. The Suffrage Centennial Trust, charged with promoting the celebrations and handing out NZ$5.3 million (about HK$22.79 million) in grants, has funded 478 projects chosen from more than 1,500 applications. The petition in the National Archives, part of an exhibition called The Undersigned Women, is just one aspect of the year's special events, most organised by 66 independent local committees or by government departments, all of which were required to takepart. The trust's chairwoman, Dame Miriam Dell, who denies criticism that most of the money went to an ''in'' elite, said: ''It was all designed so that the community itself would be strengthened, and its knowledge of women's contributions in the past and present enlarged, especially from the women's point of view. ''The important thing about this year is its overwhelming positive aspect in a series of years that have been anything but positive.'' But Dame Miriam admits she has been asked repeatedly what New Zealand women have to celebrate. Many of the issues that prompted women to seek the vote - child abuse, domestic violence - remain problems a century on. Consider some statistics: the Cabinet named this month has only one woman member; assaults on women on Auckland's North Shore rose 41 per cent in the past six months; four of the 10 most common women's jobs (nursing, teaching, shop work, cleaning) are the same as 100 years ago; half of New Zealand's teachers are women but only six per cent hold positions of responsibility; New Zealand has the world's highest female teenage suicide rate; women's participation in the paid workforce fell from 45.2 per cent in 1986 to 44.7 per cent in 1991; only 14 of New Zealand's 352 professors are women, and most women in low-paid jobs had a wage cut or freeze in the past two years. Trustee Sue Piper said the centennial, with the theme ''Celebrating the Past, Challenging the Future'', has been not just a celebration but a taking stock of just such statistics. Many women - and men - have found not only that more needs to be done, butthat they can do more. Armed with the new resources and a greater awareness, they will ensure the year's melody lingers on long after the trust and committees disband, she said. ''We have been celebrating the achievements of women, but we have also been looking at what still needs to be done. The year has been given over to recognising the real value of women.''