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New Zealand in History


The history of New Zealand : a brief overview of the pre-historic, colonial and modern periods.

N ew Zealand's colourful history commences from the time when the Rangitata Land mass separates from the ancient super continent of Gondwana 80 million years ago, evolving over time to become modern New Zealand.


As Polynesians discover and settle New Zealand, thought to be sometime between 950 and 1130 AD, the Moriori people are settling, possibly around the same time, the Chatham Islands, or Rekohu, a small group of islands off the coast of New Zealand.

In 1642 the first of the European explorers, Abel Janszoon Tasman from Holland, sails into New Zealand waters. The first encounter between Māori and European is violent, leading to bloodshed. After partly charting the coastline, Tasman leaves New Zealand without ever having had the occasion to set foot ashore.



One hundred years pass by before the next Europeans arrive. In 1769 James Cook, British explorer, and Jean François Marie de Surville, commander of a French trading ship, both arrive by coincidence in New Zealand waters at the same time. Neither ship ever sights the other.

From the late 1790's on, whalers, traders and missionaries arrive, establishing settlements mainly along the far northern coast of New Zealand.

Wars and conflicts between Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) tribes were always constant, and weapons used until now were spears or clubs. The arrival of traders leads to a flourishing musket trade with local Māori, who rapidly foresee the advantages of overcoming enemy tribes with this deadly new weapon. The devastating period known as the inter tribal Musket Wars commences.

Rumours of French plans for the colonisation of the South Island help hasten British action to annexe, and then colonise New Zealand. A number of Māori chiefs sign a Treaty with the British on 6th February 1840, to be known as the Treaty of Waitangi. The subsequent influx of European settlers leads to the turbulent period of the New Zealand Wars, also known as the Land Wars, which last for over twenty years.

Hostilities between Māori and European commence in 1845. By 1870 the British government withdraws the last of its Imperial Troops from New Zealand, not wishing to invest any further in a costly overseas war which was likely to continue indefinitely.

The Māori, although inferior in number, proves a formidable foe.

The battle of Gate Pa is possibly the battle which made the greatest impact in the history of The New Zealand Wars.


Hongi Hika, warrior chief of the Nga Puhi tribe; Te Rauparaha, also known as "The Napoleon of the South - warrior chief of the Ngati Toa tribe; Te Kooti, resistant, prophet, and founder of the Ringatu church; Michael Joseph Savage, early innovative Prime Minister are but a few, Māori and European, who have left their mark on the history of New Zealand.

New Zealand today is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The British Monarch, although constitutional head of state, plays no active role in the administration of New Zealand's government.

The capital city is Wellington, although the beautiful city of Auckland is the largest on the North Island.


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Attention!  Please be aware that this website is a personal homepage. It would therefore be wise to cross check information which I have presented here. A list of many official New Zealand history sites may be found within my Links section.