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The colonisation of New Zealand
Before annexation

Before annexation, the British, the Americans and the French were active in various trades around New Zealand. Their whalers, traders and sealers were working around the New Zealand coastline. Deep-sea whaling commenced during the years 1791-2, the first arrival being the whaler, "William and Ann". Shortly later, in 1792, the whaler "Britannia" began operating in Dusky Sound (South Island).

From 1797 American whalers arrived, and during the 1830s the French whaling ships turned up in significant numbers. Seals were hunted, and their skins taken for the Chinese market. Spars were also cut for the Chinese market and the Indian Navy. The flax trade grew.

Tensions arose sometimes. The Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga tribes allegedly killed the crew of the French whaling ship "Jean Bart". In retaliation, the French corvette "l'Heroine", under the command of J-B. Thomas Médée Cécille, burnt a village and reportedly took a captive back to France.

The missionaries were also present at this time, and before 1840 there were three groups : the Anglicans, represented by the Church Missionary Society, the Wesleyans and the Roman Catholics. The French Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier, set up the first Roman Catholic Marist mission in Hokianga in 1838.

The Bay of Islands became the stopover for traders and whalers, and the shantytown of Kororareka grew as a result. On route for Dusky Sound, in the south, the whalers called in at Kororareka for provisions, and also for women, in the numerous brothels which had sprung up. New Zealand became a country without law and order, left to its own devices - and vices.

In view of the degrading situation, 13 Bay of Island and Hokianga chiefs, backed by the Church Missionary Society, requested Britain to intervene, in 1831. At first Britain was hesitant to act, but was prematurely pushed to a decision by the actions of "The New Zealand Company", coupled with rumours of French plans for their own colonisation of New Zealand.

The French navy had been exploring New Zealand, showing the flag in support of its whaling fleet and of its nationals, of whom Bishop Pompallier.

James Reddy Clendon, born 1st October 1800 in England, acted as United States Consul in New Zealand from 1838. The consul was based in the Bay of Islands. James Clendon was a witness to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and a member of the first Legislative Council 1841 -1844.

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Baron Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry

Adding to the general confusion, a Baron Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry (1793 - 1864) whose family had fled France for Great Britain at the time of the French Revolution, met with the missionary Thomas Kendall, in Cambridge in 1820. De Thierry arranged with Kendall for the purchase of land in New Zealand.

The deed of sale indicates that Kendall bought 40.000 acres of land in the Hokianga area on behalf of de Thierry, for the price of 36 axes. The land was bought from the chiefs Muriwai, Patuone and Tamati Waka Nene. It became debatable later on as to whether the Māori truly understood the concept of the document they were signing.

De Thierry had plans for the systematic colonisation of New Zealand, similar to those ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. It was not until 1837, 15 years later, that de Thierry arrived in New Zealand to claim his land. During this long lapse of time the Māori chiefs from Hokianga had sold portions of de Thierry's land to other Europeans, who settled the land and thus brought economic opportunities to the local people. Māori were aware, by this time, that their land was of more value than 36 axes.

In spite of this, on de Thierry's arrival in New Zealand the Hokianga chiefs generously offered him a smaller portion of land, on the understanding that he renounce his claim to the 40.000 acres in the deed of sale.

However, before de Thierry arrived back in New Zealand, the British Government had nominated James Busby, in 1833, to act as "Official British Resident". When De Thierry returned to Hokianga in 1837 aboard the vessel "Nimrod", accompanied by a small group of colonists, he found himself in a New Zealand heading for British annexation.

De Thierry subsequently wrote an autobiography, naming himself as the principal pioneer colonist of New Zealand.

The nomination of James Busby
May 1833

James Busby was named as "Official British Resident" in May 1833.

In part, James Busby's orders were to organise the Māori chiefs into a united body, capable of controlling the growing instability of the situation in New Zealand concerning unregulated land sales and settlements. The "Elizabeth" incident was also a major factor in the appointment of James Busby.

Captain Stewart, of the merchant ship "Elizabeth", had arranged the transport of Te Rauparaha, chief of the Ngati Toa tribe, to the South Island in 1830, in return for a load of flax. From the South Island, Te Rauparaha was then able to lead surprise raids against the Ngai Tahu tribe at Akaroa.

Stewart also assisted in transporting the Ngai Tahu Chief Tamaiharanui to Kapiti Island, where Tamaiharanui was subsequently tortured and killed by the Ngati Toa. (Because of this incident, Ahu, a relative of Tamaiharanui, went to Sydney to request intervention concerning the control of British citizens in New Zealand.)

In March 1834, Busby held a meeting at Waitangi with northern Māori Chiefs. Busby put forward the idea of voting on a national flag, so that ships built and registered in New Zealand would fly the Independent Tribes flag and therefore be recognised according to maritime law. The new flag was voted, and was also hoisted and flown on land, at the Bay of Islands.

In October 1835 Busby called for a second meeting when he heard rumours that Baron de Thierry had plans of setting up an independent state at Hokianga. 34 northern Chiefs then signed a Declaration of Independence, calling themselves the Confederation of United Tribes. They shared Busby's concern, along with that of the British government, that the necessity of some sort of regulation governing contracts and disputes between European and Māori should be set up.

In 1837 Busby sent a report to the Secretary of State for Colonies, informing the British authorities of the greatly increasing land purchases not only by settlers from New South Wales, but also from French and American citizens.

However, Busby's particular statute and the limitations imposed did not allow him much control over the situation in general, and in 1838 the British Government replaced Busby with a British Consul, by the name of Captain William Hobson.


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Related Links
New Zealand timeline - Land ownership and settlement before 1840 to 1995 (from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)
Early map of New Zealand - 1840s - Māori concentration, whaling stations etc. From Frank E. Smitha's world history site.
The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography - Extensive database of New Zealand biographies
Finding New Zealand - Excellent New Zealand history site researched by Brian Hooker


 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.