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The colonisation of New Zealand
French colonists in Akaroa, South Island
Charles de Malmanche
Photo : Charles de Malmanche (1840-1927), the first French child born at Akaroa. Image permission of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Jean-François Langlois, born 28th June 1808 at La Luzerne, Normandy, France, commenced his maritime career at the age of 19 years, serving on board the whaling ship "l'Archimèdes", from Le Havre. His career rose until he became commander of the whaling ship "Cachalot" (1837-1839), whaling off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. In these waters he captured 45 whales in 22 months.

Around this time there were no French colonies established in the Pacific. Approximately 60 French whaling ships were making the regular crossing between France and New Zealand for the lucrative whale trade. Oil from New Zealand whales lit the lamps of Parisian streets. A French annexation of the South Island of New Zealand, an area a quarter of the size of France, with only about three or four thousand Māori inhabitants, would have been perfect for French needs.

The North Island was already well populated with British colonists, and on the way to annexation for Great Britain. Action had to be undertaken swiftly if the South Island was to become a French colony.

Langlois felt that Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula, would make an excellent French base, and began forming plans to take the South Island for France. He negotiated with, and obtained signatures from 12 Ngai-Tahu Māori chiefs from Port Cooper, whereby he bought of most of Banks Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand.

According to the deed, in French, dated 2nd August 1838, the land was bought from the Māori for a deposit of 150 French francs in goods. The remainder of the total price was to be settled on Langlois' return to take possession of the land. Langlois bought most of Banks Peninsula.

The goods the Māori received initially, were : 2 cloaks, 6 pairs of trousers, 12 hats, 2 pairs of shoes, some pistols, axes and 2 shirts.

In May 1839, Langlois returned to Le Havre, in France. He gathered together some businessmen, including the firm Balguerie of Nantes, who were interested in the project of colonising the South Island of New Zealand for France. The Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise was formed. Langlois also succeeded in gaining the interest of the former Prime Minister and industrialist, the Duke Decazes.

It was not easy at first to convince France of the benefits of the Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise's proposal, although the Prime Minister Marèchal Soult accepted support for Langlois' project from the start. Finally, with Maréchal Soult's backing, representatives of the French government obtained a signature of approval from King Louis Philippe, on the 11th December 1839. France would now have a naval base in the Pacific. The Government subsidised Langlois' Nanto-Bordelaise project, and lent Langlois a ship for the transportation of French settlers.

The delicate problem now was to annexe the South Island without provoking the British, well installed in the North Island. It was hoped that the Commissioner of the King of France, Captain Lavaud, would simply be able to take the South Island in the name of France, but it was decided a more diplomatic solution would be to simply buy up land from the Māori. Future French settlers would be installed over the South Island, which would then eventually be claimed for France.

However, by the time Langlois had been able to gain official backing from France, the Māori population of Banks Peninsula had increased considerably. This was mainly the result of the Ngai Tahu captives returning home from the North Island.

In France, preparations for the first group of emigrants was underway. A vessel of 501 tons called "Le Mahé" was sent to Rochefort to be refitted for the voyage to New Zealand. "Le Mahé" was renamed "Compte de Paris", after King Louis Philippe's grandson, born 24th August 1838. The "Compte de Paris" was placed under the command of Captain Langlois.

A convoy of French settlers left the port of Rochefort in March 1840 on board the "Comte de Paris", one month after the warship "L'Aube " had set sail, under the command of Captain Lavaud. Captain Lavaud had instructions to represent the French Government until the arrival of a Governor.

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La chaumière

Click here for a larger version (43k) of this French etching of early Akaroa - "La chaumière du colon vieux-soldat à Akaroa (Nelle Zélande) 1845".

Image kind permission of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

However, just one month before the "Comte de Paris" left France, the British signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Māori Chieftains, at the Bay of Islands in the North Island, on 6th February 1840. The South Island Māori chiefs signed the treaty a little later, on 30th May of the same year.

The unknowing French duly arrived at Akaroa in August 1840 to discover they would be settling in a British colony. After the signing of The Treaty, a British warship had sailed to Akaroa and planted the Union Jack.

The French also discovered that the land bought by Langlois had been resold again, several times since, as was often Māori custom. Some British settlers laid claim to certain areas of land which had originally been bought by Langlois. Fortunately, due to much diplomacy no major incident arose from this event. The French Government requested the British Government to protect the rights of French landowners in New Zealand, and this was agreed upon in 1841.

Langlois himself returned to France in October 1842, with a cargo of over 1.700 barrels of whale oil.

The French colonists settled in Akaroa as planned, but instead of a large South Island French colony, just two small towns of around 60 French inhabitants were established. In spite of the small number of French colonists, quite a few New Zealanders are today descendants from these original French settlers from Normandy and the Charente. A number of Akaroa streets today still carry French names.

(click here for a map (25k) showing the position of Akaroa)

Akaroa, with mail coaches. Akaroa, circa 1910, with mail coaches leaving outside the furnishing warehouse of T E Taylor.
Akaroa with mail coaches
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.
Click here to enlarge this image (46k)

The following is the passenger list of colonists who embarked on board the "Comte de Paris", bound for New Zealand (some of these future settlers were German citizens)

Source : "The French at Akaroa" T.L. Buick and "La France en Nouvelle-Zélande 1840 - 1846" Muriel Proust de la Gironière (Editions du Gerfut)


Benoit Pierre (Born in Charente-maritime in 1807. Married Louise Terbouilie in Akaroa. Returned to France with his family in 1863, died in 1870)
Bernard Marguerite (Born in France in 1808, died in Akaroa in 1873)
Benoit Louise (Born in Charente-maritime around 1821. Died in 1900)
Bernard Pierre (Born in France in 1800. Died in Akaroa in 1885)
Bouriaud Elie (Born in Charente-maritime in 1809. Died in Akaroa in 1866.)
Bouriaud Marie (wife of Elie. Born in Charente-maritime in 1805. Died in New Zealand in 1872)
Breitmeyer Johann (Born in 1804 in Germany. Died in Akaroa in 1881)
Breitmeyer Johann (Born in Germany in 1832. Drowned in New Zealand in 1852)
Breitmeyer Eva (First wife of Johann. Born in Germany in 1805. Died in New Zealand in 1854)
Breitmeyer Johann (Born in Germany in 1838. Married Elisabeth Brown in 1862. Died in New Zealand in 1909)
Breitmeyer Elisabeth (Born in Germany in 1836. Died in 1897)
Breitmeyer Katharina (Born in Germany in 1835. Died in Akaroa in 1877)
Cébert Jacques Michel (Born in l'Orne, in 1810. Left New Zealand for Tahiti in 1845. Died in 1885)
Cébert Jeanne (First wife of Jacques Michel. Born in the Haute-Loire in 1811)
Chardin (died of scurvy during the voyage)
David Anne (Born in Paris in 1808. Drowned at Akaroa in 1850)
David Guillaume (Born in Paris)
David Jean (Born in Paris in 1832. Drowned with his mother in 1850)
David Marguerite (Born in Paris. Drowned in 1843)
Desse Jean-Delphin (Nephew of Pierre Bernard. Born in France in 1829. Died in New Zealand in 1859)
Dupas (left the colony in 1841)
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Etéveneaux Jean-Pierre (Born in le Jura in 1798. Died in Akaroa in 1869)
Etéveneaux Jeanne (Born in le Jura in 1791. Died in Akaroa in 1875)
Etéveneaux Jean Baptiste (Born in le Jura in 1828. Married Catherine Libeau at Akaroa in 1847. Died in Akaroa in 1915)
Etéveneaux Célestine (Born in le Jura in 1823, married Jules Véron in 1840. Returned to France in 1853)
Etéveneaux Judith (Born in le Jura in 1825. Married Christian-Jakob Waeckerle in 1842. Died in Akaroa in 1880)
Fleuret Georges (Born in La Manche in 1812. Died in Akaroa in 1846)
François Jean Adolphe (Born in Paris in 1811. Died in New Zealand in 1891.
Gendrot Clemence (Born in France in 1835. Married Joseph Libeau in 1856. Died in Akaroa in 1908)
Gendrot Hippolyte (Born in France in 1808. Died in Akaroa in 1874)
Gendrot Pierre (Born in France in 1809. Married Victoire Brière. Died in Akaroa in 1859)
Gendrot Victoire (Died in New Zealand during birth, in 1848)
Guindon Benjamin (Born in the Charente-maritime in 1806. Married Isabeau Thibeau in 1833. Died in Akaroa in 1877)
Guindon Isabeau (Wife of Benjamin. Born in the Charente-maritime in 1811. Remarried in 1881 - Died in Akaroa in the same year)
Gurtner Niklaus (born in Germany)
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Hahn Joseph (born in Germany)
Hettich Kaspar (born in Germany) Left Akaroa for Brazil in 1841l.
Jotereau (died of scurvy during the voyage)
Le Duc Isaac (born in Charente-maritime in 1812) Returned to France in 1845.
Lelièvre François (Born in la Manche in 1810. In 1851 opened an auberge "Au repos du voyageur", also started a ferry liaison between Akaroa and Pigeon Bay. Married Justine, daughter of a Malmanche, in 1851. Died at Akaroa in 1902)
Libeau Armand Isidore (born on the "Comte de Paris" on 23rd April 1840. Died in Akaroa in 1842)
Libeau Joseph (Born at Rochefort in 1834. Married Clémence Gendrot in 1856. Died in New Zealand in 1919)
Libeau Joseph (Born in Charente-maritime in 1807. Married Madeleine Chauvert. Died in New Zealand in 1883)
Libeau Madeleine (Wife of Joseph. Born 1810)
Libeau Catherine-Mélanie (Born at Rochefort in 1831. Married Jean-Baptiste Etéveneaux in 1847. Died in New Zealand in 1918.
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Malmanche François (Born in Charente in 1812. Died in Akaroa in 1866)
Malmanche Pierre (Born in Charente in 1835. Married Elisabeth Hamilton in Akaroa, in 1859. Died in New Zealand in 1913)
Malmanche Justin-Rose (Born in Charente in 1832. Married François Lelièvre in 1851. Died in Akaroa in 1912)
Malmanche Emeri (Born in Charente in 1804. Married Victoire Jerzeau in 1829. Died in Akaroa in 1882)
Malmanche Victoire (Wife of Emeri. Born in Charente in 1813. Wife of Emeri. Died in Akaroa in 1893)
Michel Alfred (born in the Puy-de-Dôme in 1820)
Rousselot François (Born in La Moselle in 1801. Died in Akaroa in 1862)
Rousselot Adèle (Born in le Nord in 1803. Married François Bruard in 1824, then remarried with François Rousselot. Died in 1873)
Véron Jules (Born in La Manche in 1819. Married Célestine Etéveneaux in Akaroa. Left New Zealand in 1853, died in France in 1875)
Véron Femme (wife)
Vidal Etienne
Waeckerle Christian Jakob (Born in Germany in 1816. Married Judith Etéveneaux in 1842. Died in Akaroa in 1901)
Waeckerle Femme (wife)
Walter Philipp (Born in Germany in 1795. Widower. Died in New Zealand in 1849)

Philipp (Born in Germany. Married Elisabeth Wilhelm)


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Main source of research :
"Le colloque d'Akaroa, 16 - 19 août 1990", The Heritage Press. Article by Peter Tremewan.
"The French in Akaroa" T.L. Buick

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Related Links
French colonial aspirations in New Zealand
Passenger listing of the "Comte de Paris"
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Early Māori place names


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