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The New Zealand Wars
Background to the wars : 1843 - 1872

During Captain Cook's earlier visits, he had recommended New Zealand as ideal for settlement by Europeans. Cook had described the Māori as "intelligent and adaptable, in spite of their inter-tribal wars." Cook particularly recommended the Bay of Islands in the far North, for settlement.

The British Government did not pay much attention to Cooks recommendations, but by 1810 American and European whalers and traders began invading the Bay of Islands, creating a settlement called Kororareka (known today as Russell). The first missionaries also arrived. New Zealand, left to its own devices and not yet a colony, became a country without law and order.

Kororareka, later to become the first capital of the country, became the fifth largest settlement in New Zealand, turning into a shantytown inflated with brothels and grog shops. The Ngapuhi tribe, from the north Auckland region, were able to trade with Europeans for the much needed and devastating inter-tribal war weapon, the musket. The Ngapuhi became the first tribe to obtain this new and devastating weapon.

The inter-tribal wars in the North, between 1818 and 1833, became known as "The Musket Wars". This new weapon caused wholesale massacre among the rival tribes. The northern tribes, being the first to obtain the musket from the many traders in the Bay of Islands, immediately sought "utu" (revenge) with enemy tribes. Many other tribes further south had not yet seen the musket.

The Māori population in Kororareka became reduced, due not only to the inter-tribal musket warfare, but also to European introduced diseases and depravity. It was because of this lawless situation that both Māori and the 2.000 odd British settlers scattered around the coast requested Britain to intervene.

The British Government was at first reluctant to act, but reports by Missionaries of the degradation of the country, coupled with rumours that the French were establishing plans to colonise New Zealand led the British to appoint an Official British Resident by the name of James Busby to Kororareka, in 1833, with the aim of exercising some sort of order.

Busby's particular statute did not invest him with much authority, and he therefore had little success in his mission.

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In the meantime, back in Britain, Edward Gibbon Wakefield was working out a "systematic colonisation" theory for New Zealand. He created "The New Zealand Association" in 1837, later to become The New Zealand Company in 1839. The Colonial Office did not approve Wakefield's plan, feeling it would not be in the interest of the Māori and their land.

Eventually, the unstable situation in New Zealand forced the British Government to intervene, at James Busby's request. Captain William Hobson was nominated as British Consul in 1839, and commenced negotiations for the "annexation" of New Zealand, which lead to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty was signed between representatives of the British Government and Māori Chieftains of the different tribes on the 6th February 1840, at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. Not all Māori Chiefs signed the Treaty, but the majority was considered sufficient. It was Tamati Waaka Nene, Hokianga Chief and a converted Christian who swayed the day with his pro-treaty speech.

Waaka Nene reminded the Māori of their intertribal destructiveness, and of the benefits of living in harmony with the "pakeha" (European), with peace and order for both European and Māori. Waaka Nene asked Hobson to preserve Māori customs and to stop Māori land from being stolen. The Chiefs signed the Treaty, and New Zealand became a British colony.

At first things went well. Māori population was approximately 115.000 by 1840. Missionaries had succeeded in converting around 30.000 Māori to Christianity by 1841.

Main source of research :
"To Face the Daring Māoris" Michael Barthorp (Hodder and Stoughton)

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Related Links
 The New Zealand Wars - Official site
New Zealand's 19th Century Wars
New Zealand Wars from HistoryOrb. Includes articles on specific historical events and broad trends from around the world. Additionally contains a searchable archive of important events, famous births and deaths spanning thousands of years
The battle of Rangiriri
The battle of Gate Pa
The Anglo-Māori Wars
The Taranaki Wars (Waitangi Tribunal Report)
Taranaki War timeline
The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Extensive database of New Zealand biographies
Glossary of Māori words
Online Māori/English dictionary (then click on Ngata Dictionary)
"Pakeha, its origin and meaning" - From Māori


 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.