About New Zealand

A Geologic History


New Zealand is surrounded on all sides by a vast undersea panorama of submerged ridges and troughs, rises, swells and plateaus together providing dramatic evidence of the way the earth's crust in this part of the world has been compiled into huge folds, rather like a gigantic rumpled tablecloth. these features are in turn often cleft by deep submarine trenches and peppered by submarine volcanoes, all providing a measure of the stresses and strains accompanying such movements. Although much of this great system of folds is submerged, a small part of it has been shaped into a group of mountainous islands known as new Zealand. Movements similar to those that have shaped the sea floor have also affected the New Zealand land mass. The evidence for these upheavals is recorded in the rocks exposed in mountains, rivers and streams and in sea cliffs around the coasts. The intense folding and cracking often seen in these rocks suggests that New Zealand has long been part of one of the earth's "mobile belts" - zones of weakness in the earth's crust along which breaking occurs.


The rocks are cut by innumerable great fractures called faults, along which up, down and sideways movements have occurred. many of the faults have broken the present land surface, showing that they have been moving during the past few thousand years. Some faults have moved in the last century (producing major earthquakes) and these movements, together with almost continuous smaller scale earthquake and volcanic activity, indicate that New Zealand is very much "on the move" today. Earth movements in the region have tended to be concentrated into "bursts," of which the recent activity is an example, but geological record indicates that change has nevertheless been continuous for at least the past 500 million years.

The change has involved geographic position (latitude and longitude) as well as size, shape and degree of insularity. new Zealand has not always been a se-girt island country and u to some 130 million years ago shared a common coastline with New Caledonia, eastern Australia, Tasmania and Antarctica. The modern shape of the country is largely a product of the last 10,000 years.

Great Gondwana

New Zealand's long voyage through time commenced in the Cambrian period of geological history, 570 to 500 million years ago, when it was part of a super-continent called Gondwana, made up of the land masses now comprising Australia, new guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Antarctica, South America, Africa, Arabia, Malagasy and India. New Zealand lay on the eastern edge of the super-continent, wedged between Australia, Tasmania and Antarctica, and facing an ancestral ocean called the Tethys, separating Gondwana from another super-continent called Laurasia which was then a number of separate lands that were later to coalesce. The Laurasian lands included North America, Kazakhstan, southern and central Europe, Baltica (Scandinavia and European Russia), Mongolia, Siberia, China and Southeast Asia.

In the early part of New Zealand's history, during the Cambrian and succeeding Ordovician and Silurian periods (500 to 410 million years ago), the edge of Gondwana occupied by New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia projected northwards into the Northern Hemisphere, lying in latitudes 45 degrees north to the Cambrian and 30 degrees north in the Ordovician and the Siberian. The northward orientation of Gondwana brought new Zealand and Australia into contact with China, Southeast Asia and Kazakhstan so that new Zealand and Australia shared with these countries a number of coastal marine animals and their close relatives. Such coastal links gradually faded, however, as Gondwana began to swing to the south, bringing Australia and New Zealand into the Southern Hemisphere, Southeast Asia, China and Kazakhstan moved in a north-wards direction towards their present geographic position. thus by the Devonian period 410 to 350 million years ago, new Zealand, while still retaining strong coastal links with Australia, also developed marine links to southern South America, via Antarctica - reflecting the gradual southward shaft of this part of Gondwana. 

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Southerly drift continued throughout the succeeding Carboniferous and Permian periods (350 to 235 million years ago) and many areas of Gondwana, including Australia and New Zealand, were carried into close proximity to the South Pole and felt the effects of glaciations. About this time most of the area that now forms parts of New Zealand and New Caledonia became part of a huge slowly sinking broad depression in the sea floor, called a geosyncline. Mud sand and gravel eroded from the surrounding areas of Gondwana accumulated in this depression. Erupting volcanoes on both land and sea also contributed deposits of lava and ash. The geosyncline extended northwards to New Caledonia, eastwards to beyond the Chatham Islands, westwards to the Lord Howe Rise and southwards to beyond Auckland and Campbell islands. In the Triassic (235 to 192 million years ago) continuing rotation of Gondwana moved much of the continental areas away from the South Pole, leading to retreat and eventual disappearance of the ice sheets. Nonetheless rivers and the sea continued to erode the land, thus maintaining the flow of sediments into the geosyncline. by middle and late Triassic times, however, earth movements within the geosyncline had compressed and squeezed up areas of old sediment to form small archipelagos of land. Much of this land had links to the adjacent continental areas and it is likely that the ancestors of some New Zealand's distinctive native forest trees came at this time - including the New Zealand kauri (Agthis australis), some of the distinctive New Zealand native pines, called podocarps (rimu, totara, kahikatea) and many ferns.

Rotation of Gondwana away from the South Pole continued into the succeeding period of geological time, the Jurassic (192 to 135 million years ago). The rotating movements were such that the middle and the Jurassic times southern South America, southern Africa, Antarctica, new Zealand, new Caledonia and Australia were all situated in middle and low latitudes and had tropical, subtropical and warm temperate channels. The equable nature of the climate, together with the close grouping of the continents - so that a variety of routes were available across land and around shorelines - provided numerous opportunities for both terrestrial and marine organisms to spread across Gondwana. It is highly probable, therefore, that during this period New Zealand received the ancestors of many of its native plants and animals. Probable Middle Jurassic migrants indicate the ancestors of animals such as the tuatara (Sphenodon) and native frog (Leiopelma). Other animal groups that reached New Zealand at this time included the ancestors of the native earthworms, native snails, and slugs, some insects (notably wetas and some spiders), freshwater crayfish, freshwater mussels and some freshwater fish. More native pines and varieties of ferns probably also arrived at this time. These animals and plants are today often called "living fossils."

The reptiles gave rise to the first birds in the late Jurassic. Early birds, with their superior means of dispersal, soon spread to many parts of the world. It is thought that one group of distinctive primitive birds, called the ratites, appeared in south America about this time and, using Antarctica as a stepping stone, gained access to New Zealand, Australia, New guinea, Malagasy and southern Africa - to develop into the moas and kiwis in New Zealand, emus (Australia), cassowaries (New Guinea, Australia), elephant birds (Malagasy) ostriches (southern Africa) and rheas (South America).

Birth of the Tasman Sea

The first substantial land mass to exist in the present New Zealand region extended southward to the edge of the Campbell Plateau, eastward to beyond Chatham Island and westward to the Lord Howe Rise. Long fingers of newly created land also stretched northward towards New Caledonia, Lord Howe island and Norfolk island. Almost as soon as it was created this "Greater New Zealand" was eaten into by rivers and streams while the sea nibbled away at its edges. By the end of early Cretaceous time (110 million years ago) some areas, especially those around the edges of the land mass, had been worn down to such an extent that the sea was beginning to flood in across the eroded remains of the folded and comforted rocks.

About that time the first cracks and splits in the earth's crest appeared along the site of the modern Tasman Sea and also in the area lying between the edge of the Campbell Plateau and the coast of Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land. These huge rifts, into which the sea soon flooded, heralded the opening of the ocean now separating New Zealand from Australia and Antarctica. Marine incursions along the rift valleys soon began to disrupt the overland migration routes to the north and west of New Zealand. southern land routes remained, however, and New Zealand continued to be linked with western Antarctica. The splitting movements along the embryonic Tasman Sea and southern Ocean were accompanied by similar movements signalling the start of the opening of the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. the days of the old super-continent Gondwana were drawing to a close. Such splitting movements on a global scale had the effect of swinging the eastern edge of Gondwana - comprising New Zealand, new Caledonia, Australia, Antarctica and southern South America - closer to the south Pole, so that in early Cretaceous times New Zealand was at 70 to 80 degrees South Latitude, and in the middle Cretaceous it was within a few degrees of the South Pole. 

Although land links to the north and west of New Zealand had been lost early in the Cretaceous, southern links were still evident, allowing ancestors of the Protea family to enter New Zealand in the early Cretaceous and southern beech (Nothofagus) in the middle Cretaceous - both using Antarctica as a stepping stone. However, 80 million years ago a new sea floor began to form both in the Tasman Sea and in that part of the Southern Ocean lying between new Zealand and Antarctica. New Zealand became surrounded by continuous coastlines and seas of oceanic depths. At about this time the first marsupials (kangaroos, koalas, etc.) appeared in south America and probably migrated into Australia via Antarctica, their way into New Zealand was barred by stretches of open ocean. The Tasman Sea opened up to its full width over the period between 80 and 60 million years ago. However it is likely that at some time before attaining its full width the Tasman was crowned by ancestral bats, using their powers of flight (and perhaps with some assistance from westerly winds) to cross the new ocean before it became too wide and too stormy. The bats that came to New Zealand at this time gave rise to a distinctive New Zealand Bat of a primitive type - the only mammals in the country's original fauna. the early Polynesians later introduced dogs and rats.

It is also likely that the ancestors of some of New Zealand's distinctive native birds such as the wattlebirds (huia, saddleback and kokako), native thrushes (piopio) and native wrens (rifleman, bush wren and rock wren) also arrived at the same time after winging their way across the infant Tasman. Although creation of new sea floor wand and then ceased altogether in the Gasman 60 million years ago, opening of the Southern Ocean continued inexorably, progressively weakening new Zealand's marine connections to South America via Antarctica. thus although many "southern" coastal marine animals were still shared by New Zealand, western Antarctica and southern South America in Paleocene and early Eocene times (65 to 40 million years ago), such forms had been drastically reduced by late Eocene times and disappeared completely at the end of the Eocene (37 million years ago). Meantime, about 55 million years ago, sea began to open up between Australia and Antarctica. The new area of sea floor thus created linked wish that already forming between new Zealand and Antarctica, so that Australia and New Zealand together began their long journey northwards into warmer seas, and Antarctica its journey southwards.  

As Antarctica had moved into higher latitudes it lost its rule as a stepping stone for southern migrants. Initially in Paleocene, Eocene and Oligocene times (65 to 24 million years ago), many parts of Antarctica, especially the coastal areas of western Antarctica, were covered by beech forests similar to those in New Zealand and southern South America today. However, as Antarctica moved southwards, and as cold marine currents began to flow around the now-ocean-ocean-encircled continent, ice fields formed on the mountaintops and glaciers began to reach down the valleys towards the sea. At the same time as ice was building up on Antarctica, the oceanic gaps between this southernmost continent and its neighbours were widening. 'this allowed free oceanic, circulation, combined with the onset of cyclonic conditions developed around the Antarctic ice cap, it set the scene for development of the circum. Antarctica systems of winds and ocean currents that today dominates Southern hemisphere meteorology and oceanology. 

The Circum-Antarctic Current, the world's largest ocean current, circulates clockwise around the entire Antarctic continent, and is associated with systems of prevailing westerly winds that encircle the globe at latitudes between 40 and 60 degrees south, giving rise to the "roaring Forties," Furious Fifties" and "Screaming Sixties." These winds are so powerful and constant that floating material can be readily transported between the southern continents. The transporting efficiency of such a wind and current system is so high that once initiated, many animals and plants started to use it as a means of crossing the southern ocean after Antarctica ceased to be available as a stepping stone. While all these changes were going on around New Zealand, the huge ancestral land mass formed of late Jurassic and early Cretaceous times had been slowly shrinking in size and shape. The originally rugged mountainous terrain had been progressively lowered by eroding rivers and streams. The open Pacific to the east and the newly created oceans to north-west and south established eroding coastlines around the entire perimeter of the land mass. the scene was set therefore for gradual wearing-away of "Greater New Zealand" and its progressive submergence by the sea. by 37 to 24 million years ago, the remnants of land consisted of an elongated, narrow,-gutted archipelago and a few scattered islands.

The steady northwards drift of New Zealand and Australia gradually brought them into the mid-latitude regions of the Southern Hemisphere. At the same time, southward movement of the Southeast Asia-Indonesia region, resulting from opening and expansion of the South China Sea, progressively closed the gap between the Indonesian islands and Papua New guinea. thus an increasing number of oceanic currents of tropical origin were able to reach the Australian and new Zealand coasts, bringing with them a great variety of warm water organisms (but only those capable of crossing open ocean, either as eggs, larvae or adults). Although migrants from tropical sources first appeared in New Zealand waters in late Eocene times, their numbers declined in the uppermost Eocene and lowermost Oligocene as the sea cooled in response tot the build up of ice fields on Antarctica. Climate improved, however, in the early and middle Miocene (24 to 12 million years ago). As this time tropical seas lapped around New Zealand and reef-building corals lived around the northern and central parts of the North Island. Temperatures of these seas were 7 to 10 degrees (Centigrade) warmer than today. On the land, palms were particularly abundant and widespread at this time and coconut groves existed in parts of the northern North island. 

Meantime, continued expansion of the North China Sea rotated Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines closer to Papua New Guinea. the intervening oceanic gap was progressively closed until in the Miocene it had been narrowed to such an extent, and had probably been at least partially bridged by volcanic archipelagos, that land snakes were able to move into Papua New Guinea and eventually into Australia. By this time, however, the Tasman Sea had opened up its full width and ancestral New Zealand and New Caledonia had lost their land links to the remainder of eastern Gondwana. Snakes therefore were unable to reach either New Zealand or new Caledonia - and they became two of the few snake-free countries in the world, much to the relief of the present inhabitants!

Throughout this entire period the ancestral New Zealand land mass was essentially stable; this stability allowed it to be gradually worn away and to be eventually submerged by the sea. the comparative tranquility ended, however, in the Miocene, and from this time onwards the New Zealand islands were the scene of restless activity. Patterns of folds, welts and troughs developed under the influence of deep-seated earth movements. change in geography occurred frequently as troughs sank rapidly and welts rose in complementary fashion. Segments of land moved up and down under the influence of interfingering and branching folds. Large areas of New Zealand had the form of an ever-changing archipelago. One of the most obvious consequences of the establishment of the westerly pattern of winds and oceanic currents was substantial strengthening of trans-Tasman migration. although New Zealand has always received animals and plants from Australia and Tasmania, the sheer numbers involved increased dramatically from Miocene times onwards. Many of the sea creatures that populate New Zealand's shores today came originally from the west, having been transported by the west wind drift - either from Australia and Tasmania or from even farther westwards around the globe, as far as South Africa or South America.

Birds are also notable riders of the west wind and from Miocene times onwards New Zealand gained a number of groups of land birds of Australian origin. some bird groups have been in New Zealand longer than often and therefore have had sufficient time to diverge genetically from the parent Australian stock. The takahe, for example, represents an older migration, whereas the pukeko is from a younger migration and is indistinguishable from Australian forms. Trans-Tasman migration of Australian land birds continues today; colonists in the past century include the spur-wing plover, black-fronted dotterel, white-faced heron, Australian coot, royal spoonbill, grey teal, welcome swallow and wax eye. Other would-be colonists have lingered but not survived - the avocet, little bittern and white-eyed duck. Many Australian insects also arrive in the aftermath of westerly gales, but few survive to colonize, although the monarch butterfly is a notable survivor.  

The Ice Age Cometh

Although steady deterioration of climate in the late Miocene and Pliocene times had progressively thinned out many of the warmth-loving immigrants New Zealand had received in earlier times, the coup de grace was delivered by the severe climates of the Pleistocene glacial occurring between 2 million and 10,000 years ago. During a number of these glacials, temperate organisms were restricted to northernmost New Zealand and to a few coastal refuges where the influence of the sea moderated the glacial climate. As there was no escape northwards beyond 35 degrees South Latitude, many of the warmth-loving organisms disappeared completely, never to return. The northern retreat of warm and temperate organisms was matched by advance of those with cold-temperate requirements. Thus the  seals and subantarctic shellfish and crabs moved northwards into the central part of the North Island in the early Pleistocene. During the last glacial phase, extending from about 65,000 to 10,000 years ago, native pine (podocarp) forests were pushed into the area north of Hamilton. 

Then, as the climate warmed 10,000 years ago, some of the gaps in the New Zealand flora and fauna resulting from Pleistocene extinctions were filled by temperate organisms ridding the west wind drift. Forest gradually became re-established throughout New Zealand but its recovery from the repeated disruptions during the successive glacials was a long and slow process; it is believed that even within the span of man's occupation of New Zealand, vegetation changes have occurred which are related to this long-term recovery process. Coupled with this, however, has been the effect of climatic changes - notably the Climatic Optimum (a warm period 7,000 to 4,000 years ago) and the Little Lice Age (a cold period between A.D. 1550 and 1800). Without a doubt, the arrival of Polynesian people about 1,000 years ago initiated a long train of biological events that continued even more rapidly after the visits of Tasman and Cook and the arrival of European settlers. The early Polynesians (the "Moa Hunters") used the easily hunted birds to protein sources, and so deprived the New Zealand fauna of many of its older distinctive elements - including moas, and native New Zealand geese, swans, eagles and crows. The fire brought by human, and used by them in hunting and agriculture, destroyed large areas of forest in coastal and central North Island and eastern South Island and reactivated many areas of hitherto stable sandy country so that sand dunes invaded fertile land in many coastal regions. 

The Polynesian rat and dog added to the effects of hunting and use of the fire. European settlers introduced, by accident or design, a wide variety of animals and plants from other parts of the world that competed, often successfully, with native species in particular, New Zealand's formerly abundant bird life was decimated. Many birds disappeared altogether, while others became restricted to Fiordland and various islands off the New Zealand coast. Thus the arrival of the human race, with fire, rats and dog, coming on top of the effects of the Ice Age, sounded the death-knell for many of New Zealand's unique primeval organisms, some dating as far back as tens of millions of years ago. Apart from Antarctica, New Zealand was the last major land mass to be reached and explored by people. these earliest Pacific navigators proceeded those from Europe by some 800 years. they were, in the words of one of their descendants, "Vikings of the sunrise." They were people whose descendants came to be called Maori.

Few subjects have been the source of more controversy than the origins of the Maori. Nineteenth century scholars derived bizarre theories. Some asserted Maori were wandering Aryans, others believed that they were originally Hindu, and still others that they were indisputably a lost tribe of Israel. Interpretations of evidence in the 20th century have been more cautious. The current consensus among scholars is that Maori were descendants of Austronesian people who originated in Southeast Asia. A few authorities dispute this. Minority opinions have suggested they came from Egypt, from Mesopotamia and from south America. Linguistic and archaeological evidence establishes, however, that New Zealand Maori are Polynesian people; and that the ancestors of the Polynesians sailed into the South China Sea from the Asian mainland some 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. Some went southwest, ultimately to Madagascar, others southeast along the Malaysian, Indonesian and Philippine chains of islands.

What appears to have inspired these vast journeys was the introduction of the sail to Southeast Asia and the invention of the outrigger to stabilize craft on ocean voyaging. Among the Austronesian languages shared by the people of the Pacific and the Southeast Asian archipelagos, the words for sail, mast, outrigger float and outrigger boom are among the most widespread and therefore among the oldest. The Pacific Austronesians who made their way along the Melanesian chain of islands, reaching Fiji by about 1300 B.C. and Tonga before 1100 B.C., left behind fragments of pottery with distinctive decorations. It has been called Lapita, and the same name has been given by archaeologists to the people who made it. With their pottery they also carried pigs, dogs, rats, fowls and cultivated plants. All of these originated on the mainland of Southeast Asia, with the exception of the kumara, which is a sweet potato from South America. Polynesian culture as recognised today evolved among the Lapita people in Tonga and Samoa. it was from this East Polynesian region that a migration was eventually launched to New Zealand. The East Polynesian characteristics of early Maori remains, the earliest carbon dates and the rate of growth and spread of the Maori population, all indicate that a landfall was made in New Zealand around A.D. 800.    

The First New Zealanders

The land that the earliest settlers reached about 1,200 years ago was unlike anything that Polynesians had encountered elsewhere in the Pacific. It was far larger - more than 1,500 km (over 800 miles) from north to south - and more varied than islands they had colonised previously. It was temperate rather than tropical and sufficiently cold in much of the South island to prevent the growing of crops. Other than bats, there were no mammals ashore until the ancestors of the Maori released the rats (kiore) and dogs (kuri) they had brought with them. It is probable that they also brought pigs and fowls, but these did not survive. The lack of meat was compensated for by a proliferation of seafood: fish, shellfish, crayfish, crab, seaweed, sea-egg and the sea mammals, whales, dolphins and seals. the land provided fern root that offered a staple food (though it had to be heavily pounded), and there were nearly 200 species of bird, many of them edible inland waterways contained additional resources: waterfowl, eel, fish and more shellfish. To all these the immigrants added the cultivated vegetables they had carried with them, taro, kumara, yam, gourds and the paper mulberry. For meat, in addition to birds, fish and sea mammals, there were limited supplies of dog and rat. 

The New Zealand forests offered larger trees than Polynesians had seen previously. With these they built bigger dugout canoes and evolved a complex tradition of carving. Later, they tried wooden beams in the construction of dwellings. Materials such as raupo and nikau made excellent house walls and roofs. Flax plaited well into cords and baskets and provided fine fibre for garments. There was an ample sufficiency of suitable stone materials for adzes, chisels and drill points, varieties of bone for fish-hooks, spear-heads and ornaments and obsidian for flake knives. Through these artefacts and crafts the New Zealand Polynesians developed one of the world's most sophisticated neolithic cultures. Perhaps the most spectacular of the new country's resources was the huge flightless bird, the moa. there were originally some 24 species of the bird, ranging from the turkey-sized anomalopteryx to the gigantic dinonis maximus. they offered a food supply on a scale never before encountered in Polynesia (drumsticks the size of bullocks' legs), other than when whales were cast ashore. Some early groups of Maori based their economy around moas in areas where the birds were relatively plentiful, until extensive exploitation led to their extinction.

The history of the first colonists from the time of their arrival until the advent of Europeans is a history of their adaptation to the environment just described - the matching of their skills and cultural resources to it, and the evolution of new features in their culture in response to the conditions that the environment imposed.

Competitive Tribalism

Ethnologists now recognise two distinguishable but related phases in that culture. the first is New Zealand East Polynesian, or Archaic Maori displayed by the archaeological remains of the earliest settlers and their immediate descendants. The second is Classic Maori, the culture encountered and recorded by the earliest European navigators to reach he country. The process by which the first phase evolved into the second is complex, and one on which scholars have not yet reached agreement. What can be said with confidence, however, is that by the time James Cook and his men observed New Zealand in 1769, New Zealand Polynesians had settled the land from the far north to Foveaux Strait in the south. The language these inhabitants shared was similar enough for a speaker to be understood anywhere in the country, although dialectal differences were pronounced, particularly between the north and South islands. While regional variations were apparent in the details and traditions of the culture, the most important features of it were practised nationally. 

Competitive tribalism, for example, was the basis of Maori life. the family and hapu (subtribe) were the unit of society that determined who married whom, where people lived, where and when they fought other people and why. Tribal ancestors were venerated, as were gods, representing the natural elements (the earth, the sky, the wind, the sea, and so on). the whole of life was bound up in a unified vision in which every aspect of living was related to every other. Art, religion, war, food gathering, love-making, death - all were an integrated pattern on a single fabric. And the universal acceptance of concepts such as tapu (sacredness), mana (spiritual authority), belief in mekutu (sorcery) regulated all these aspects of life.

Maori literacy

Maori society was stratified. People were born into rangatira or chiefly families, or they were tatua (commoners). They became slaves if they were captured as a consequence of warfare. Immediate authority was exercised by kaumaitua, the elders who were family heads. whole communities, sharing as they did descent from a common ancestor, were under the jurisdiction of the rangatira families whose authority was in part hereditary and in part based on past achievement. Occasionally federations of hapu and tribes would come together and join forces under an ariki (paramount chief) for joint ventures such as waging war against foreign elements, trading or foraging for resources. the most common relationship among hapu, however, even closely related hapu, was fierce competition. Communities ranging from a handful of households to more than 500 lived in kainga or villages. these were usually based on membership of a single hapu. the kaiga would be close to water, food sources and cultivations. sometimes the settlements were fortified (in which case they were called pa), although fortifications were by no means universal. More often the kainga were adjacent to hilltop pa, to which communities could retreat when they were under threat.  

Maori pa were elaborately constructed with an interior stronghold, ditches, banks and palisades. Some proved impregnable, others were taken and lost several times in the course of a lifetime. Such defences were one of the features of Polynesian life that evolved in a more extensive and more complex manner in New Zealand than elsewhere in the Pacific. Some scholars speculate that the need for hilltop pa originated out of the need to protect kumara tubers from marauders. Communal patterns of life in Maori settlements were originated around food gathering, food growing and on areas where fighting was common) warfare. Cultivation and foraging were carried out by large parties of workers, seasonally. When items of food became scarce, they had a rahui of prohibition laid on them to conserve supplies.

The Spoils of War

Warfare evolved as an important competitive feature of Maori life in most parts of the country. It was sometimes conducted to obtain territory with food or other natural resources (stone for tool-making, for example); sometimes to avenge insults, either real or imagined, sometimes to obtain satisfaction from hapu whose members had allegedly transgressed the social code; and sometimes to a result of serious disagreements over control or authority. Such reasons were often flimsy and could be nurtured from generation to generation. ?the more important factor, perhaps, was the war or rumours of war kept successful communities and individuals alert, strong and resilient. It also brought about the annihilation of some hapu who did not display these qualities. For the most part, however, warfare was not totally destructive prior to the introduction of the musket. It often involved only individual or small raiding parties, and ambush or sporadic attacks of short duration. Even when larger groups met in head-on confrontation or siege, the dead rarely amounted to more than a few score. Most battles occurred in summer months only and, except when a migration was under way, fighting was rarely carried on far from a tribe's home territory.

For individual males as for tribes, the concept of mana was paramount. It was intensified and enlarged by the status of victor, and diminished by that of vanquished. Courage and proficiency in combat were also essential ingredients in initiation, and in acceptance by male peers, especially in the case of chiefs, who had to establish their authority over others.

Artistic Refinement

Non-combatants were able to achieve high standing in the arts, or in the exercise of esoteric powers as tohunga (priests or experts). An ability to carve was prized highly and the working of wood, bone and stone reached heights of intricacy and delicacy in New Zealand seldom seen elsewhere. The best of th4 woodcarving was seen on door lintels, house gables and canoe prows, and in stone and bone in personal ornaments such as tikis, pendants and necklace units. New Zealand jade or greenstone was especially valued for this latter purpose. Like the other Polynesians, the Maori had no access to metals. Personal decoration in the form of moko or tattooing was also a feature of Maori art. Men were marked primarily on the face or buttocks, women largely on the face and breasts. Only in the Marquesas Islands did such decoration achieve comparable intricacy, with patterns apparent both positively and negatively. The Maori practice of the art usually involved a straight rather than a serrated blade. This served not only to inject pigment under the skin, it left a grooved scar which was more like carving in appearance than tattooing.

In spite of competition warfare and regional and tribal demarcation among Maori, trading was also extensive. South islanders exported greenstone to other parts of the country for use in patu, adzes, chisels and ornaments. bay of Plenty, settlers distributed high quality obsidian from Mayor Island. Nelson and D'Urville Island inhabitants quarried and distributed argillite. food that was readily available in some districts but not in others, such as mutton birds, was also preserved and bartered. People were prepared to travel long distances for materials and food delicacies. Although ocean-going vessels appeared to have disappeared from new Zealand by the 18th century, canoes were still used extensively for river, lake and coastal transport in the coarse of trade or war.

A Short. British Life

The gauze of romance that early fictional and ethnological accounts threw over pre-European Maori life was misleading. In many of the aspects, that life was brutish and short. There was always the danger of being tortured or killed as a result of warfare. there was ritual cannibalism. there was the possibility of disinheritance and enslavement in defeat. Further, medical examination of pre-European remains reveals that the span of life was unlikely to exceed 30 years. From two late twenties, most people would have been suffering considerably as a consequence of arthritis, and from infected gums and loss of teeth brought about by the staple fern-root diet. Many of the healthy-looking "elderly" men, on whose condition James Cook commented favourably in 1770, may have been, at the most, around 40 years of age. Such were the contours of Mori in that Cook and other European navigators encountered towards the end of the 18th century. The population was probably were 100,000 to 120,000. the Maori people had no concept of nationhood or race, ,having been so long separated from other races and cultures. they were tribal beings who were fiercely assertive of the identity that they took from their ancestry and from their hapu membership. Most of them felt as far removed from Maori to whom they were not related as they did from the Europeans who were soon to invade their country, which they called Aotearoa - "the land of the long white cloud."

the southern Pacific was the last habitable part of the world to be reached by Europeans. It was then inaccessible by se except at the end of long-haul routes down the coast of South America on one side and Africa on the other. And once inside the rim of the world's largest ocean, seafarers faced vast areas to be crossed, always hundreds or thousands of miles away from any familiar territory. So it required not only steady, enduring courage to venture into the unknown region but a high degree of navigational skill and experience. the countries of the South Pacific - tucked down near the bottom of the globe away from any of the obvious routes across the world - were left to the Polynesian undisturbed for nearly 150 years after the European first burst into the Western Pacific. And then New Zealand was left alone for another 130 years after the Dutchman Abel Janszoon Tasman first sighted the coast and paid these shores a brief visit.

It was the Englishman James Cook who rediscovered it and put all the Pacific in the context of the world. A famous new Zealand historian and biographer of Cook, Dr J.C. Beaglehole, wrote of the great Cook voyages of discovery: "... his career is one of which the justification lies not so much in the underlining of its detail as in the comparison of the map of the Pacific before his first voyage with that at the end of the century. For his was a life consistent and integrated, to a passion for scientific precision he added the inexhaustible effort of the dedicated discoverer; and his own devotion was matched, as nearly as any leader could hope, by the allegiance which was rendered him by his men."

The Dutch Traders

European knowledge of the Pacific Ocean had gradually expanded during the 16th and 17th centuries following the first view of it by Yasco Nunez de Balboa from the Isthmus of Panama in 1513. Intrepid Spanish and Portuguese seafarers such as Magellan, Mendana and Quiros, and England's Francis Drake, made their epic expedition. The Spanish were motivated by their evangelising for the Catholic Church and the search for rare and precious metals and spices to satisfy their more temporal aspirations. But towards the end of the 16th century, the Dutch emerged as the great seafaring and trading nation of the central and western Pacific, setting up a major administrative and trading centre at Batavia (now Jakarta) in Java early in the 17th century, an operation dominated by the Dutch East India Company. For 200 years the Dutch were a power in the region. for most of the period, voyages of exploration were incidental to the activities of trade. The Dutch sailors seemed by temperament and training to be concerned almost exclusively with the business of sailing their ships along proven routes safely and methodically in the interests of commerce. On the few occasions when they did divert, it was generally in response to rumours of other lands with commodities of potential value for trade.

The Dutch ships eventually found that by staying south after rounding the Cape of Good Hope and catching the consistent westerlies almost as far as the western coast of Australia, they could make the journey to Java more quickly than by adopting the traditional route - sailing north close to the east coast of Africa and then catching seasonal winds for the journey eastwards. And so islands off the west coast of Australia and stretches of the coast itself began to be noted on charts but were not recognised at the time as the western side of a large continent. Then an ambitious and highly competent governor of Batavia, Anthony van Dieman, showed a more imaginative interest in discovering new lands for trade than most of his predecessors, during the second quarter of the 17th century. Tasman, then in his thirti4es, was the captain of one of two ships in an expedition dispatched by van Dieman to explore Japan and the northern Pacific.

Tasman's Visit

Tasman was next chosen to lead a new expedition, to be accompanied by a highly competent specialist navigator, Frans Visscher. this was in 1642. the proposed voyage had been planned in detail, mainly by Visscher, and would take them first to Mauritius, then southwest to between 50 and 55 degrees south in search of the great southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita. The expedition, aboard the vessels Heemskerck and Zeehoen, was then to come eastwards if no land had been found to impede their progress and to sail across to investigate a shorter name to Chile, a rich trading areas at that time and monopoly of the Spanish. the expedition went only as far as 49 degrees south before turning eastwards, whereupon it made two great South Pacific discoveries - Tasmania (or van Dieman's Land, as he named it) and New Zealand (or Staten Landt).

On December 13, 1642, they saw what was described as "land uplifted high," the Southern Alps of the South Island, and in strong winds and heavy seas sailed northwards up the coast of Westland, rounded Cape Farewell into what is now called Golden Bay. Tasman's first and only encounter with the Maori was disastrous. When a canoe rammed a small boat travelling from the Zeehoen to the Heemskerck, fighting broke out and there was loss of life on both sides. Tasman called the place Murderers' Bay and headed north again, not realising that he was inside the western entrance to Cook Strait. A voyage eastwards of only a few miles would have shown him that he was not on the edge of a continent but is the centre of two islands. he did not land again anywhere in New Zealand and had much better luck with the Polynesian on Tongatapu, which he put on European maps on the way home. He also sailed through the Fiji group.

Tasman's voyage was not regarded as a major success immediately but ultimately he was given his due for a gallant and well-recorded journey of exploration. Later he charted a large segment of the northern and western coast of Australia and retired a wealthy man, in Batavia.

Cook's Oyster

Within a year or two, other navigators had discovered that New Zealand could not be attached to a huge continent which ran across to South America. the name was therefore changed from Staten Landt (the Dutch name for South America) to New Zealand. James Cook opened the South Pacific up like a huge oyster and revealed its contents. The son of a Yorkshire labourer, Cook was born in 1728. he served as a apprentice seaman on a collier, and then volunteered as an able seaman with the Royal Navy during the Seven Years' War. He helped survey Canada's St. Lawrence River, an essential preliminary to the capture of Quebec by General James Wolfe, and he enhanced an already growing reputation as a marine surveyor by charting in detail the St. Lawrence and parts of the Newfoundland and Nova Scotian coasts. In 1766, he observed an eclipse of the sun and the royal Society and the Admiralty were both impressed with his report.   

It was primarily to observe the transit of the planet Venus over the disc of the sun in June 1769 that he was dispatched in 1768 to the South Seas in the 368-ton Endeavour, a bark built in Whitby, similar to the colliers he had sailed in as a young seaman. he was instructed to sail to Otaheite (Tahiti) for the transit and then to sail southwards as far as 50 degrees South Latitude on another search for the great southern continent, fixing on the map the position of any islands he may incidentally discover. Cook rounded Cape Horn and entered the Pacific Ocean for the first time on January 27, 1769. After observing the transit of Venus and investigating other islands in the group which he named the Society Islands, he sailed south and then westwards. On October 6, a ship's boy, Nicholas Young, sighted the east-coast of the North Island where It is today called Young Nick's head. Two days after this first sighting of what he knew to be the east coast of New Zealand, the land reported by Tasman, the Endeavour sailed into a bay where smoke made it obvious there were inhabitants. As New Zealand historian Keith Sinclair has pointed out, the arrival of the Englishmen must have been to the Maori what a Martian invasion would be to the modern New Zealander. Their first visit ashore ended with violence when a band of Maori attacked four boys left guarding the ship's boat and one of the attackers was shot dead.

It was discovered that a Tahitian chief on board the Endeavour, Tupaca, could converse with the Maori in his own tongue. he was taken back ashore with Cook the nest morning. But the Maori were in a threatening mood and Cook was forced to order one of them that to make them retreat. That afternoon, the firing of a musket over a canoe Ito attract the attention of its occupants) brought an attack on the ship's boat from which the shot had been fired, to repel the canoe, three or more Maori were shot. Cook was saddened by the violence but he had learnt quickly that the inhabitants of this country were powerful, aggressive, and brave. he called the place Poverty Bay because he could not find the supplies he wanted. The Endeavour sailed south into Hawke's Bay, and then north again around the top of East Cape. It spent 10 days in what is now called Mercury Bay because an observation of the transit of the planet Mercury was made there. In Mercury Bay, for the first time, the explorers made friends with the local Maori and traded trinkets for supplies of fish, birds and clean water. They were shown over the Maori settlement and inspected a nearby fortified po which greatly impressed Cook.

The expedition circumnavigated New Zealand and with brilliant accuracy made a chart of the coastline which proved basically reliable for more than 150 years. Cook's two celebrated errors were attaching Steward Island to the mainland as a peninsular, and mapping Banks Peninsula as an island. Cook and his crew spent weeks in ship cove, in a long inlet which he called Queen Charlotte's Sound, on the southern coast of the South Island, refurbishing the ship and gathering wood, water and supplies. the stay gave the two botanists aboard, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, a wonderful opportunity to study closely the flora and fauna of the area, and while the ship was being cleaned, the boats did detailed survey work.

The Endeavour left for home at the end of March 1770, sailing up the east coast of Australia, through the Dutch East Indies and then rounding the Cape of Good Hope to complete a circumnavigation of the world. the expedition was an extraordinary feat of seamanship putting New Zealand firmly on the map and gathering a huge amount of data for publication in England.

Antarctic R & R

Cook twice again led expeditions into the Pacific - from 1772 to 1775 and from 1776 to 1780. During the second of these, this prince of navigators twice took his ship south into the Antarctic Circle where no vessel was known to have gone before,; he was unlucky not to become the first person ever to see the Antarctic continent. It was to Dusky Sound in New Zealand that he repaired for rest and recovery after the extreme hardship faced by crew in the southern ocean. During the 7 weeks his expedition was there, the crews set up a workshop, an observatory, and restored their health with spruce beer (to defeat scurvy) and the plenitude of fish and birds. They made contact with a single family of Maori in an area which has never been thickly populated, then or now. They planted seeds on the shore of the sound, and then thickly populated, then or now. they planted seeds on the shore of the sound, and then sailed for their favorite anchorage in Ship Cove at the other end of the South island. On his later return to New Zealand during his second voyage, on his way home, he gave pigs, fowls and vegetable seeds to Maori near Hawke's Bay before he again sailed for Ship cove to a rendezvous with another vessel of the expedition, Adventure.

On his third voyage, Cook sailed into the Arctic Circle through the Bering Strait in search of a northwest passage from the Atlantic into the Pacific. He again came to New Zealand, especially to his home away from home at Ship Cove. By now he had a friendship with some of the local Maori that had lasted nearly 10 years. And he was impressed with them despite his anathema for the cannibalism. In his journals, he referred to the Maori as "manly and mild" in their dealings with him, less given to stealing than other Polynesians in the Pacific and "they have some arts among them which they execute with great judgment and unwearied patience." Cook seemed to personify the Great Discoverer as defined by his biographer, Beaglehole: "In every great discoverer there is a dual passion - the passion to see, the passion to report: and in the greatest this duality is fused into one - a passion to see and to report truly." Cook's first voyage was one of the most expert and detailed expeditions of exploration in all history. In January 1778 Cook and his men became the first Europeans ever to set eyes on Hawaii. And then after his drive up into the Bering Sea, he returned to where the people seemed awed by the Europeans to the point almost of worship and whose hospitality and gifts of food were lavish - so lavish in fact, that it began to cut deeply into the Hawaiians' reserves. He died later at the hands of the natives of Hawaii. After their departure, the ship suffered damage in a storm and although Cook felt he might have outworn his welcome he was virtually forced to return to the same community in Kealakekua Bay. After a series of thefts from the expedition, a ship's cutter was stolen and Cook went ashore to seize a hostage in order to have the boat returned. It was during the confused outcome of this stratagem that Cook was struck, pushed into the water and stabbed to death.

Cook had done such a thorough job of charting the coasts of New Zealand that there was little else for explorers to discover without going inland. but a number of navigators followed during the remaining years of the 18th century - Frenchmen de Surville only two months after Cook arrived the first time), due Fresne and D'Entrecastieux; an Italian, Malaspina, who commanded a Spanish expedition, and George Vancouver. In 10 years, within the decade of the 1770s, Cook and his contemporaries had opened up the Pacific entirely and in 1788, Sydney was established as a British convict settlement. Traders were soon based there ready to extract what valuable goods they could find in the region. First there came the sealers, with the first gang put ashore on the southwest coast of the South Island in 1792. There was a brief boom in the early years of the 19th century but it wasn't long before the seals became in short supply and the ships had to go farther south to the sub-Antarctic Islands. Next came the whalers at the turn of the century, some of them driven from the Pacific coast of South America because of the dangers there brought about by the war between Spain and Britain. these ships from Britain, Australia and the United States sought the sperm whale in the region and visits brought their crew into frequent contact with the Maori of Northland at Kororareka (later, Russell).

At first, relations between Europeans and Maori were peaceful and friendly. But visits were infrequent for a few years after the burning of a vessel called the Boyd in 1809, and the massacre of its crew as a reprisal against previous punishment of high-born Maori seamen by Pakeha skippers. The inland exploration of New Zealand took place mostly during the second quarter of the 19th century, mainly in those parts which were fairly accessible from the coast. but vast areas of the interior of the South Island were not fully explored until this century.


The bleak experiences of Abel Tasman along New Zealand's West coast and the much more successful endeavours of James Cook 127 years later had no immediate impact on the future of the two main islands. The Dutch were preoccupied with getting all they could out of the Indonesian archipelago; the British (in the form of the Honourable East India Company) were concerned with consolidating and expanding their trading territories in India. New Zealand, it seemed, had little to offer a colonial power. "Botany Bay," not so far across the Tasman Sea, was established as a penal settlement in 1788 as a direct result of American victory in the War of Independence (and as a by-product of Cook's voyages), but the Land of the Long White Cloud remained ignored - or almost so.  As the 19th century opened, Europe was engulfed in war. Although international trade suffered through a series of blockades and battles, demand increased for so-called "essential" commodities, and such commodities included sealskins and whale oil. Seals and whales were plentiful in New Zealand waters, and enterprising skippers from Port Jackson (Sydney's harbour, and not the Botany Bay so loved by ballad-mongers of the time) and the newer settlement of Hobart, in Van Dieman's Land, Tasmania, were soon complying with the economic law of supply and demand. 

Many of them found a convenient watering-hole at Kororareka (now Russell) in the Bay of Islands. the anchorage there was calm and well-protected; there was a already supply of kauri wood for spars and masts; and they were not too worried by occasional visits by French ships. the Napoleonic wars were reaching their crescendo, and Anglo-French rivalry - back home in Europe - was at its peak. who cared? Most of the sealers and whalers were renegades of one sort or another, escaped convicts or remittance men who had broken a bond, their captains weren't much better, and the French hadn't been in touch with France for a year or more. Koronareka, with its new European arrivals, rapidly became a lusty, brawling town. Whatever its size in the early 1800s, the missionaries who followed swiftly on the heels of the Pakeha intruders were equally swift in damning it as the "hell-hole of the Southwest Pacific." This was hardly surprising: the newcomers, few of whom ever settled ashore or established permanent ties with the Bay of Islands, managed to introduce a destructive influence which in time completely eradicated some of the Maori tribes and hapu, and seriously affected others. The influence arrived in the form of muskets, hard liquor or "gong," prostitution, and a host of infectious diseases - many of which could prove fatal - to which the Maori had never previously been exposed.

Nevertheless, relations between Maori and Pakeha were relatively tranquil in the early decades of the 19th century, isolated hostilities, such as the burning of the brig Boyd and the killing and eating of its crew in Whangaroa Harbour in 1809, certainly occurred, and "the Boyd incident" discouraged Europeans from attempting to settle in the Whangaroa area for another 10 years. "The Boyd massacre," as it was also known, was bitterly revenged some months later by whaling crews in the Bay of Islands. some 60 Maori were killed, among them a chieftain whom the Pakehas wrongly believed to have been responsible for the Boyd tragedy. The tragedy, and its savage aftermath, could have been avoided, unfortunately, it was a classic example of "culture shock." A Whangaroa chief, sailing as a crew member on the Boyd from the North Island to Sydney, had been flogged for some misdemeanour on the return voyage. The flogging insulted his vengeance) for the insult. the crew of the Boyd, and their fellow whalers and shipmates in Kororareka, had no understanding of either mana or utu; equally, the Maori themselves would not have understood the discipline demanded by the commander of a 600-ton brig in 1809.

Despite such ugly episodes, contacts between Maori and Pakeha remained essentially peaceful. A barter trade flourished, the Maori trading vegetables and flax for a variety of European trinkets and tools and weapons (including, of course, the musket, which they employed in their inter-tribal forays). The Maori helped cut down giant kauri trees and drag the trunks from bush to beach; they crewed on European sealing and whaling vessels; they were physically strong and vigorous; and they were also proud - a fact regrettably overlooked by most Europeans.

"Marsden's Missionaries"

The Reverend Samuel Marsden is still reviled in Australia as the "flogging parson" a result of his tenure as a magistrate at Port Jackson. Kiwis see him in a different light, as the man who introduced Christianity to New Zealand. James Cook had claimed New Zealand for the British Crown in 1769. The Dutch had done much the same thing more than a century previously, and the French were playing with the same idea towards the end of the 18th century. Curiously enough, nobody really seemed to want the place, and Cook's claim on behalf of Great Britain was never disputed. Nor, in the 1780s, did anyone in Britain suggest that New Zealand be developed as a repository for convicted felons - that dubious honour being granted to what is now Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, to which many Maori sailed in the early 1800s.

The sealers and whalers who penetrated the Bay of Islands and areas father south in the early years were, in a sense, accidents; they were not part of any grand British plan to colonise the islands, and they themselves certainly did not see their role as that of colonists. British colonisation of Australia had begun in 1788. Even though the first 30 years of new South Wales' existence had been full of problems there was some semblance of law and order. In 1817 the legislation of the Colony of New South Wales was extended to include New Zealand, six years later, in 1823, the local juridical implementation of such legislation was introduced. Amid this turbulence, Samuel Marsden arrived from New South Wales in 1814. His decision to go to New Zealand in a missionary role had been influenced by the Maori he had met in Sydney, including Ruatara, a nephew of the renowned fighting chief Hongi Hika. Marsden had been planning to establish a Christian mission in New Zealand as early as 1808, a plan frustrated by the reverberations of the Boyd incident in 1809.

Whatever his shortcomings as a magistrate, Marsden was a dedicated evangelist. He sincerely believed that missionary tradesmen, "imported" from England under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society would not only encourage the conversion of Maori to Christianity but also develop their expertise in carpentry, farming and the use of European technology. The Maori had been an agricultural people, with their staple crop being the sweet potato (or kumara), but with no experience in animal husbandry or grain-growing. (It is said that when Maori first grew wheat, they pulled the ripening crop from the ground and looked for food at the roots - the edible tubers that had been their principal source of nourishment for generations.) Marsden also introduced the country's first horses and cattle, gifts from governor Lachlan Macquarie in New South Wales. The excitement of the Maori on seeing these animals for the first time, according to one account, "was soon turned into alarm and confusion, for one of the cows, impatient of restraint and unmanageable, rushed in among them and caused a serious panic. They thought the animal was some preternatural monster which had been let loose to destroy them and took to their heels in fright. Later when Marsden mounted a horse and rode up and down the beach he was at once given a status of more than mortal."

Six years later, in 1830, the first plough was demonstrated by John Butler, another Bay of Islands missionary. butler wrote: "On the morning of Wednesday the 3rd of May, 1820, the agricultural plough was for the first time put into the land of New Zealand at Kiddie Kiddie (now Kerikeri) and I felt much pleasure in holding it after a team of six bullocks brought down by the 'Dromedary' I trust that this auspicious day will be remembered with gratitude and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn." Such pomposity was typical of Butler. He was also an irascible man, and quite soon left the country following bitter arguments with fellow missionaries. The missionary-tradesmen-teachers in whom Marsden had placed his faith were in fact an ill-assort4d bunch, most of whom fairly quickly fell before the onslaught of temptation in a heathen land. They bickered quite violently among themselves, and could hardly be regarded as a civilising, evangelising force by the people they had come to convert when so many of them became involved in gunrunning, adultery, drunkenness, and even sorties into pagan rites. it is not surprising that 10 years passed before the first Maori baptism, and another 10 before the second. Not until the third decade of the century did the Maori begin to find Christianity an attractive proposition.

Despite the missionaries' shortcomings, some achievements were registered. Thomas Kendall, who succumbed to the Maori's different attitude towards sex, was nonetheless instrumental in compiling the first grammar and dictionary of the Maori language, and in 1820 accompanied two famous chiefs, Hongi and Waikato, to Britain. Then there was William Colenso, who arrived at Paihia in 1834 and set up a printing press that played a major role in the development of Maori literacy. By 1830, Maori were involved in export trading. In that year 28 ships (averaging 110 tonnes) made 56 cross-Tasman voyages, and carried substantial cargos of Maori-grown potatoes on their return from Sydney. In 1835, the famous naturalist Charles Darwin visited the mission station at Waimate North and wrote: "On an adjoining slope fine crops of barley and wheat were standing in full ear; and in another fields of potatoes and clover ... There were large gardens with every fruit and vegetable which England produces."

The inclusion of New Zealand within the framework of the laws of new South Wales in 1817 and 1823 had not made new Zealand a British colony. The extension of legislation across the Tasman Sea from Sydney had been prompted by the desire of the early governors of New South Wales to control the lawlessness prevailing in the Bay of Islands. the sentiment was admirable enough. The main problem was that the legislation was directed principally against the crews of British ships, and the governors had no way of proving charges nor of enforcing their authority whilst a ship was in New Zealand waters, and they had no authority whatsoever over American vessels and their crews. Additionally, the missionaries who found their way to anew Zealand in the two or three decades after 1814 were, for once, united in a common aim: they did not want to see anew Zealand colonised. this was a view shared by virtually all British Christian humanitarians and evangelists of the period, who felt that New Zealand should be left to the missionaries who (it was hoped) would spread what they saw as the benefits of Christian civilisation among the Maori, leaving the latter uncorrupted by depravity introduced to earlier colonies by European settlers and adventurers. 

But, inevitably, there was dissension back home". The powerful church Missionary Society ideally wanted British protection for New Zealand and perhaps even some formal inclusion of the country within the British Empire, with an orderly government administration but without the previously common consequences of colonisation and extensive settlement. On the other hand, there was a substantial body of opinion which believed that settlement arranged in an organised and responsible manner by "good men" would be able to avoid the disasters inflicted by Europeans upon indigenous peoples of other countries. The leading proselytiser of this view in Britain was Edward Gibbon Wakefield whose theories on colonisation strongly influenced the settlement of New Zealand, South Australia and parts of Canada, his view was also shared by some of New Zealand's early missionaries.

On a less idealistic level, there was also pressure among Britons for new colonies with land for settlement, and it was becoming known that the New Zealand climate was just about perfect for Europeans. It was also becoming obvious (or so it seemed at the time) that if Britain did not take sovereignty over New Zealand and populate it with European immigrants, some other colonial power - most probably France - would do so. In retrospect, it seems doubtful that the French in the opening decades of the 19th century had any specific designs upon New Zealand, but their explorers and seamen had been in New Zealand waters since the time of James Cook. Predictably, the "home government" remained steadfastly irresolute, and the issue of colonisation was allowed to drift. By the 1830s, the scramble for land was in full swing - a scramble that was to produce tragic results within 20 years. 

"Man-of-War Without Guns"

The Maori had no concept of permanent, private ownership of land. Their land was held by tribes traditionally inheriting it. A chief's authority was generally strong enough to have a sale accepted by most members of the tribe - but even this could be complicated by conflicting claims of ownership among tribes or sub-tribes, and such claims could involve very large sums. Many deals in land transfer between Pakeha and Maori led to conflicts in the 1860s; some of them are still being legally contested today. There was also the problem of what was being bought. The settlers, and the rapacious speculators in Britain, thought they were buying outright freehold land, in many cases, the Maori believed they were merely leasing their lands for a fee. The missionaries (with the possible exception of Marsden, whose idea of justice was to strip the flesh off a man's back with the cat-o'-nine-tails) were not skilled in matters of British law, and certainly not in the area of land conveyancing. Nor were they renowned as administrators of their professed anti-settlement beliefs. the time had finally come for government intervention, however reluctant.

The notion of resident" was vague in 1833 and became no clearer in the next century of British colonial rule in many parts of the world. A resident, in most cases, had the full backing of Her or His Majesty's Government as a diplomat representing British interests in a territory that had not yet been annexed by the Crown. he could advise local chieftains, he could cajole, the could woo - but he had not real power, either legal or military. Poor Busby! Lacking any means of enforcing his authority, such as it was, he became known among the Maori as "the man-of-war without guns." Busby did what he could. he attempted to create some unity and overall sovereignty among the disparate Maori by formally establishing a confederation of Maori chiefs, and in 1835 he proposed that Britain and the United Tribes of New Zealand should agree to an arrangement under which the confederation would represent the Maori people and gradually expand their influence as a government while the British government, in the meantime, administered the country in trust. Despite his nickname, Busby won personal respect from the Maori. Even so, he keenly felt his own impotence and knew he could never achieve law and order without the backing of some adequate force. The missionaries, divided as they were, could not prevent the annexation and eventual large-scale colonisation of New Zealand, and in 1840 their anti-settlement policy was rebuffed with the signing of Treaty of Waitangi.

Men Who Came to Stay

While most of the British and American whalers and sealers were not the type of men to settle down on terra firma in a remote corner of the globe, there were from the early 19th century, a number of men of European stock who were willing to put down roots in the new land and to face the risks and hardships involved. By the 1830s a few thousand Pakehas had settled, almost all of them in the Bay of Islands. the Weller brothers - Edward, George and Joseph - were among the pioneer settlers in Otago. As whalers, they became so well established that in 1833 they sent a trial export shipment of merchandise to London. Unhappily for them, what could have proved a bonanza was thwarted by British Customs: New Zealand was a "foreign country," and the Wellers faced duties of 26 pounds p3r ton on whale oil. The abandoned the enterprise and, later, Otago. John Jones, another whaler, established a base a few miles north of Dunedin, and in the late 1830s had a chain of seven whaling stations operating in the south of the South Island and employed 280 people. Born in Sydney and believed to have been the son of a transported convict, he later operated a shipping line and owned large land-holdings at Waikouaiti on the coast north of Dunedin. 

Richard Barrett, widely known as "Dickie," arrived in new Zealand as an adventurer in 1828. he married Rawinia Waikaiua of the Taranaki Ngati-te-Whiti tribe and fought for his wife's people in tribal wars. he later became a whaler in the Cook Strait region, and a notable translator and mediator in land-sale deals around Wellington; he also took part in negotiations for the Wellington land purchase by the New Zealand Company for the initial settlement there in 1840. Others of the original settlers also threw in their lot with the Maori. Philip Tapsel was a Dane who served with the British merchant marine and first arrived in New Zealand in 1803. In the late 1820s he set up a trading post on behalf of a Sydney merchant at Maketu in the Bay of Plenty. He married three Maori women, had a number of children, and his name is now a common one among the Arawa people of the area - including that of a Member of Parliament.

Frederick Maning emigrated to Tasmania with his father and brothers in 1824, and decided to settle in Hokianga, North Auckland, in 1833. He married Moengaroa, the sister of a powerful Maori chief, Hauraki, and they had four children before she died in 1847. Maning took part in inter-tribal warfare, supporting his wife's people, and was later appointed a judge of the Native land Court. Maning wrote two books about his experiences, both under the pseudonym "A Pakeha-Maori." They were War in the North and the more famous Old New Zealand, both of which give vivid accounts of Maori tribal life and practices (although he was inclined to some exaggeration). "Pakeha-Maori" was a common term used to describe those Europeans who joined the tribal life. It is important to remember that while the violence, drunkenness and debauchery of the Bay of Islands' Pakeha was causing concern in Sydney and London before New Zealand was annexed, there were a number of men treating the Maori with respect and actually adopting their way of life.

There were also farcical interludes. A character calling himself Baron Charles Philip Hippolytus de Thierry, Sovereign Chief of New Zealand, King of Nukuheva, decided to establish himself at Hokainga. he had arranged the purchase of a large estate from Hongi Hika through the agency of Thomas Kendall when they visited Britain. De Thierry arrived in New Zealand in 1837, was quickly deserted by most of his followers, soon ran out of money, and fairly quickly faded into a bizarre chapter of history. His life was the basis for a New Zealand novel, Check to Your King, by Robin Hyde. De Thierry's background was mostly English, but there was one other genuine if half-hearted French interest in the country. A colonising organisation, the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, established a settlement at Akaroa on Bankis Peninsula, with some support from the French government, on the eve of the British decision to annex New Zealand. The French operation, however, was a small one, and any influence it might have had on the British move to colonise New Zealand has been overstated in the past.

The Wakefield Scheme

In the course of the 1830s, it had become obvious in New South Wales, which provided what little British administrative control there was over New Zealand's that land buying was going to cause serious trouble. Speculators were gambling on Britain taking over and settling the country; while Busby, the British Resident, was powerless to prevent such "deals" from taking place. Colonisation, in fact, was developing a kind of inevitability. In 1836, Edward Gibson Wakefield told a committee of the House of commons that Britain was colonising new Zealand already, but "in a most slovenly and scrambling and disgraceful manner." In 1837, at the behest of the government of New South Wales, Captain William Hobson, commanding HMS Rattlesnake, sailed from Sydney to the Bay of Islands to report on the situation in New Zealand and to recommend possible action. Hobson suggested a treaty with the Maori chiefs (which Busby thought he had already achieved) and the placing of all British subjects in New Zealand under British rule. Hobson's report provoked a response, but without Wakefield's influence there might not have been such an outcome.

Wakefield was born in London in 1796, the eldest of a large family. He was educated at Westminster School for a year and then at Edinburgh High School. In 1816 he persuaded a wealthy young woman, Eliza Susan Pattle, to elope with him. She died soon afterwards, but had borne a son, Edward Jerningham Wakefield, who was to become a significant figure in New Zealand's history. Ten years later, in 1826, Wakefield made a second runaway marriage with a schoolgirl heiress, Ellen turner. this time his plan misfired. He was apprehended, tried, and sentenced to three years in prison for abduction. While in prison Wakefield wrote two books. One, A Letter from Sydney, outlined his philosophy of colonisation and attracted the attention of some influential people. following his release, he founded the colonisation Society to spread his theories. Disliking what he perceived as the bad results of colonisation in the United States, Canada, New south Wales and Tasmania, he believed that if land was sold at what he called "a sufficient price" to "capitalist" settlers, labourers among the immigrants would not disperse thinly thought the new country but would stay in the new communities working for landowners - at least for a few years until they could save enough to buy land for themselves at the "sufficient price" and employ more recently arrived immigrant labour.

Land prices were crucial to Wakefield's system. Unfortunately for the system, he underestimated the aspirations of immigrant labo9urers who were prepared to suffer extreme isolation in order to farm their own land, and he did not foresee the readiness with which "capitalists" would move out of the centralised settlements to areas they considered more profitable. During the late 1830s and early 1840s Wakefield was ostensibly involved in Canadian colonisation matters but much of his time and energy were in fact absorbed by the organisation of the New Zealand Company. the Company, originally formed as th4e New Zealand Association in 1837, was revamped in the following year as a joint stock company at the behest of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, who (not unreasonably) wanted to ensure that the people involved would bear the costs of establishing the settlements they planned.

The Treaty of Waitangi

At the same time as Wakefield's hopeful "capitalists" and "labourers" were starting to pack their sea-trunks, the British Government was at last responding to the anti-colonial feelings of the missionary groups. Britain decided that the Maori should be consulted on their own future, and that their consent should be given to the annexation of their country. the result was the Treaty of Waitangi, signed at the Bay of Islands on February 6, 1840, by Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson on behalf of the British government, and by a number of Maori leaders. The treaty was later taken to other parts of the country for signing by most of the Maori chiefs. Ironically, the treaty was never ratified. Within a decade the Chief Justice, Sir William Martin, ruled that it had no legal validity because it was not incorporated in New Zealand's statutory law. the second irony is that the date of the original signing of the treaty is now said to be the "founding day" of New Zealand as a British colony. the reverse of what the missionaries had hoped to achieve.

The treaty itself remains a bone of contention. The text of the document was written in English, apparently amended by Hobson after it was first explained to the assembled Maori leaders, with a rather loosely translated version in Maori (that version being the one signed by most of the Maori leaders). The Maori had put much faith in advice from the missionaries, being told that they were signing a solemn pact between two races, under which New Zealand sovereignty was being vested in the British Crown in return for guarantees of certain Maori rights. Many Europeans (and Maori) genuinely believed this, and for some years the British Government upheld the agreement. It is almost impossible now to regard the treaty objectively. In the context of its time it was an example of enlightened and humane respect for the rights of an indigenous population. But because it was never ratified, and never truly honoured by the white settlers (hungry for land and impatient with Maori culture and traditions), it is easily construed these days as an expedient fraud. 

Organised immigration

The formal British annexation of New Zealand implicit in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi was quickly followed by the arrival of the first ships carrying immigrants organised by Wakefield's New Zealand Company, Tory, despatched from English before the treaty had been signed and arriving early in 1840, long before the treaty could have been received in London, carried Colonel William Wakefield (who had earlier assisted his brother Edward in the abduction of Ellen Turner, and had been gaoled for his pains) and a batch of immigrants who were to settle in Wellington.

The Wanganui district received its first settlers shortly afterwards, and in 1841 a subsidiary of the Company, based in Plymouth, England, and drawing emigrants from Devon and Cornwall, established New Plymouth. the South Island was not ignored. Captain Arthur Wakefield, another of Edward's many brothers, arrived at Nelson in 1841 and was followed by 3,000 settlers in 1842. Despite (or perhaps because of) the Treaty of Waitangi, land claims soon because a matter of dispute between Maori and Pakeha, Arthur Wakefield, in 1843, led a party of 21 other Nelson settlers into the fertile Wairau Valley, near Nelson, which he contended had been bought by the Company. The local chief Te Rauparaha and his nephew Rangihaeata thought otherwise: they assembled their warriors and killed all 22 of the Pakehas. Nor  was the Wellington settlement in the bloom of health. The first site in the Hutt Valley had been flooded; there had been serious clashes with the local tribes, potentially arable land was scarce, and even when available such land was proving difficult and expensive to develop.

Way up north, in the Bay of Islands, the events in the south were having their repercussions. Hone Heke, a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, had become more than disenchanted with the treaty's implications. Although Kororareka (Russell) had been the de facto "capital" of New Zealand Before the signing of the treaty, Lieutenant-Governor Hobson - in his wisdom - decided that Auckland should be the site of the new country's capital. The protective sweep of Auckland's harbour quickly proved his point, but left a lot of noses out of joint in Russell. Well-established Yankee skippers felt badly done by, the town's trade declined, and Hone Heke got fractions. He and his warriors demolished the flagpole (symbol of royal authority) on three occasions, and once sacked the entire town as Pakehas scampered off into the woods or took to boats. George Grey, who arrived as Governor in 1845, called in the army to suppress Hone Heke. With the help of Maori dissidents who refused to support Heke, Grey won the day.  

Pragmatic Pastoration

Upon conflict between Pakehas and Maori did not encourage enthusiasm for emigration to New Zealand. the New Zealand Company, Wakefield's idealistic dream, went into a decline. It eventually became almost bankrupt in the late 1840s, surrendered its charter, and handed over to the government of some 400,000 hectares (about 1 million acres) of land for which about $500,000 were due; it was dissolved in 1858. Even with the writing on the wall in its last decade of operation, the New Zealand company remained active, lending its organisational support to members of the Scottish Free Church who established Dunedin in 1848, and to the Anglicans who founded Christchurch in 1850 and quickly opened up the excellent pasturelands of the Canterbury Plains. Although governor Grey was less than enthusiastic about pastoralism - indeed, he does not seem to have understood what it was all about - more and more new settlers imported sheep, mostly merinos, from Australia. what became New Zealand's principal economic asset was soon under way; sheep-farming on a large scale, at first purely for wool, later for lamb and mutton. 

Edward Wakefield, architect in-absence of planned settlement, eventually arrived in New Zealand for the first time in 1852, the year in which the colony was granted self-government by Britain. he was elected to the Wellington Provincial Council and the House of Representatives in 1853, but retired shortly afterwards because of ill health. Wakefield achieved much. At the same time, he lived long enough (he died in 1862) to see that his ideal of cohesive but expanding communities, complete with "capitalists" and "labourers," was not viable. The immigrants didn't necessarily make the choice for "town life," and many left the infant settlements to establish - or, at least, attempt to establish - agricultural or pastoral properties well beyond the confines of the towns. but thanks largely to his efforts, the settlement and colonisation of New Zealand were achieved in a more orderly manner than had been the case, several decades earlier, in Canada and Australia.

The new settlers were not the only people interested in taking advantage of the fertile land. The Maori themselves had quickly learned the agricultural lessons taught by the early missionaries (even if they had responded less quickly to the lure of Christianity), and by the end of the 1850s huge areas of Maori land in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty were under cultivation or carrying livestock. One commentator reported that a Maori population of about 8,000 in the Taupo-Rotorua region "had upwards of 3,000 acres of land in wheat, 3,000 acres in potatoes, nearly 2,000 acres in maize and upwards of 1,000 acres planted with kumara." On the surface, the new colony appeared peaceful.

The New Zealand Wars: 1860-1881

In fact, the new colony was anything but peaceful. there had been a great deal of speculation in land sales, and many Maori were beginning to realise this: land was being sold for as much as 20 times what they had been paid for it. A direct result of this injustice was the election in 1858 of a Maori "king" by tribes in the centre of the North Island. there had never been such a title among the Maori, who owned their allegiance to a tribe or sub-tribe, but it was hoped that the mana of a king, uniting many tribes, would help protect their land against purchase by the Pakehas. It didn't work out that way. to the west of the king's domain, the Taranaki, another group of tribes rose up against the government in June 1860 following a blatantly fraudulent land purchase by the colonial administration., the Waitara Land Deal. British regular troops, hastily assembled to meet the insurrection, were virtually annihilated south of Waitara.

For the next few days, the North Island was ablaze with clashes between Maori and Pakeha. The "Second Maori War," as military historians term it (remembering the outbreaks in 1840), was marked by extraordinary courage on both sides. the conflicts were frequently indecisive, but they were bloody when they occurred. On the Pakeha side, the brunt of the early fighting, until 1865, was borne by British regular troops, 14 of whom received Britain's highest battle honour, the Victoria Cross. Between 1865 and 1872 (which was the "official" end of the war, though there was sporadic fighting until the formal surrender of the Maori king in 1881), locally raised militia and constabulary forces played an important role - assisted, perhaps surprisingly, by a large role - assisted, perhaps surprisingly by a large number of Maori tribes that had decided not to join the king's confederation. A little known sidelight of the New Zealand Wars was the institution of the New Zealand Cross, a unique and extremely rare medal awarded for gallantry. A fifteenth Victoria Cross had been awarded to a number of the Auckland Militia who took part in an action at Waikato in 1864, but because the VC could be won only by a man serving with the Imperial Forces, or under imperial command, the NZC was created as an honour for outstanding gallantry shown by a member of a locally raised non-imperial unit. Only 23 medals were ever awarded - three of them going to Maori.

Despite war, the prospects of the country continued to improve. The discovery of gold in the South island led to a fresh influx of migrants in the early 1860s; the capital was moved from Auckland to Wellington in 1865; and the pursuit of pasture was opening up vast tracts of the country. Wakefield might not have liked it, but the individualistic "cow-cockie" was on his way!


Progress towards New Zealand's full independence from Britain began almost as soon as the Maori-Pakeha land wars began to settle down. An economic boom in the 1870s was sparked by Sir Julius Vogel, who as colonial treasurer borrowed heavily overseas for public works construction notably railways. A flood of immigrants, mainly from Britain but also from Scandinavia and Germany, followed. but Vogel - an ebullient, imaginative and impatient man who remained in the forefront of New Zealand politics from 1873 to 1887, and was twice premier during that time - miscalculated the negative impact of his borrow-to-boom credo. By the end of the 1870s, British banks had begun to contract their credit. In 1880, New Zealand only narrowly averted bankruptcy. Within a few years, the prices of first wool, then grain, dropped so hard that depression set in and unemployment spread rapidly. In 1888, more than 9,000 hungry settlers left the colony, most of them for Australia, which had remained relatively prosperous.

These years of hardship may have had something to do with the emergence of New Zealand as one of the most socially progressive communities in the world. Free, compulsory and secular public-school education was created by law in 1877, and another piece of legislation two years later gave every adult man - Maori as well as Pakeha - the right to vote. In the 1880s, Sir Harry Atkinson, a cautious man who had reacted against Vogel's borrowing and "profligacy," advocated a national social security scheme to protect new Zealanders against illness and pauperism. Although he was elected premier five times between 1876 and 1891, Atkinson's scheme was ridiculed by the Parliamentary colleagues. "It's unChristian," they told him. Unrepentant in defeat, Atkinson responded: "Our successors in office will take up and pass every one of these measures."

He was right. In the waning years of the 19th century, a barrage of social reforms was fired by a new Liberal Party government headed by John Ballance. Sweeping land reforms were introduced, breaking down the large inland estates and providing first mortgage money to put people on the land. Industrial legislation provided improved conditions for workers, as well as a compulsory system of industrial arbitration, the first of its kind in the world. the aged poor were awarded a pension. And for the first time anywhere (with the exception of tiny Pitcairn Island and the American state of Wyoming) women were granted the right to vote on an equal basis with men, to the delight of the women's suffrage movement throughout the world. The principal minds behind these great social reforms were William Pember Reeves, a New Zealand-born socialist, the political theorist of the Liberal Party and a man determined to test the intellectually exciting new Fabian ideas then in vogue in Britain, and Richard John Seddon, who succeeded to the office of Prime Minister when Ballance died in 1893. Perhaps the most admired leader in New Zealand history, Seddon's legendary toughness and political judgment gave him enormous power within the party and, as a result, in the country. He remained in office until his death in 1906.

Sheep and "Cow-cockies"

Even in the depths of the depressions of the 1880s, a new industry was being created. In 1882, the refrigerated vessel Dunedin was loaded with sheep's carcasses at Port Chalmers, the deepwater port for the South Island city of Dunedin. It sailed on February 13 and arrived in England 3.1/2 months later, on May 24. The voyage was an anxious one; sparks from the refrigeration machinery several times set fire to the sails, and the captain was nearly frozen to death as he amended to a malfunction in the main air duct of the freezing chamber. Nevertheless the meat arrived safely and, despite the transport costs, profiles in England were much higher than they would have been for the same meat back in New Zealand. This was a blessing from the gods for the isolated Pacific colony. The timing was perfect for Britain, too. Population was increasing with urbanisation, and people had more money to spend on food. As farmers began breeding sheep for their meat as well as wool, the frozen meat industry became an economic staple.

Wealth wrought by sheep-breeding naturally attracted a handful of men who sought to get rich quick, most notably New Zealand's best known scalawag, one James MacKenzie. Assisted only by a remarkable sheepdog named Friday who took its orders in Gaelic, he is said to have stolen 1,000 sheep from a Canterbury run and led them across vast distances of open land. He was arrested and brought to trial, but was subsequently pardoned. Today the vast Mackenzie Country west of Christchurch bears his (misspelled) name. The new and burgeoning frozen mat industry and the expansion of dairy exports during the early years of the 20th century saw the rise of the small farmer in both the North and South Island - especially the "cow-cockie," as the dairy farmer came to be known. while Seddon became more conservative in the latter years of his Liberal administration, the farmers' affluence and influence grew, until in 1911 - a few years after New Zealand had politely refused an invitation to become a part of the new Commonwealth of Australia, and was subsequently upgraded in status by the British Empire from "colony" to "dominion" - the new Reform Party squ4ezed into power. New Prime Minister William Massey was himself a dairy farmer, and while his government had the backing of conservative businessmen, his lection helped to strongly consolidate New Zealand's position as a offshore farm for Britain . 

World War I

The advent of World War I brought a new sense of nationalism to New Zealand while at the same time reinforcing the country's ties to England. Under Seddon in 1899, 6,500 Kiwis had volunteered for service in the Boer War in south Africa, now between 1914 and 1918, 100,000 joined the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC forces and sailed for North Africa and Europe. By the time the war had ended, almost 17,000 New Zealanders had lost their lives, and many thousands more returned home with crippling wounds. Indeed, the casualties were out of all proportions to the country's population, then about a million. the futility was underscored by the debacle on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula, from April 25, 1915 (a day now marked in memoriam as "Anzac Day") until British naval evacuation some eight months later, the affair cost dearly the lives of 8,587 Anzacs, and there were another 25,000 casualties. somehow this heroic tragedy gave New Zealand anew identity within the British Empire.

The Great Depression of the 1930s gripped hard on New Zealand dependent as it was on overseas prices. Curtailed British demand for meat, wool and dairy products led to severe unemployment and several bloody riots, notably on Queen Street, Auckland, in April 1932. The new Labour Party swept into power in 1935 to take advantage of the resurgent world economy and quickly pull New Zealand out of the doldrums. Under Prime Minister Michael Savage, the nation again moved to the forefront of world social change, establishing a full social security system and comprehensive health-care plan. Savage died soon after the outbreak of World War II, into which he threw his country with vigour on September 2, 1939, only 1.1/2 hours after Britain declared war on Hitler's Germany Hew as succeeded as Prime Minister by Peter Fraser, whose administration financed the air effort almost entirely from taxation and internal borrowing. This time, nearly 200,000 Kiwis were called to battle, many of them under General Douglas MacArthur in the nearby Pacific campaign, others in North Africa, Italy and Crete. More than 10,000 died.

Enhanced Self-Respect

Back home a successful economic stabilisation policy and full employment made the 1940s a decade of relative prosperity. The country emerged from the war with enhanced self-respect and a developed sense of nationhood. It was an appropriate time, in 1947, for the government to adopt the Statute of Westminster and formally achieve full independence from Britain. (In fact, the statue had been approved by commonwealth legislatures before it was passed by British Parliament in 1931, granting complete independence to self-governing member countries. /But it did not, however, apply automatically to new Zealand or Australia, both of which had to adopt it by legislation.) The Labour Party had lost its vigour. The young men who had steered it to victory in the mid-1930s, and who had transformed the nation into a modern welfare state, could not meet the challenge of the new era. They were dilatory in decontrolling the economy after the war and were in effect suppressing the desire of the community to enjoy a freer economic environment.

They were defeated in 1949 by the National Party, a political movement which had first fought a general election in 1938 and been soundly beaten by Labour. National had in the meantime attracted many young businessmen who wanted a greater private-enterprise influence in the management of the economy. National's victory ended an era and paved the way for the shaping of modern New Zealand.


The years following World War II can be fairly accurately divided into two phases - before and after British entry into the European Economic Community (Common Market) in 1973. Before this event New Zealanders were living, as they used to say, "high on the sheep's back." But after the nation's chief dairy-product market committed itself to purchasing butter, milk and cheese from other EEC members. Kiwis were forced to tighten their belts and look long and hard at tough measures to derail rising unemployment and inflation. Politics have been dominated through the period by the National Party, which has let power slip from its hands for only three brief spells since 1949. These have been years of growing industrialisation, social innovations and increasing activism and environmental awareness.

Power in One House

The 1950s began with a political tremor as the National Party government abolished the Legislative Council, the often-ineffectual upper house of the national Parliament. The appointive body had been modelled upon the British House of Lords to give New Zealand's bicameral Parliament. When it was done away with in 1950, the government promised to replace it with an elective body. This has never occurred, ever since. New Zealand has been one of few democratic nations on earth with a unicameral legislative. Critics maintain that with no written constitution and no upper house, the New Zealand parliamentary system gives almost untrammelled power to the prime minister, who comes to power as the leader of the party with an elected majority in the House of Representatives. One of the first actions taken by the unicameral House was the ratification of the Anzus (Australia-New Zealand-United States) mutual security pact in 1951. In World War II, the United States had played the major role in protecting both South Pacific nations from the Japanese advance (ironically, the ANZAC forces were in Europe at the time); and the signing of this Anzus pact was a clear indication on the part of New Zealand and Australia and they had to look away from Great Britain to meet their defence requirements.

Except for a three-year period (1957)-1960) during which the Labour Party briefly regained the upper hand in Parliament, the National Party remained in power and controlled the country's destiny for 23 years, from 1949 to 1972 - principally under just two prime ministers, Sir Sidney Holland (1949-1957) and Sir Keith Holyoake (1957 and 1960-1972). With Holyoake at the helm, New Zealand reverted to its socially progressive past in becoming the first nation outside of Scandinavia to create within the government the appointive position of "ombudsman." In effect a parliamentary commissioner, the ombudsman's role is to investigate and expedite the claims of private citizens against bureaucracy and officialdom. When the claims are justified, the ombudsman assures that action is taken - restoring lost pensions, moving boundary markers, and the like. Where the claims are not justified, he explains the government's position to the complainant. this idea has proven to be tremendously successful since it was first enacted in 1962.

Environmentalists also began to speak their piece in the 1960s. the biggest issue initially was a government plant o raise the water level of beautiful Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park, to produce cheap hydro-electric power for the Australia-owned aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point near Bluff. the conservationists forced a compromise on the issue, the lake's waters being used for hydro-electricity but the water level being maintained. Numerous other issues have raised the choler of environmentalists in recent years, often involving the damming of previously untouched steams for hydro-power. Another major concern is the use of chemical defoliants to clear the bush for farming. But of even more far-reaching consequence to many New Zealanders is the nuclear issue. Again in the 1960s, as France began stepping up a campaign of nuclear testing in its Polynesian possessions, New Zealand scientists began to monitor radioactivity in the regional Protest ships travelled to French Polynesia to intentionally block tests, back home, there were several mass demonstrations. meanwhile, there was an increasing outcry against nuclear=-armed or nuclear-powered United States naval vessels being permitted in New Zealand ports, as part of the Anzus pact. But the issue didn't really reach a head until the 1984 elections.

A Labour government was returned to power in 1972 with the economic crisis impending. Prime Minister Norman Kirk earned immediate kudos among many New Zealanders by withdrawing Kiwi troops from Vietnam, where they had been serving since 1965 in support of United States forces under the Anzus agreement. But in an effort to reduce the burden for New Zealand citizens, Kirk placed restrictions on the previously uncontrolled immigration to New Zealand of British nationals and all other commonwealth citizen s in European blood.

A British Farm

In order to understand the effect of Britain's EEC membership on the New Zealand economy, one must realize the importance of overseas trade on an economy almost entirely dependent upon primary production. New Zealand lives on grass. Its temperate climate, with rainfall spread evenly through the year, grows grass better than just about anywhere else. Grass feeds sheep and cattle, which in turn feed New Zealanders. When Britain joined the Common Market, New Zealand's No. 1 market virtually disappeared and pastoral products are hard to sell elsewhere in the world at prices to which New Zealanders had become accustomed. Through the 1950s, New Zealand was virtually an offshore British farm. In a country whose export trade, as a proportion of gross national product is among the highest in the world, New Zealand depended almost entirely upon its sales to England. About three-quarters of all exports went in bulk to Britain, peaking at close to 90 percent at the beginning of World War II. These exports were almost completely animal products. In return, nearly half of New Zealand's imports came from Britain, with most of the rest from Australia or the United States.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the whole scenario began to change. It became apparent that Britain was beginning to look to Europe, and the long-standing familiar relationship with New Zealand would have to change. Because production had so long been so closely tied to British tastes, this means New Zealanders would have to diversify their production to gain diversification of markets. It was a matter of marketing. But marketing was something. New Zealanders had never needed to do. They had lived well, high on the sheep's back. For so long, by the relatively simple process of farming well, that the British jump into the EEC in 1973 left them in confusion and bewilderment. The trade barriers imposed on Britain by EEC membership, combined with rocketing oil prices, sent the cost of industrial goods sky high. So New Zealand on the one hand was producing goods whose prices dawdled behind, held back by artificially underpriced competition from subsidised over-protected production in the EEC and the United States; and on the other hand was paying more and more for industrial goods because it had to import most of them.

Most Western countries have political barriers against the import of pastoral products. new Zealand, with 3.3 million people, had neither the industrial market size nor the political muscle to fight back. It had no choice but to borrow against trade deficits and for capital development, an option which left it with an increasing national overseas debt. With the economic crises, new Zealand's public mood favoured the demanding of much of the welfare legislation of prior years - more commercial freedom with less government intervention and more dominance by the marketplace. But Kirk introduced a landmark accident compensation scheme in the early 1970s. this scheme covers medical costs and gives income protection for anyone injured in an accident, irrespective of who was directly to blame or indirectly responsible for the accident. He also maintained a national superannuation scheme which gives indexed persons to everyone, regardless of personal wealth, from age 60. Kirk died in office in August 1974, and was succeeded to the post by prime minister by Wallace (Bill) Rowling. Within a year, the Labour government had devalued the dollar twice, placed numerous import restrictions, and borrowed heavily abroad. Nevertheless, inflation reached about 17 percent. The public reacted by returning the National Party to office in November 1975.

Tight Measures

Led by Sir Robert Muldoon - who had served as finance minister in the Holyoake ministry - National doubled the tight measures imposed by Labour on immigration, imports and the dollar. Muldoon, pugnacious and controversial but never dull, provoked the anger of trade unionists throughout the country by imposing a wage freeze, but held his line in the face of numerous retaliatory strikes and demonstrations. The Muldoon government also had to deal with some racial problems, and with a brain drain of young New Zealanders in 1980s, more than 30,000 Kiwis were leaving annually to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Muldoon shrugged - the average intelligence quotient of departing New Zealanders, he said, compared to the average IQ of Australians, meant the migration was "raising the collective IQ of both countries".

By 1975, Britain was taking only 22 percent of New Zealand's exports, with Australia, Japan and the United States taking 12 percent and the rest of the world 42 percent. Internal inflation raged so strongly at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s (up to 17 percent) that farm costs skyrocketed and the Muldoon ministry humiliatingly had to subsidise New Zealand's own farmers through supplementary minimum prices (SMPs). A wages-price freeze from 1982 cut inflation to around 4 p3rcent, but all the regulation and readjustment caused an agony of doubt about the short-term future of the economy. By 1984, unemployment had reached 130,000 and the national overseas debt stood at NZ$14.3 billion. The economic woes and Muldoon's own gritty personality wore away his Parliamentary majority until in mid-1984, with the defection of a National Party member, the prime minister called a snap election - and was soundly defeated by a restructured Labour Party. Labour captured 56 seats in the House of Representatives to National's 37 (with two going to the fledging Social Credit party).

led by David Lange, a former lawyer for the poor who at 41 became New Zealand's youngest Prime Minister of the 20th centu8ry, Labour pledged to set up a 320-km (200-mile) nuclear-free zone around the shores of New Zealand and to re-negotiate the 33-year old Anzus security pact to force the United States to keep nuclear armaments out of New Zealand ports. David Lange resigned in 1989 and his deputy, Geoffrey Palmer, took over as Prime Minister. Palmer resigned in early September 1990, almost two months before the national elections, and was succeeded by Foreign Minister Mike Moore. new Zealand today sees its economic future as closely tied to Australia. A New-Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in August 1965, came into effect in January the following year, ran for a 10-yuear period and was extended for another 10 years. It did not survive the second term. The aim of NAFTA was to set aside impediments to the expansion of mutually beneficial trade across the Tasman Sea. but the progressive reduction of duties on goods listed in an appendix to the agreement was subject to heavy pressure from industrial interests in each country.

As a response to the pressure from industry, and as an inexorable move toward freer trade between Australia and New Zealand, a new agreement came into force in January 1, 1983. Called Closer Economic Relations (CER), it provides for a gradual but inevitable phasing out of import-export controls for trade between the two nations. Detailed in its approach, it provides for the phased removal of duties as well as the progressive liberalisation of all remaining quantitative restrictions and their total elimination by 1995. While New Zealand will almost certainly remain in the economic crisis in the near future, economic union with Australia became a federation of states; right through to the turn of the 20th century, thee was a body of opinion in New Zealand that favoured Australian state-hold. Now it is extremely unlikely.

There is some good news on the economic front. A kiwifruit led resurgence of horticulture had begun to make a dramatic contribution to overseas earnings. A large natural-gas field off the west coast of Taranaki, the Maui field, is the basis of a petrochemical industry and a large energy source for the growing productivity of light industry. A number of small but economically viable oil fields have been located onshore in Taranaki and there is some confidence among geologists that large deposits will be found. In fact, the country has huge energy resources. Abundant hydro-electric sources are still being tapped and there are known recoverable reserves of nearly 3 million tonnes of coal, most of it low in ash and sulphur and highly reactive.

If the diversification of markets for exports has developed well, the diversification of production has lagged. Around products from the pastoral industry still represent more than 52 percent of the value of exports )though manufacture of woollen fabrics, carpets and yarns is increasing), and other agricultural products such as fruit, flowers, vegetables and grass seed, as well as timber products (including paper and wood pulp), mean this country is still la largely dependent for its livelihood on primary reduction. New Zealand remains one of the world's largest exporters of butter and cheese, wool and meat. More than half the butter and lamb exports go to Europe (with the Middle East the major new market for lamb); more than half the cheese is shipped to Japan and the United States, and three-quarters of the mutton to the Soviet Union. Wool remains an international commodity with few artificial trade barriers. Tourism has become a valuable gather of foreign exchange. New Zealand is far from the high-density tourism routes of the world and is relatively expensive to reach. But as the value of the New Zealand dollar declined during the early 1980s, it became a low-cost destination.  


The idea persists that the archetypal Kiwi is a country person - a farmer : dogs at heel, sandpaper hand holding a stick face burnished by the nor'wester, eyes creased against the hard light of the afternoon as he peers into the hills for sheep to muster. Perhaps it is new Zealand's continuing dependence on the state of the international market for meat, wool, dairy and horticultural products that gives an outsider little reason to think otherwise. In reality, the New Zealander is an urbanite. More than 2 million of the 3.3 million New Zealanders live in or on the perimeter of major cities; thee are nearly as many people in the Auckland urban area as in the South island. Eight-five percent of New Zealanders live in towns of more than 1,000 people; in some rural areas hundreds of families living on their farms ma be less than a half-ho9ur away from a city of 50,000.

The majority of the Europeans (given the name pakehas by the Maori) who began to populate New Zealand, less than 200 years ago, were of British origin. today they comprise about 90 percent of the population. that figure is misleading; Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world, with well over 100,000 Maori and other Pacific Islanders making their homes thee. All over New Zealand's wide cross-section of other nationalities represents an indispensable ingredient in the Kiwi melting post. Beginning with the Chinese in the last century and followed by Scandinavians, Germans, Dalmatian, Greeks, Italians, Lebanese, refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe and from ore recent tragedies in Indochina, there has been a steady flow of immigrants into New Zealand. Together, Maori, Pacific Islanders and pakehas are evolving in New Zealand a culture that is neither wholly Polynesian nor wholly Western, but an exciting amalgam of both - something that is distinctively New Zealand in character.


Many New Zealanders are undergoing an abrupt transmutation - culturally from Briton to American, and temperamentally from laidback, to-it-yo9urself weekender to round-the-clock urbanite. The causes, many and subtle, include economic and social adversity, the jet-age breakdown of isolation and remoteness, and the pervasive influence of TV. New Zealand has had one of the least diverse population mixes of any country colonised during the great expansion of European colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Settlement was predominantly organised and achieved by English and Scots, with some Irish sneaking in through the West Coast, mostly from Australia sharing the gold rush period, and through Auckland which has always been the most commercial and cosmopolitan of the cities. There have been other pockets of immigrants, usually originating from Europe, but which have been completely absorbed within a generation. the exception is the large influx of Pacific Islanders during the past two decades who actually managed to beat the system of finding work, for a while during the affluent good times, that Pakehas didn't want to do. The Pacific Islanders have given colour and character to life in Auckland making it more a part of Polynesia.  

The British Connection

While the population mix is predominantly Maori, English, Scottish and Pacific Island, since the middle of last century the ambience has been unremittingly British. Historian Keith Sinclair wrote:

"Ever since the late 19th century, New Zealand has commonly been considered the most dutiful of Britain's daughters. It is a reputation which many New Zealanders, especially prime ministers intent on making an impression in London, or on securing commercial connections, have fostered on every oratorical opportunity. Few Canadians, Australians or South Africans have cared to contest the claim..."

Journalist and novelist David Ballantyne wrote a few years ago:

"New Zealand immigration policies through the years have been pretty shrewdly geared to ensuring that the country keeps in low-key image. God's Own country has no need of stirrers. The preference has always been for folk of British stock, meaning working-class and middle-class types from the Old Country - dependable, more likely to fit in than Italians and such like flighty foreigners. Next preference has been for the Dutch, maybe because it was a Dutchman Abel Tasman, who first sighted New Zealand (in 1642), more likely because the phlegmatic Dutch don't play up...."

In the lazy summer of New Zealand culture (about the middle of the century when the country moved without the slightest lurch into adulthood with the adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1947, which ended its status as a Dominion of Britain) there was more than a touch of xenophobia about Kiwis, who had formulated a set of aspirations and a fair measure of contempt for those of other peoples. One of the most perceptive essays written about the country and the people, at about the time, came from James A. Michener in the preface of his New Zealand story in the Return to Paradise collection. The story, later made into a major Hollywood feature film, was "Until They Sail," but the essay transfixed the New Zealand of the time with unerring skill and accuracy:

"The typical New Zealander wears grey flannel trousers, an expensive sleeveless sweater, and a trim sports coat. When he dresses up it's in a stiff, high-breasted dark suit with vest, which he never discards, even on sweltering days. He is quiet, modest, eager to defend his honour, and addicted to dreadful jokes. .. Along with the Spaniard, he is probably the most conservative white man still living... He is most unsentimental, which probably explains why there has been no first-rate art of any kind produced in New Zealand to date. yet he can become maudlin if you mention the gallant All Blacks, (their) famous Rugby team )all-black jerseys with silver badges)...Few Americans appreciate the tremendous sacrifices made by New Zealand in the last two wars. Among the Allies she had the highest percentage of men in arms - much higher than the United States - the greatest percentage overseas, and the largest percentage killed..."

Michener said it could be claimed that the bravest soldier in each of the world wars was a New Zealander - Bernard Freyberg in the first, and in the second "a stumpy square-jawed chap" whose "behaviour under fire seems incredible," the only fighting man ever to win the Victoria Cross twice, Charles Upham. The beginning of the jet-age was the first of many changes to affect New Zealand. As Manager in 1965 the new Auckland International Airport was opened and the national carrier, TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways) changed its name to Air New Zealand and bought DC8 jets. With Auckland 1,900 km (1,180 miles) from Sydney and five times as far from any major Western city, New Zealanders previously had to embark on weeks-long ocean journeys in order to trade their cultural  roots in Europe or the United States. Travel outside new Zealand, and Britain was invariably the destination, involved such large distances that there had to be a friend or relative at the end of the journey. Just about the only ones to leave New Zealand in the two generations before World War II were those who went to the Middle East or Finance to fight in World War I.

In the 1950s a number of young people began to travel to Britain by sea in search of "OE" (overseas experience). Travelling back on the very ships which brought immigrants out, they stayed for maybe a year. The 1960s saw New Zealanders embarking on the mass overseas travel that has so deeply changed their attitudes and lifestyles. Going first to Australia or Fiji, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia and other nearby destinations, they now go in ever-increasing numbers to the United States and all over the world. Until the end of the 1970s, New Zealanders going overseas were usually "ethnic" travellers; they were people going back to the homeland of their forebears - Britain. More New Zealanders go to the United States now than they do to Europe; the 100 percent increase in the number of Americans coming to New Zealand as either tourists or on business is one indication of this new relationship. All this had led to an explosion of modernity. Whereas, in the 1960s, it was difficult to find a restaurant outside a hotel (and only hotel restaurants served wine then), there are now hundreds of ethnic restaurants in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and some of the smaller provincial cities. Wine, once regarded as "plonk" and never drunk regularly with meals, is today a thriving industry. In fact, New Zealand while wines now rank with the world's best and the quality of the reds is improving too.

Until the beginning of the 1980s, all shops, except some corner stores, were closed from Friday evening until Monday morning. And the range of goods those corner stores could sell was severely prescribed by legislation. Now shops are allowed to be open through Saturday and some are seeking Sunday licences as well.

Social Attitudes

Cosmopolitan influences, and the economic infrastructure which has broadened business opportunities, have dramatically re-oriented New Zealanders' social attitudes. Whereas for 150 years there was a national sense of egalitarianism, a levelling out of income and opportunity in a bid to gain widespread security, there has been a new belief spreading - that to hold its place in the world the country and its people must work harder and compete more fiercely, both on the domestic market and overseas, in a bid to achieve greater economic efficiency. This has changed the society from one in which everyone was considered entitled to a job and a share of the national cake into one in which unemployment is high and in which there is a growing division between the rich and the poor.

With more Maori unemployed, proportionately speaking, than Pakehas, social unrest, which sometimes assumes racial overtones, is greater than at any time since the land wars between the two races in the third quarter of the last century. This, in turn has brought a new volatility to national politics. The old and narrow division between the two political groupings, neither far from the centre, doesn't seem wide enough to contain the national aspirations anymore. Now parties, however, blooming briefly in the discontent with the two main parties (National and Labour), give way when it seems they cannot articulate the confused aspirations of the dissidents.

Pacific Partners

The unrest and confusion began when Britain joined the European Economic Community and New Zealand was no longer an ancillary producer of the British economy, growing food and fibre from pastoral animals on the other side of the world. Exposed to the erratic commodities markets of the world. Kiwis found they had never developed real trading expertise, and that they needed to do so quickly. This new sense of marketing and the new urge to compete have spread through a domestic market which had long slumbered in a kindly cost-plus world. The cutting of the umbilical cord to Britain and the subsequent need to sell in other markets had led to cultural changes. Trade with New Zealand's traditional partner. Australia, has grown and business with North America has expanded year by year until it is now more important in many ways than trading with Europe. Major trading partners now are Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and countries of the Middle East. As a result, New Zealand seems to sit more comfortably in the Pacific these days, acknowledging its presence among the Polynesian islands. the peoples of Southeast Asia and those with the same roots in European culture, Australia and the United States. both New Zealanders and Australians are becoming perceptibly more like Americans than people of the old Western world in dress, manner and in a full range of social mores.

If the indications are fulfilled, New Zealanders should make a strong contribution to this region, now that its orientation is to the Pacific and away from Europe. Since before the end of last century, when New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford, a great scientist in the field of nuclear physics, left for Britain, a consistent trickle of people from this small country has gone to Europe and done gifted work for science, medicine and in many other forms of endeavour. Already New Zealand entertainers and film-makers are beginning to attract considerable attention around the Pacific-rim, and in Australia expatriate Kiwis have been steadily emerging as leaders in the media and in business. Change is always relative and thee is much about New Zealand life at home that in still enviable. The weekend is not inviolate any more but it is still a pleasant time for families especially throughout the summer, and the long and leisurely Christmas break of about thee weeks is a kind of relaxed southern outdoors fiesta. Although some people now choose to live in apartments in the inner cities - almost unheard of 25 years ago - most Kiwis still prefer a house, garden and a lawn to hold barbecue parties on.

Rotorua Visit- New Zealand

An extract from IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS by BEATRICE GRIMSHAW, published in London by Hutchinson & Co., 1908. 

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