New Zealand History

The Maori peopleThe Maori people
  • New Zealand's history began when the Rangitata land mass separated from the ancient super continent of Gondwana 80 million years ago, evolving over time to become modern New Zealand.
  • As Polynesians discovered and settled in New Zealand (sometime between 950 and 1130AD), the Moriori people settled around the same time in the Chatham Islands, or Rekohu, a small group of islands off the coast of New Zealand.
  • In 1642 the first of the European explorers, Abel Tasman from Holland, sailed into New Zealand waters. The first encounter between Māori and the Europeans was violent, and after partly charting the coastline, Tasman left New Zealand without ever having setting foot ashore.
  • In 1769 James Cook, British explorer, and Jean François Marie de Surville, commander of a French trading ship, both arrived by coincidence in New Zealand waters at the same time. Neither ship ever sighted the other.
  • From the late 1790s on, whalers, traders, and missionaries arrived, establishing settlements mainly along the far northern coast of New Zealand.
  • The arrival of traders led to a flourishing musket trade with local Māori, who rapidly foresaw the advantages of defeating enemy tribes with this deadly new weapon, leading to the devastating period known as the intertribal Musket Wars.
  • During British colonisation, Māori chiefs signed a Treaty with the British on 6th February 1840, known as the Treaty of Waitangi. The subsequent influx of European settlers led to the turbulent period of the New Zealand Wars, also known as the Land Wars, which lasted over twenty years. By 1870 the British government withdrew the last of its troops from New Zealand, not wishing to invest any further in a costly overseas war which could have continued indefinitely.
  • New Zealand today is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The British Monarch, although constitutional head of state, plays no active role in the administration of New Zealand's government.

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