New Zealand History

The history of New Zealand begins with the first Polynesian navigators who arrived around the year 800 AD. In terms of World history, New Zealand was one of the last major land masses to be settled, and these earliest of settlers must have been pretty impressed by the new land that they found. Over the next several hundred years, more and more Polynesian newcomers would arrive in a series of migrations. Eventually, they would form the Maori culture, which still maintains a healthy presence to this day. The Maori are surely a big part of the overall New Zealand culture, their customs and traditions often on display for curious tourists. In the early days, the Maori were not as welcoming of foreigners, as some unfortunate Dutch explorers would figure out first hand.

The different Maori tribes that often cooperated with each other were also often known to engage in the occasional battle as well. Inter-tribal warfare helped to reduce Maori numbers by the time the first European settlers arrived, and the diseases that the new immigrants brought with them did their fair share of damage as well. According to New Zealand facts, the very first Europeans to land here were Dutch. They were lead by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, and they arrived in 1642. It wouldn't result in an extended stay, however, as some of Tasman's men were massacred and incorporated into the local tribe's diet. Understandably, it wouldn't be until 1769 that Europeans would return. Word must have gotten around quickly back then.

The British explorer, James Cook, would be the next brave soul to sail to New Zealand, doing so on his famed 1768-1781 voyage. Cook would go on to map most of the New Zealand coastline, as well as claim the land for the British Crown. His voyage would mark a definitive turning point in New Zealand history. Partly because of his efforts, North American and European whaling and trading ships would begin visiting New Zealand. The Maori would now have to truly face the fact that they would be sharing their homeland with others. Into the late 1700"s and early half of the 1800"s, New Zealand would exist more or less as a branch of Australia, serving mostly as a sealing and whaling destination. Between the years of 1839 and 1841, New Zealand actually fell within the jurisdictional realm of New South Wales. During this time in Great Britain, different companies were created to facilitate the migration of British settlers to New Zealand. New Zealand facts highlight the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which resulted in the Maori ceding their control of the land. The British would guarantee the Maori protection of their lands in exchange for governance, though subsequent wars would do their part to sour this era in the history of New Zealand. To this day, the Maori question the validity and integrity of this famous treaty, though violent clashings of any kind appear to be a thing of the past.

In 1841, Auckland became the capital of New Zealand, though as New Zealand facts now see it, it would not maintain this designation for long. Wellington was eventually deemed a more suitable location for the country's capital, not only boasting an ideal harbor, but also enjoying closer proximity to the South Island. The history of New Zealand would see the parliament first using Wellington as its seat in 1865. On a side note, if your New Zealand vacation sees you arriving in either Auckland or Wellington, there are a couple choice New Zealand museums between the two cities that can teach you all about the history of New Zealand and its people. The Auckland Museum has more Maori and Polynesian artifacts than any other museum in the world, and in Wellington, the Museum of New Zealand-Te Papa Tongarewa is a splendid place to gain insight into New Zealand culture. Though the Wellington fire of 1907 destroyed most of the original New Zealand Parliament Buildings, the 1899 Parliament Library still stands. Construction of the new Parliament House began in 1914, but only the first stage was ever finished. Next to the Parliament House is a curious building indeed. Completed in 1981, "The Beehive", as it was known, became the home of the Executive Wing. You can arrange to take tours of these buildings to see their inner workings. One of the more important New Zealand facts pertains to the year in which the country actually gained independence from Britain. Though Britain had granted autonomy to New Zealand in 1931, it wouldn't be until 1947 that it would formally proclaim it. If you had a possession as remarkably and stunningly beautiful as New Zealand, you would probably have a tough time parting with it as well.

Today, the New Zealand culture is showing off its pride and achievements more than ever. Great strides in the New Zealand food scene are attracting gastronomical enthusiasts to the country, while the choice New Zealand wines continue to impress connoisseurs around the world. The New Zealand film festivals that take place in cities like Auckland and Dunedin, highlight the burgeoning New Zealand film industry, and the music scene is more diverse than ever. Festivals are surely a great way to celebrate New Zealand's past and its present. If you are in Auckland in early March, you won't want to miss the 2-day Pasifika Festival, which celebrates Polynesian music, food and culture. The history of New Zealand may be short, but in that limited amount of time, this country has sure come a long, long way.

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