New Zealand History [Introduction]

Kiaora! Haere Mai! 

Welcome to my next excerpt of the part for all about New Zealand and this one I hope will be as short and brief as possible. I am now going to take you all back in time to learn about New Zealand and the history behind it along with some of the heritages, cultural and other means in this part of the history to make in the books. New Zealand is known for many things in the past for their history yet what you will learn and discover today should excite you and teach you all more about my country and to entice you all to come and visit New Zealand as there’s plenty of acitivities to do depending on the weather and seasons you choose to come and visit. There is also a variety of different foods to try out from many different cultures as New Zealand is a mulit-cultural and multi-diverse country. So, buckle up and let’s read on!


New Zealand, Māori Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud),  is an island country that is located in the South Pacific Ocean, the southwesternmost part of Polynesia. New Zealand is a remote land—one of the last sizable territories suitable for habitation to be populated and settled—and lies more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Australia, our nearest neighboring neighbour. The country comprises two main islands—the North and the South Island and inside of these two islands are towns and cities (I shall be sharing different parts of each region and more about what they are known for etc in my next few blogs-  so stay tuned for it) —With New Zealand, there is a large number of small islands, some of them hundreds of miles from the main group.

Waikato River, Hamilton, New Zealand
(Picture of Waikato River, Hamilton, New Zealand)


The capital city is Wellington and the largest urban area is Auckland; both are located on the North Island. New Zealand administers the South Pacific island group of Tokelau and claims a section of the Antarctic continent. Niue and the Cook Islands are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand.


New Zealand, there is a land of great contrasts and diversity in everything that you will see and explore.


Here you will see many active volcanoes, spectacular caves, deep glacier lakes, verdant valleys, dazzling fjords, long sandy beaches, and the spectacular snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana on the South Island—all contribute to New Zealand’s scenic beauty.


(Image of the Southern Alps)

New Zealand also has a unique array of vegetation and animal life, much of which developed during the country’s prolonged isolation. It is the sole home, for example, of the long-beaked, flightless kiwi, the ubiquitous nickname for New Zealanders. (More about how to speak Kiwi Slang in one of my next blogs for you all to read) 

(Image of the Brown Kiwi)


New Zealand was the largest country in Polynesia when it was annexed by Great Britain in 1840. Thereafter it was successively a crown colony, a self-governing colony (1856), and a dominion (1907). By the 1920s it controlled almost all of its internal and external policies, although it did not become fully independent until 1947 when it adopted the Statute of Westminster. It is a member of the Commonwealth.

Source from: Sir Edmund Hillary, 1960 by Yousuf Karsh

The ascent of Mount Everest by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 was one of the defining moments of the 20th century. “In some ways,” Hillary suggested, “I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed.”


(Note more on Sir Edmund Hillary later on)


(Image of Mt. Everest)



Despite New Zealand’s isolation, the country has been fully engaged in international affairs since the early 20th century, being an active member of a number of intergovernmental institutions, including the United Nations.


It has also participated in several wars, including World Wars I and II. Economically the country was dependent on the export of agricultural products, especially to Great Britain. The entry of Britain into the European Community in the early 1970s, however, forced New Zealand to expand its trade relations with other countries.


(A photograph was taken during NZ’s final attack of WWI near Le Quesnoy in France. Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library)


It also began to develop a much more extensive and varied industrial sector. Tourism has played an increasingly important role in the economy, though this sector has been vulnerable to global financial instability.


The social and cultural gap between New Zealand’s two main groups—the indigenous Māori of Polynesian heritage and the colonizers and later immigrants from the British Isles and their descendants—has decreased since the 1970s, though educational and economic differences between the two groups remain.



(Māori woman, c. 1890–1920)


Immigration from other areas—Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe—has also made a mark, and New Zealand culture today reflects these many influences. Minority rights and race-related issues continue to play an important role in New Zealand politics.

Relief of New Zealand


Although New Zealand is small, its geologic history is complex. Land has existed in the vicinity of New Zealand for most of the past 500 million years. The earliest known rocks originated as sedimentary deposits some 545 million to 540 million years ago, at the close of Precambrian time (4.6 billion to 541 million years ago) and the beginning of the Cambrian Period (541 million to 485 million years ago); their source area was probably the continental forelands of Australia and Antarctica, then part of a nearby single supercontinent.


Continental drift (the movement of large plates of Earth’s crust) created a distinct island arc and oceanic trench structure by the Carboniferous Period (about 359 to 299 million years ago), when deposition began in the downwards (trenches) of the sedimentary rocks that today make up some three-fourths of New Zealand.


(Image From:


This environment lasted about 250 million years and is typified by both downward oceanic sedimentary rocks and terrestrial volcanic rocks. This period was terminated in the west at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period (about 145 million years ago) by the Rangitata Orogeny (mountain-building episode), although downwarp deposition continued in the east. These mountains were slowly worn down by erosion, and the sea transgressed, eventually covering almost all of the land. At the end of the Oligocene Epoch (about 23 million years ago), the Kaikōura Orogeny began, raising land above the sea again, including the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana of the South Island.Many of the great earth movements associated with this final orogeny took place (and take place today) along faults, which divide the landscape into great blocks, chief of which is the Alpine Fault of the South Island. The erosion and continued movement of these faulted blocks, together with the continuing volcanism of the North Island, define to a large extent the landscape of the country.

New Zealand is part of the Ring of Fire—the circum-Pacific seismic belt marked by frequent earthquakes and considerable volcanic activity. The North Island and the western part of the South Island are on the Indian-Australian Plate, and the remainder of the South Island is on the Pacific Plate. Their collision creates violent seismic activity in subduction zones and along faults. Numerous earthquakes occur annually, including hundreds that can be felt by New Zealanders. A number of these temblors have been disastrous, such as one that devastated the towns of Napier and Hastings in 1931 and a series of quakes that did likewise in Christchurch in 2010–11.

Both the North and the South islands are roughly bisected by mountains. Swift snow-fed rivers drain from the hills, although only in the east of the South Island have extensive alluvial plains been built up. The alluvial Canterbury Plains contrast sharply with the precipitous slopes and narrow coastal strip of the Westland region on the west coast of the South Island. The Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana is a 300-mile- (480-km-) long chain of fold mountains containing New Zealand’s highest mountain—Aoraki/Mount Cook at 12,316 feet (3,754 meters)—and some 20 other peaks that rise above 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), as well as an extensive glacier system with associated lakes.


There are more than 360 glaciers in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. The Tasman Glacier, the largest in New Zealand, with a length of 18 miles (29 km) and a width of more than 0.5 mile (0.8 km), flows down the eastern slopes of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Other important glaciers on the eastern slopes of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana are the Murchison, Mueller, and Godley; the Fox and Franz Josef are the largest on the western slopes. The North Island has seven small glaciers on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu.


In the north of the South Island, the Alps break up into steep upswelling ridges. On their western face, there are mineral deposits, and to the east they continue into two parallel ranges, terminating in a series of sounds. To the south, the Alps break up into a rugged, dissected country of difficult access and magnificent scenery, particularly toward the western tip of the island (called Fiordland). On its eastern boundary, this wilderness borders a high central plateau called Central Otago, which has an almost continental climate.

The terrain of the North Island is much less precipitous than that of the South and has a more benign climate and greater economic potential. In the centre of the island, the Volcanic Plateau rises abruptly 

from the southern shores of Lake Taupō, New Zealand’s largest natural lake, itself an ancient volcanic crater.

(Scenic View Lake Taupo)

To the east, ranges form a backdrop to the rolling countryside in which pockets of highly fertile land are associated with the river systems. To the south, more ranges run to the sea. On the western and eastern slopes of these ranges, the land is generally poor, although the western downland region is fertile until it fades into a coastal plain dominated by sand dunes. To the west of the Volcanic Plateau, fairly mountainous country merges into the undulating farmlands of the Taranaki region, where the mild climate favours dairy farming even on the slopes of Mount Taranaki (Mount Egmont), a volcano that has been dormant since the 17th century. North of Mount Taranaki is the spectacular Waitomo caves, (Image of Mt Taranaki)                                                  where stalactites and stalagmites are illuminated by thousands of glowworms.

Auckland, New Zealand


The mountainous country of both islands is cut by many rivers, which are swift, unnavigable, and obstructive to communication. The longest is the Waikato, in the North Island, and the swiftest is the Clutha/Mata-Au, in the South. Many of the rivers arise from or drain into one or other of the numerous lakes associated with the mountain chains. A number of these lakes have been used as reservoirs for hydroelectric projects, and artificial lakes, such as the large Lake Benmore, have been created for hydroelectric power generation.

Soils of New Zealand

New Zealand’s soils are often deeply weathered, lacking in many nutrients, and, most of all, highly variable over short distances. Soils based on sedimentary rock formations are mostly clays and are found over about three-fourths of the country. Pockets of fertile alluvial soil in river basins or along river terraces form the orchard and market-gardening regions of the country.

In the South Island, variations in mean annual precipitation have had an important effect. The brown-gray soils of Central Otago are thin and coarse-textured and have subsoil accumulations of lime, whereas the yellow-gray earth of much of the Canterbury Plains, as well as areas of lower rainfall in the North Island, are partially podzolized (layered), with a gray upper horizon. The yellow-brown soils that characterize much of the North Island are often podzolized from acid leaching in humid forest environments. Their fertility varies with the species composition of their vegetation. Forests of false beech (genus Nothofagus), as well as of tawa and taraire, indicate soils of reasonably high fertility, while forests of kauri pine and rimu indicate podzolized soils.

Plant and animal life


The indigenous vegetation of New Zealand consisted of mixed evergreen forests covering perhaps two-thirds of the total land area. The islands’ prolonged isolation encouraged the evolution of species unknown to the rest of the world; almost nine-tenths of the indigenous plants are peculiar to the country. Today dense “bush” survives only in areas unsuitable for settlement and in parks and reserves. On the west coast of the South Island, this mixed forest still yields most of the native timber used by industry. Along the mountain chain running the length of the country, the false beech is the predominant forest tree.

European settlement made such inroads into the natural forest that erosion in high-country areas became a serious problem. Various government agencies were established to manage and conserve forests, beginning in the late 19th century, and a state forest service was established in 1921 to repair the damage; it uses forest-management techniques and does reforestation, using exotic trees. Experimental areas on the Volcanic Plateau were planted with radiata pine, an introduction from California. This conifer has adapted to New Zealand conditions so well that it is now the staple plantation tree, growing to maturity in 25 years and having a high rate of natural regeneration. Large areas of the Volcanic Plateau, together with other marginal or sub-agricultural land north of Auckland and near Nelson, in the South Island, are now planted with this species.

European broad-leaved species are widely used ornamentally, and willows and poplars are frequently planted to help prevent erosion on hillsides. Gorse has acclimated so readily that it has become a menace, spreading over good and bad land alike, its only virtue being as a nursery for regenerating bush.

Because of New Zealand’s isolation, when the Māori arrived in the 13th century, they found few animals. There were three kinds of reptiles—skinks, geckos, and tuatara, the latter “beak-headed” reptiles having been extinct elsewhere for 100 million years—and also a few primitive species of frogs and two species of bats. These are all extant, although they are confined primarily to outlying islands and isolated or protected parts of the country.


In addition to their domestic animals, Europeans also brought other species with them. Red deer, introduced for sport hunting, and the Australian opossums (for skins) have multiplied dramatically and have greatly damaged the vegetation of the high-country bush. The control of goats, deer, opossums, and rabbits—even in the national parks—is a continuing problem.


(Image of a group of Australian opossums)


In the absence of predatory animals, New Zealand is a paradise for birds, the most interesting of which are flightless. These originally included several species of moa, a large bird that was eventually exterminated by the Māori.



(Image of a Moa)


The kiwi, another flightless species, is extant, though only in secluded bush areas. Wekas and takahes (barely rescued from extinction) probably became flightless after their ancestors’ arrival on the islands millions of years ago.



(Image of a Weka)

(Image of Takahe) 

The pukeko, a swamp hen related to the weka, moves primarily by walking and swimming; though it can fly, it does so only with great effort.



(Image of Pukeko)



Some birds, such as saddlebacks, are peculiar to New Zealand, but many others (e.g., tuis, fantails, and bellbirds) are closely related to Australian birds.


(Image of Fantail)                                                                                                                                                                    (Image of Tui)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Birds that breed in or near New Zealand include the Australian (Australasian) gannets, skuas, penguins, shags, and royal albatrosses.



(Image of an Albatross)

Because New Zealand lies at the meeting place of warm and cool ocean currents, a great variety of fish is found in its surrounding waters. Tropical species such as tuna, marlin, and some sharks are attracted by the warm currents, which are locally populated by snapper, trevally, and kahawai. The Antarctic cold currents, on the other hand,

(Image of Snapper)

(Image of Terakihi)

bring blue and red cod and hakes, while some fish (such as tarakihi, grouper, and bass) that can tolerate a considerable range of water temperatures are found in the waters all around the coasts. Flounder and sole abound on tidal mudflats, and crayfish are prolific in rocky areas of the coastline.

People of New Zealand

Ethnic groups

(New Zealand: Ethnic composition)


Contemporary New Zealand has a majority of people of European origin, a significant minority of Māori, and smaller numbers of people from Pacific islands and Asia. In the early 21st century, Asians were the fastest-growing demographic group.


New Zealand was one of the last sizable land areas suitable for habitation to be populated by human beings. The first settlers were Polynesians who traveled from somewhere in eastern Polynesia, possibly from what is now French Polynesia. They remained isolated in New Zealand until the arrival of European explorers, the first of whom was the Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642.




James Cook

(Image of Abel Janszoon Tasman)


Demographers estimate that, by the time British naval captain James Cook visited the country in 1769, the Māori population was not much greater than 100,000. They had no name for themselves but eventually adopted the name Māori (meaning “normal”) to distinguish themselves from the Europeans, who, after Cook’s voyage, began to arrive with greater frequency.


(Image of James Cook) 


The Europeans brought with them an array of diseases to which the Māori had no resistance, and the Māori population declined rapidly. Their reduction in numbers was exacerbated by widespread intertribal warfare (once the Māori had acquired firearms) and by warfare with Europeans. By 1896 only about 42,000 Māori—a small fraction of New Zealand’s total population at the time—remained. Early in the 20th century, however, their numbers began to increase as they acquired resistance to such diseases as measles and influenza and as their birth rate subsequently recovered. By the early 21st century, Māori constituted about one-sixth of New Zealand’s population, and that proportion was expected to increase.

Europeans began to settle in New Zealand in the 1820s.



They arrived in increasing numbers after the country was annexed by Great Britain following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. By the late 1850s settlers outnumbered Māori, and in 1900 there were some 772,000 Europeans, most of whom were New Zealand-born.

Although the overwhelming majority of immigrants were of British extraction, other Europeans came as well, notably from Scandinavia, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Balkans. Groups of central Europeans came between World Wars I and II, and a large body of Dutch immigrants arrived after World War II. Since the 1950s there has been a growing community of Pacific island peoples from Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau. Although Chinese and Indian immigrants have long settled in New Zealand, since the 1990s there has been a large growth in migration from Asia.


New Zealand is predominantly an English-speaking country, though English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language are official languages. Virtually all Māori speak English, and about one-fourth of them also speak Māori. The Māori language (te reo Māori) is taught at a number of schools. Other non-English languages spoken by significant numbers of people are Samoan, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese.



New Zealand is nominally Christian, with Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian denominations being the largest.





(Anglican Church, Dunedin)


Other Protestant sects and Māori adaptations of Christianity (the Rātana and Ringatū churches) constitute the remainder of the Christian population. About one-third of the population does not claim any religious affiliation. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism have small but growing numbers of adherents. There is no established (official) religion, but Anglican cathedrals are generally used for state occasions.

Demographic trends

Life expectancy in New Zealand is generally high, although it is lower for Māori than for non-Māori. The death rate is below the world average. Annual population growth fluctuates but is generally low, comparable to that of other industrialized Western countries. The natural rate of increase tends to be highest among Māori and people of Pacific island heritage.

Immigration is a major contributor to overall population growth in New Zealand, and that has led to frequent debates about limiting immigration. Although in the past most immigrants came from Great Britain and the Netherlands, they have been surpassed by people from the Pacific islands and Asia. Australia is the preferred destination for emigrants. Both immigration and emigration are sensitive to the rate of growth of the New Zealand economy and its employment opportunities as well as to conditions overseas.

Economy of New Zealand

New Zealand’s economy is developed, but it is comparatively small in the global marketplace. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, New Zealand’s standard of living, based on the export of agricultural products, was one of the highest in the world, but after the mid-20th century, the rate of growth tended to be one of the slowest among the developed countries. Impediments to economic expansion have been the slow growth of the economy of the United Kingdom (which formerly was the main destination of New Zealand’s exports) and its eventual membership in the European Community (later the European Union) and the high tariffs imposed by the major industrial nations against the country’s agricultural products (e.g., butter and meat). New Zealand’s economic history since the mid-20th century has consisted largely of attempts to grow and diversify its economy by finding new markets and new products (such as wine and paper products), expanding its manufacturing base, and entering into or supporting free-trade agreements.

New Zealand has had a long history of government intervention in the economy, ranging from state institutions’ competing in banking and insurance to an extensive social security system. Until the early 1980s, most administrations strengthened and supported such policies, but since then government policy has generally shifted away from intervention, although retaining the basic elements of social security. Most of the subsidies and tax incentives to agricultural and manufacturing exporters have been abolished, and such government enterprises as the Post Office have become more commercially oriented and less dependent on government subsidies. In addition, administrations have attempted to increase the flexibility of the labour market by amending labour laws and encouraging immigration.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

New Zealand’s farming base required a relatively complex economy. Highly productive pastoral farming, embracing extensive sheep grazing and large-scale milk production, was made possible by a temperate climate, heavy investment in land improvement (including the introduction of European grasses and regular application of imported fertilizers), and highly skilled farm management by owner-occupiers, who used one of the highest ratios of capital to labour in farming anywhere in the world.



The farms supported and required many specialized services: finance, trade, transport, building and construction, and especially the processing of butter, cheese, and frozen lamb carcasses and their by-products.






That economy could be described as an offshore European farm, which exported wool and processed dairy products and imported a variety of finished manufactured consumer and capital goods, raw materials, and petroleum. Pastoral farming, especially dairying, has remained significant, but other sectors such as forestry (and the production of paper and other wood products), horticulture, fishing, deer farming, and manufacturing have produced a more balanced economy. Viticulture has also flourished, and many New Zealand wines have come to rank among the world’s best.


hands panning for gold

Apart from gold mining’s brief heyday in the mid-to late 19th century, biological resources have always been more significant than minerals. Domesticated animals introduced from Europe thrived in New Zealand. Forestry has always been important, but the emphasis has swung from felling the original forest for timber to afforestation with pine and fir trees for both timber and pulp. Although New Zealand’s forestry industry is small on the world scale, it is a significant supplier of wood products to the Asia-Pacific region.

Resources and power

Most minerals, metallic and nonmetallic, occur in New Zealand, but few are found in suffiTokaanu hydroelectric power station, New Zealandcient quantities for commercial exploitation. The exceptions are gold, which in the early years of organized settlement was a major export; coal, which is still mined to a considerable extent; iron sands, which are exploited both for export and for domestic use; and, more recently, natural gas. In addition, construction materials, with which the country is well endowed, are quarried.

New Zealand’s energy comes from both fossil fuels and renewable resources such as hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal power. The country has exploited much of its great hydroelectric potential, and hydroelectricity long has supplied the bulk of the country’s power. However, as demand has increased, that proportion has dropped somewhat. Thermal plants fired with coal and natural gas constitute much of the remaining generating capacity, although a small but growing amount comes from geothermal sources. The New Zealand electricity grid has a notable feature in the form of direct-current submarine cables across the Cook Strait. Those link the two main islands, enabling surplus hydroelectric power in the South to be used by the North’s concentration of industry and people. In addition, partnerships between government and private interests developed natural gas reserves and constructed the world’s first plant producing gasoline from natural gas (since closed). There have been some successful offshore drilling for oil reserves.


Even in the 19th century New Zealand’s relative geographic isolation made necessary a proportionately large industrial labour force engaged in the manufacture and repair of agricultural machinery and in shipbuilding, brewing, and timber processing. After the 1880s the factory processing of farm products swelled those numbers, while the country’s temporary isolation during World Wars I and II stimulated the production of a wide range of manufactured goods that previously had been imported. Protectionist policies first espoused, although weakly, by governments in the late 19th century were strengthened after World War I. From the end of World War II until the early 1970s, manufacturing industries were protected by import-licensing fees in order to maintain full employment. Some labour-intensive, heavily protected, and uneconomic activities—such as automobile and consumer-electronics assembly (with the manufacture of some parts and components)—were developed but were not able to remain competitive. Some industries have taken their manufacturing activities offshore, although the sector has remained significant as an employer and as a contributor to gross domestic product.



Agricultural products—principally meat, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables—are New Zealand’s major exports; crude oil and wood, and paper products are also significant. The major imports are crude and refined oil, machinery, and vehicles. New Zealand’s chief trading partners are China, Australia, the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. A succession of trade agreements provided the basis of Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (known as CER), signed in 1983. That agreement eventually eliminated duties and commodity quotas between the two countries and was seen by some as the first step toward integrating their economies. New Zealand also has a free-trade agreement with China, and Australia and New Zealand together are associated in a free-trade arrangement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Transportation and telecommunications

In spite of the rugged nature of the country, most of the inhabited areas of New Zealand are readily accessible. The road system is good even in rural districts, and the main cities have express highway systems. Though the difficult terrain of the country often can make for slow journeys, the distances involved are seldom great.


In the 19th and much of the 20th century, New Zealand depended on shipping for trade and the movement of people. The main towns were located on or near good natural harbours. The major ports are now Auckland, Wellington, and Lyttelton (serving Christchurch). Other ports of note are at Marsden Point, Tauranga, and Napier on the North Island and Nelson, Westport, and Dunedin on the South Island. The import and export of goods via ship has declined from a boom period following World War II, and, consequently, so has maritime employment. Interisland ferries ply the route across Cook Strait.


(Port Nicholson Ship)


The railway network was owned and operated by the government until the 1990s, and since then it has been in and out of private ownership. From 2008 the country’s freight and passenger railways were owned and operated by a state-owned enterprise known as KiwiRail (New Zealand Railways Corporation). The railway network comprises a main trunk line spanning both islands via roll-on, roll-off ferries and branch lines linking most towns. Rail travel is notoriously slow, which discourages passenger travel, but service is efficient for large-scale movement of goods over considerable distances. Long-standing regulations protecting the railways against competition from road carriers were abolished in the early 1980s, and, as a consequence, long-distance road haulage has increased.



The difficulty of the terrain has greatly encouraged air travel in New Zealand. Most provincial towns have airports, and all major urban centers are linked by air service. The national airline, Air New Zealand, has majority government ownership, although, like the railways, it was for a time privately owned. Air New Zealand, along with several foreign airlines, handles the country’s international service, with international air terminals at Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. Hamilton, Palmerston North, Queenstown, and Dunedin also offer limited international service.


New Zealand’s telecommunications industry has undergone numerous reforms to transform the country into one of the leaders in the field. The country’s Post Office originally had a monopoly on telecommunications services, but it was plagued by economic difficulties and poor service. The state-run Telecom Corporation of New Zealand—renamed Spark New Zealand in 2014—was formed in 1987 (privatized in 1990), and industry deregulation began in 1989. Undersea fiber-optic cables, like the direct-current cables, cross the Cook Strait to serve as a main telecommunications link between the two main islands. New Zealanders have adopted changes in information and communications technology rapidly. Cellular phone usage far exceeds the use of landlines. Internet usage is common among the

Government and society

Constitutional framework

The British monarch is the formal head of state and is represented by a governor-general appointed by the monarch (on the recommendation of the New Zealand government) to a five-year term. The governor-general has limited authority, with the office retaining some residual powers to protect the constitution and to act in a situation of constitutional crisis. For example, the governor-general can dissolve Parliament under certain circumstances.

The structure of the New Zealand government is relatively simple, but the country’s constitutional provisions are more complex. Like that of Great Britain, New Zealand’s constitution is a mixture of statute and convention. Where the two clashes, the convention has tended to prevail. The Constitution Act of 1986 simplified that by consolidating and augmenting constitutional legislation dating from 1852.

The business of government is carried out by some 30 departments of varying sizes and importance. Most departments correspond to a ministerial portfolio, with department heads being responsible to their respective ministers for the administration of their departments. Recruiting and promoting of civil servants is under the control of the State Services Commission, which is independent of partisan politics. Heads of departments and their officials do not change with a change of government, thus ensuring a continuity of administration.

As a check on possible administrative injustices, the Office of the parliamentary commissioner for Investigations (ombudsman) was established in 1962; the scope of the office’s jurisdiction was enlarged in 1968 and again in 1975. In addition, the Official Information Act of 1982 permits public access, with specific exceptions, to government documents.

There are also a certain number of non-civil service appointees within the government. They fill positions in government corporations—commercial ventures in which the government is the sole or major stockholder, such as NZ On Air (the government’s broadcast funding agency) and Kiwibank (which provides commercial banking and financial services)—and in a host of bodies with administrative or advisory functions. Political affiliations, as well as expertise and experience, often figure in appointment decisions for those institutions.

Local government

Local government bodies consist of elected councils at the regional and city levels together with specialist and community boards. Those entities have limited powers conferred by statute. The responsibilities of the city councils include the provision of community services and local infrastructure and the management of resources and the local environment. Regional councils carry out larger environmental and infrastructure functions requiring coordination (such as water quality, flood control, civil defense, and transportation planning). Community boards serve as a liaison between the people of the community and local authorities. They are made up of elected members; it is also common, though not obligatory, for a smaller number of additional members to be appointed. Elections for local government bodies are contested every three years.

Over time, many councils and boards have been consolidated by the central government into larger authorities. A major amalgamation brought together several cities and their councils in the Auckland region in 2010. City and regional councils are empowered within their jurisdictions to levy taxes on business and property owners, debate and approve plans, and manage a large range of facilities and services. In the case of Auckland, new entities controlled by the city council have been created to manage major infrastructure development and facilities.


New Zealand derives from the common law of Britain certain statutes passed before 1947 by the British Parliament. New Zealand law usually follows the precedents of English law. Nevertheless, the New Zealand courts have taken a more independent stance and now play a significant constitutional and political role with respect to public and administrative law. In addition, some members of the legal community have challenged the traditional doctrine that future Parliaments are not bound by laws passed by the current Parliament, contending that certain common-law rights might override the will of Parliament.

The law is administered by the Ministry of Justice through its courts. A Supreme Court was established by legislation in 2003 (hearings began in 2004), replacing the British Privy Council. Below the Supreme Court there is a hierarchy of courts dealing with civil and criminal cases, including—in ascending order—District Courts, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal. There are also environment and employment courts, a Māori Land Court and a Māori Appellate Court, and a number of tribunals, including the Waitangi Tribunal, which addresses Māori claims of breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi by the government.


Participation in the military, called the New Zealand Defence Force, is voluntary, and individuals must be at least 17 years old to join. The country maintains a relatively small military force, with an army and a small naval fleet. Its defense expenditure as a percentage of the GDP is well below the world average. The military is deployed overseas mainly in peacekeeping forces. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the New Zealand Police, a cabinet-level department largely independent (with respect to law enforcement) of executive authority.

Health and welfare

New Zealand has one of the oldest social security systems in the world. Noncontributory old-age pensions paid for from government revenues were introduced in 1898. Pensions for widows and miners followed soon after, and child allowances were introduced in the 1920s. In 1938 the New Zealand government introduced what was then the most extensive system of pensions and welfare in the world, which included free hospital treatment, free pharmaceutical service, and heavily subsidized treatment by medical practitioners.

Since then the system has been eroded in some respects but greatly extended in others. Doctors’ fees, though still subsidized by the state, have become relatively high. Many people invest in private medical insurance and seek treatment in private hospitals instead of in public hospitals. There is still a universal pension system, called New Zealand Superannuation, in which all citizens over age 65 receive an income that is based on the average annual after-tax wage and adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases.

Other financial-support measures include tax credits for families and benefits for single parents, invalids, and the sick. Under the Accident Compensation Act of 1972, all persons suffering personal injury from any sort of accident, whether at work or not, can receive compensation for disability and loss of earnings, and they are covered by insurance for any medical or other treatment; in return, they waive the right to sue for damages. The act led to the establishment of the government-run Accident Compensation Corporation, to which all New Zealanders must pay premiums and which handles claims. The cost of accident compensation is high, which leads to occasional political debate as to the best method of handling the risk of an accident.


Homeownership has long been an ambition of most New Zealanders, but after reaching a high in the early 1990s—when nearly three-fourths of all households lived in owner-occupied domiciles—the rate of home ownership dropped steadily as housing costs rose. By the first decade of the 21st century, only about two-thirds of households owned their dwellings. State agencies provide limited financial assistance toward home purchases and renovation work, as well as subsidized rental accommodations for those on low incomes. The state also subsidizes pensioner accommodations through local authorities.

The housing stock in most towns and cities is made up primarily of single-family detached houses, reflecting a traditional housing preference for stand-alone family homes. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, concomitant with decreasing home ownership and increased urban sprawl, the trend was toward greater density in urban areas, an increased number of multifamily dwellings and apartment buildings in the larger cities, and smaller sections (lot) sizes.


Education in New Zealand is free between ages 5 and 19; it is compulsory between ages 6 and 16. In practice almost all children enter primary school at age five, although many of them have already begun their education in preschools, all of which are subsidized by the state. Education is administered by the Ministry of Education. Elected boards of trustees control all of the primary and secondary state schools. There are also more than 100 private primary and secondary schools, most of them run by the Roman Catholic Church or some other religious group. They may apply to receive state subsidies and must meet certain standards of teaching and accommodation. State primary schools are co-educational, but there are still many single-sex secondary schools. Most private secondary schools are single-sex.

Universities, polytechnics, and private training establishments make up the higher-education sector. There are eight universities—including the University of Otago, Dunedin (1869), the University of Canterbury (1873), the University of Auckland (1883), and Victoria University of Wellington (1899). There are some two dozen polytechnic institutes, among them Open Polytechnic, which provides certificate- and degree-level education via distance learning throughout New Zealand and in other countries.

Students pay partial tuition fees but can borrow the cost of these fees from the government, which also subsidizes tuition costs by direct grants to polytechnics and universities. The fees that institutions may charge students are limited by the government. Entry to the universities has traditionally been open, with admission based on school-leaving qualifications or, in the case of mature students, age. However, the rising cost of tertiary education, along with caps on tuition fees and government constraints on the number of students it will fund, has led to more-stringent admission requirements, especially for degree study.

Education has been strongly emphasized since the early years of the colony, and virtually the entire population is literate. A correspondence school caters to primary- and secondary-level students living in remote places, and various continuing education and adult education centers provide opportunities for lifelong education.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu




New Zealand’s cultural influences are predominantly European and Māori. Immigrant groups have generally tended to assimilate into the European lifestyle, although traditional customs are still followed by many Tongans, Samoans, and other Pacific peoples. Māori culture suffered greatly in the years of colonization and into the 20th century, and many Māori were torn between the pressure to assimilate and the desire to preserve their own culture. However, since the 1950s there has been a cultural renaissance, with a determined effort to preserve and revive artistic and social traditions. The culture of the Pākehā (the Māori term for those of European descent) has come to incorporate many aspects of Māori culture. The biennial Te Matatini festival, first held in 1972, celebrates Māori culture, especially the traditional dance and song performances known as kapa haka. The festival is held over several days, each time in a different region of New Zealand, and culminates in the national kapa haka championship.

The state has moved progressively to assist and encourage the arts. Creative New Zealand, the national agency for arts funding, gives annual grants in support of theatre, music, modern dance and ballet, opera, and literature. In addition, New Zealand was one of the first countries to establish a fund to compensate writers for the loss of royalties on books borrowed from libraries rather than purchased. The national orchestra is supported by the government through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The government also provides taxation and other incentives for the motion-picture industry, and New Zealand-made films have received growing international recognition.

Daily life and social customs

The Māori culture has seen a renaissance in wood carving and weaving and in the construction of carved and decorated meeting houses (whare whakairo). Māori waiata (songs) and dances have become increasingly popular, especially among the young. Māori meetings—whether hui (assemblies) or tangi (funeral gatherings)—are conducted in a traditional fashion, with ancient greeting ceremonies strictly observed.

Waves of migrants have also brought different cultures that are celebrated in a variety of ways—for example, in annual festivals such as the Chinese Lantern Festival and Lunar New Year and the Indian festival Diwali.





New Zealand cuisine has also been influenced by the foods of immigrants and the expectations of

international tourists. It was originally a combination of traditional British dishes with local delicacies.

 Fresh seafood was popular along the coasts; mutton, venison, and meat pies were common. Pavlova, a sweet meringue dish, was and remains a popular dessert. Food, however, has become more imaginative and cosmopolitan, and there are many restaurants, bistros, and cafés in the major cities and towns that present a range of classic and ethnic menus. A traditional Māori feast of meat, seafood, and vegetables is steamed for hours in an earthen oven (hāngī).

The arts

The arts in New Zealand have been strongly influenced by the desire to establish a national identity distinct from that of other cultures. Numerous writers were active in the late 19th century, the most successful of whom were historians, such as William Pember Reeves, and ethnologists, including S. Percy Smith and Elsdon Best. The work of the first genuinely original New Zealand writers, the short-story author Katherine Mansfield and the poet R.A.K. Mason did not appear until the 1920s. In the 1930s, during the harsh years of the Great Depression, a group of poets appeared and established a national tradition of writing. Although influenced by contemporary English literature—T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden were greatly respected—they wrote about their New Zealand experience. The most-notable member of this group was Allen Curnow. A.R.D. Fairburn, Denis Glover, and Charles Brasch were other major poets. At the same time, Frank Sargeson began writing superb stories in the New Zealand vernacular for which he became well known.

The work of those pioneering writers was followed by that of such widely published and acclaimed poets as James K. Baxter, Kendrick Smithyman, Ian Wedde, and Elizabeth Smither. A number of novelists have also earned international reputations, notably Janet Frame, Keri Hulme, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Lloyd Jones, and mystery writer Ngaio Marsh. Authors Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace explored the intersection of Māori and Pākehā cultures. Poet Hone Tuwhare has achieved an international reputation. Those and other New Zealand writers were greatly aided by the growth of the publishing industry in New Zealand.

The first painter to achieve international recognition, Frances Hodgkins, spent most of her life abroad. In the 1960s, however, an unprecedented art scene began to emerge, created initially by a group of artists, including Colin McCahon and Don Binney, who was helped by the rise of commercial galleries in most large towns and cities. Although New Zealand is often the subject of those paintings, they clearly reflect international influences. That group paved the way for what has become a small legion of artists. Since the late 20th century, Māori arts have experienced growing popularity, and works of visual art are prominently displayed in numerous galleries and museums.


New Zealand has a well-developed film industry, and the country has been the setting for a number of films by international directors who took advantage of the local scenery, skilled production workers, and government tax concessions. The films of New Zealand directors Jane Campion and Peter Jackson had notable success around the world; Campion’s The Piano (1993) and Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–03) in particular received much acclaim. The work of actors Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Lucy Lawless, and New Zealand-born Australian Russell Crowe has been recognized internationally.

Cultural institutions


New Zealand has numerous museums, including Te Papa Tongarewa, the country’s national museum. Te Papa’s exhibits focus on themes of national and natural history, including a re-created island, complete with wildlife, and an art collection.



There are also a number of notable local and regional museums, such as the Auckland Museum, the Otago Museum (Dunedin), and the Waikato Museum (Hamilton). Theatre is a vital part of the country’s culture, and in 1970 the government founded the New Zealand Drama School. The New Zealand Opera Company performs in the main cities.

Sports and recreation

Sports are the main leisure-time activity of more than half the population. There is widespread participation in most major sports, particularly rugby football, which is played by both men’s and women’s teams. The inaugural World Cup of rugby, which New Zealand cohosted in 1987, was won by the country’s national team, the All Blacks. (New Zealand also hosted the seventh Rugby World Cup in 2011.) The opening of each All-Black match is highlighted by the player’s performance of the haka known as “Ka Mate,” a traditional Māori chant accompanied by rhythmic movements, stamping, and fierce gestures. Notable players include Colin Meads, who participated in 55 Test matches for the All Blacks. Women’s netball has become a popular participatory and spectator sport, as has basketball.

New Zealand made its Olympic debut at the 1908 Games in London, where it competed with Australia on the Australasian team. There the country captured its first medal, a bronze in the 3,500-metre walk. New Zealand competed separately at the 1920 Antwerp Games. The country has had notable success in Olympic track-and-field events. Jack Lovelock set a world record in the 1,500-metre race at the 1936 Berlin Games, and in 1952 at Helsinki long-jumper Yvette Williams became the first female New Zealander to win Olympic gold.

The climate and the variety of terrain allow for year-round activity in many sports. Mountaineering and hiking are popular outdoor activities. The country has extensive skiing facilities, especially on South Island. Sailing is also popular, particularly around Auckland Harbour; New Zealand won its first America’s Cup yachting race in 1996. Adventure sports have long been common on the islands, and in the late 20th century New Zealand helped popularize bungee jumping.

Several natural and cultural areas have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Te Wāhipounamu (South West New Zealand), a 10,000-square-mile (26,000-square-km) expanse of near-pristine land on South Island, encompasses glaciers, rainforest, beaches, and mountains and is home to many ancient plant and animal species. Aoraki/Mount Cook, Fiordland, Westland Tai Poutini, and Mount Aspiring national parks are within its borders. On North Island, Tongariro National Park is also a World Heritage site. It was originally located on land inhabited by the Māori since their arrival in New Zealand and granted by them to the crown in 1887, and it has since expanded and now covers an area of some 300 square miles (800 square km). Its borders include Mount Ruapehu and other mountains of great cultural and religious importance to Māori culture.


No precise archaeological records exist of when and from where the first human inhabitants of New Zealand came, but it is generally agreed that Polynesians from eastern Polynesia in the central Pacific reached New Zealand in the early 13th century. There has been much speculation on how these people made the long ocean voyage. People from Polynesia are known to have sometimes set sail in search of new lands, their canoes well provisioned with food and plants for cultivation, and it is likely that the discoverers of New Zealand were on such a voyage. It is probable that few canoes made the dangerous journey, but the people from even one of this large double-hulled craft could have produced the Māori population that the Europeans encountered in New Zealand in the 17th and 18th centuries. With them, they brought the dog and the rat and several plants, including the kumara (a variety of sweet potato), taro, and yam.

The Polynesian period, prior to the arrival of Europeans, has been divided into an early “Archaic” phase, with primarily coastal settlements and an economy based on hunting, especially of moas (flightless birds), fishing, and limited crop cultivation, and a later “Classic” phase, characterized by a movement inland, the building of lightly defended villages, and the extensive cultivation of gardens. Another approach to Māori history divides the period into a “colonization,” a “transitional,” and a “traditional” phase. Colonization, when the new arrivals settled in base camps along the coasts and exploited the abundant animal food resources, lasted until about 1400. The transitional phase—marked by a growth in population, a shift to a fish, shellfish, and plant diet, the emergence of food-storage pits, and changing art forms—lasted until about 1600. And the traditional phase—during which inland villages were built, artifacts of bone, wood, and stone became more common, and gardening was commonplace—lasted until the arrival of Europeans.

In the South Island, if not elsewhere, the first Polynesian settlers found moas in immense numbers on tussock grasslands. These served as their major food supply and had become extinct by the 15th century. The 18th-century Māori population was densest in the warmer northern parts of the country, where the Māori variant of Polynesian culture had reached its high point, particularly in the arts of war, canoe construction, building, weaving, and agriculture.

The first European to arrive in New Zealand was a Dutch sailor, Abel Janszoon Tasman, who sighted the coast of Westland (northwestern South Island) in December 1642. His sole attempt to land brought only a clash with a South Island tribe during which several of his men were killed. After his voyage, the western coast of New Zealand became a line upon European charts and was thought of as the possible western edge of a great southern continent.

In 1769–70 the British naval officer and explorer James Cook completed Tasman’s work by circumnavigating the two major islands and charting them with a remarkable degree of accuracy. His initial contact with the Māori was violent, but harmonious relations were established later. On this and on subsequent voyages, Cook, with the explorer and naturalist Joseph Banks, made the first systematic observations of Māori life and culture. Cook’s journal, published as A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World (1777), brought the knowledge of a new land to Europeans. He stressed the intelligence of the natives and the suitability of the country for colonization, and soon colonists as well as other discoverers followed Cook to the islands he had made known.

Early European settlement

Apart from convicts escaping from Australia and shipwrecked or deserting sailors seeking asylum with Māori tribes, the first Europeans in New Zealand were in search of profits—from sealskins, timber, New Zealand flax (genus Phormium), and whaling. Australian firms set up tiny settlements of land-based bay whalers, and Kororareka (now called Russell), in the northeastern North Island, became a stopping place for American, British, and French deep-sea whalers. Traders supplying whalers drew Māori into their economic activity, buying provisions and supplying trade goods, implements, muskets, and rum. Initially, the Māori welcomed the newcomers; while the tribes were secure, the Europeans were a useful dependent.

Māori went overseas, some as far as England. A northern chief, Hongi Hika, amassed presents in England and exchanged them in Australia for muskets; back in New Zealand, he waged a devastating war on traditional enemies. The use of firearms spread southward; a series of tribal wars, spreading from north to south, displaced populations and disturbed landholdings, especially in the Waikato, Taranaki, and Cook Strait areas. Europeans soon founded colonies in these unsettled regions. Missionaries quickly followed the traders. Between 1814 and 1838, Anglicans, Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics set up mission stations. The conversion was initially slow, but by the mid-19th century, most Māori were adherents, for varying reasons, of some form of Christianity.

All of these newcomers had a profound effect on Māori life. Warfare and disease reduced numbers, while new values, pursuits, and beliefs modified tribal structures. Christianity cut across the sanctions and prohibitions that had supplied Māori social cohesion. A capitalist economy, to which Māori were introduced both by traders offering new inducements (for instance, the brief demand for New Zealand flax) and by missionaries bringing new agricultural techniques, affected the whole material basis of life. At first in the north and later over the whole country, a process of adjustment began, which has continued to the present day. By the late 1830s, chiefly through the Australian link, New Zealand had joined to Europe. Settlers numbered at least some hundred, and there were certain to be more. Colonization schemes were afoot in Great Britain, and Australian graziers were buying land from the Māori. These circumstances determined British policy.

Annexation and further settlement

In 1838 the British government decided upon at least partial annexation. In 1839 it commissioned William Hobson, a naval officer, as lieutenant governor and consul to the Māori chiefs, and he annexed the whole country: the North Island by the right of cession from the Māori chiefs and the South Island by the right of discovery. At first New Zealand was legally part of the New South Wales colony (in Australia), but in 1841 it became a separate crown colony, and Hobson was named governor. Before declaring the annexation of New Zealand, Hobson went through a process of discussion with the northern chiefs from which emerged the Treaty of Waitangi (February 1840). Under the Treaty the Māori ceded kāwanatanga (translated as “sovereignty,” but its meaning is much debated) to the crown in return for protection and guaranteed possession of their lands; they also agreed to sell land only to the crown. Hobson promised an investigation into past “sales” of land to private individuals to ensure fair dealing. This treaty imposed a strong moral obligation upon the British government to act as guardians of the Māori.

Even before annexation was proclaimed, planning for the first English colony had begun. The New Zealand Company, founded in 1839 to colonize on the principles laid down by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, sent a survey ship, the Tory, in May 1839. The agents on board were to buy land in both islands around Cook Strait. The company moved hastily because its founders were aware that British annexation was likely and would entail a crown monopoly of land sales and a consequent increase in price. Purchases were effected in great haste before Hobson could bring to an end such private transactions. Little effort was made to seek out the true Māori owners; this would have been difficult anyway, as Māori ownership was communal and titles had been disturbed by the warfare of the preceding quarter century. The company, combining skillful propaganda with outright trickery and brutality, enforced its claim to the land upon which New Plymouth, Whanganui, and Wellington in the North Island and Nelson in the South Island were founded in the 1840s. Later, through the crown, it secured other areas in the South Island where Otago (1848) and Canterbury (1850) were settled by separate associations. Meanwhile, Hobson moved the seat of government south from the Bay of Islands, bringing Auckland into existence (1840).

In the early 1840s settlement and government began to alarm the Māori. In the Cook Strait area a formidable chief, Te Rauparaha, obstructed settlement. Near the Bay of Islands, there was open warfare, and Kororareka was repeatedly raided. Neither Hobson (who died in 1842) nor his successor, Robert FitzRoy, was able to overcome the Māori. George (later Sir George) Grey, who became governor in 1845, had money and troops and the will to use them. His victories brought peace that lasted from 1847 until 1860. Hōne Heke, the principal leader in the north, was thoroughly defeated (1846), and in the south, a likely uprising was prevented. Ethnic strife had been accompanied by economic distress. In the mid-1840s the nascent economy was depressed until the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s offered a market for foodstuffs to the New Zealand farmer, settlers, and Māori alike.

By the end of the 1840s ethnic and economic trouble had given way to political agitation. The leading settlements, apart from Auckland, began to campaign for representative government in place of Grey’s personal rule. He, while refusing to give way, helped to draft the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, which was designed to meet all demands of the settlers. Grey sought not to prevent the introduction of self-government but to delay it until he had determined both native and land policy. He wanted to begin the rapid assimilation of the Māori (with whom his relations were excellent) to British social and cultural patterns and to introduce a land policy that would safeguard the small farmer against the large landowner. He believed he had secured these goals by the time of his departure at the end of 1853.

Responsible government

After the Constitution Act came into force in 1853, New Zealand was divided into six provinces—Auckland, New Plymouth (Taranaki), Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago—each with a superintendent and a provincial council. The central government consisted of a governor and a two-chamber legislature (General Assembly): a Legislative Council nominated by the crown, and a House of Representatives elected upon a low property franchise for a five-year term. This General Assembly did not meet until 1854; it then embarked on a quarrel with the acting governor, Col. Robert Henry Wynyard, that was not ended until the achievement of full responsible government—i.e., a system under which the governor could act in domestic matters only upon the advice of ministers enjoying the confidence of the elected chamber. Henry Sewell and James FitzGerald, of Canterbury, led the representatives in this struggle; heading the opposition against them was Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who, having first moved the resolution for responsible government, then secretly opposed it while serving as an extra-official adviser to the acting governor. The Colonial Office (which oversaw the government of Britain’s overseas territories) conceded responsible government in 1856. The next governor, Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Gore Browne, reserved Māori affairs to the control of the governor alone.

For most purposes, during the 1850s New Zealand was administered not by central but by provincial institutions. These authorities (10 in number by the time of their abolition in 1876) directly affected settlers through their administration of land and control of immigration and public works. The native department, directly under the governor, bought land from the Māori; the provincial governments settled it, regulated immigration, and built roads and bridges. Until the wars of the 1860s, the central legislature was less important, though its ultimate authority remained.

Each province made use of revenue arising from land sales and depended on that revenue for its strength. Canterbury and Otago, with small Māori populations, cultivated prosperity by spending that revenue on communications, immigration, and education. Other provinces were either less fortunate or less wise and enjoyed less success. In the North Island, the numerous and anxious Māori held on to desirable land. Here most of the land available for settlement had been taken up by the end of the 1850s, a good deal of it by speculators, and some of it was given away to attract immigrants. The island remained largely without roads until the 1870s, so impecunious were its governments. But by that time the major obstacle to settlement—the continuing power of the tribes—had been removed. This was the result of a decade of war.


Ethnic conflict

In the 1850s relations between settlers and Māori deteriorated. The settler population and the demand for land, especially pastoral land, increased. Many Māori, fearing for their future, became reluctant to sell more land. In the Taranaki province, where the land shortage was acute, both settlers and those Māori willing to sell were opposed by Wiremu Kīngi (Te Rangitāake), chief of Te Ātiawa. In the Waikato, where good land was coveted by settlers and speculators, an elderly chief, Te Wherowhero, became “king” in 1858, largely through the support of the Waikato and Maniopoto tribes, and reigned as King Pōtatau I. The Māori King Movement and the unrest in the Taranaki headed by Wiremu Kīngi (the two movements remained distinct though related) were opposed to further land sales.

The likelihood of conflict was not reduced by any particular wisdom in government policy. Gore Browne was guided in native policy by the head of the Native Land Purchase Department, Donald (later Sir Donald) McLean, who, responsive to settler demands, increased pressure on potential sellers. Grey’s caution and his recognition that a chief could veto sales proposed by any section of his tribe were forgotten. McLean sowed a rich harvest of distrust. Christopher Richmond, the member of the cabinet in charge of native affairs, was also a member of the House of Representatives from Taranaki and was fully responsive to the needs of his settler neighbors. The central ministry, theoretically unconcerned with native policy, could not, despite the promise of protection made to the Māori in the Treaty of Waitangi, neglect a matter so vital to the colony’s future. In 1859 the representative of the crown unwittingly supplied the occasion for the outbreak of civil strife.

Gore Browne accepted an offer to sell from a Taranaki subchief, Te Teira, and ignored the veto imposed by the paramount chief, Wiremu Kīingi. Early in 1860 troops were used to dislodge Kīngi from the land in question, the Waitara block. A decade of fighting began. In 1861 Grey was sent back for a second term as governor in the hope that he would again prove to be a peacemaker. In fact, he accelerated the extension of the conflict. Fearing that Auckland was menaced by the followers of the Māori king, he took defensive measures that could easily be interpreted as acts of aggression, and the fighting subsequently spread from Taranaki to the Waikato. Imperial troops, colonial militia, and Māori allies (for not all the tribes supported the Māori nationalist movement) had no easy task, but their victory could not be postponed for long. By the mid-1860s Māori resistance in the Taranaki and Waikato had ended. But the “king” tribes were by no means crushed, and the fear that they would embark on war again haunted the colony for many years.

In the later 1860s, the fighting was of a different character, in which religion acted as a last, desperate stiffener of Māori resistance. Pai Mārire (Hauhauism), an amalgam of Jewish, Christian, and native beliefs, was the first (1862) of many movements in which the Māori, rejecting the religion of settler and missionary, put their own imprint on Christianity. Toward the end of the decade, Te Kooti organized resistance on the east coast of the North Island. He was the founder of another religious movement as well as a guerrilla of some note; his adaptation of Christianity, Ringatū, still has numerous followers. Te Kooti was never finally defeated, but by the early 1870s he had been forced to retreat into the “King Country” (the center of the island), and he devoted the rest of his life to religious leadership.

An uneasy peace settled on the colony in 1870. Casualties had not been high, but the loss of life was serious for the tribes concerned. Especially in those areas in which the Māori king retained some authority, defeat led to a period of withdrawal from settler society. Resentment was deepened by a punitive policy of land confiscation adopted by the victors, a policy improper in its nature and made worse in some places by undiscriminating application to “guilty” and “innocent” tribes alike. The Māori future looked bleak. By the Native Land Act of 1862, private land transactions between settlers and Māori had been legalized, and during the next 40 years, the Māori lost most of their best land. In 1867 four seats in the General Assembly were created for Māori members and Māori men gained the vote, but many years were to elapse before Māori numbers, morale, and confidence would revive throughout the country.

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