Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

New Zealand - The History


It was 60 million years ago that the Tasman Sea (which separates Australia from New Zealand) attained  had its full width.  It was only five million years ago that the shape of the two main islands of today's New Zealand  began to form.

Just seven thousand years ago,  most of New Zealand's land area was covered by rainforest. The seas surrounding the islands protected its unique fauna and flora and many species of flightless birds evolved in safety at ground level. 

Sometime between 950 and 1130 AD, New Zealand was settled by Polynesians, arriving in twin hulled or outrigger canoes, and in 1642,  the first European explorer, Abel Janszoon Tasman, sailed into New Zealand waters.  He received a less than a warm welcome when he laid anchor in Taitapu Bay (now Golden Bay on the west coast of the South Island) on 18th December. Hostile Maori war canoes approached and rammed a small boat manned by some Dutch sailors - four of the sailors were attacked and killed by the Maori warriors. The Dutch were encouraged to set sail rapidly as twenty-two war canoes filled with Warriors were gathered along the beach.  They explored the coast but didn't actually set foot on New Zealand.

In 1768, James Cook left Plymouth in command of the barque Endeavour. His objectives were to observe the passage of the planet Venus across the disc of the sun, and the second was to search for the elusive southern continent - Terra Australis Incognita. 

The first objective was achieved in 1769 in Tahiti and Joseph Banks, the Endeavour's botanist, persuaded a Tahitian high chief and navigator, by the name of Tupaia, to accompany the Endeavour on its voyage to New Zealand. Tupaia was able to advise Cook and Banks of the practices and customs of native inhabitants of other islands and assist in the search.  

The Endeavour first anchored at Tuuranga-nui (today’s Poverty Bay, near Gisborne).  This led to the second violent encounter between the first Europeans and the Maori, when crewmembers venturing ashore were surprised by the sudden appearance of four Maoris brandishing weapons. In panic, one of the coxswains unfortunately shot one of the Maori leaders. 

On leaving Poverty Bay, Cook continued to Te Matau-a-Maaui (Hawkes Bay), on the east coast of the North Island. With Tupaia's help, Cook was able to finally communicate, and establish friendly relations, with the Maoris he encountered. From the late 1790's on, whalers, traders and missionaries began to arrive.  Before annexation, British, American and French whalers, traders and sealers were working around the New Zealand coastline, and stopping in for supplies.  There was no law and order - prostitution and violent clashes between the newcomers and the Maoris were common.

In 1831, 13 Bay of Island and Hokianga chiefs, backed by the Church Missionary Society, requested Britain to intervene.  French plans for the colonization of the South Island and the activities of 'The New Zealand Company' overcame initial British reluctance.  

'The New Zealand Company' made hasty and dishonest 'purchases' of land from the Maoris, who didn't understand the European concept of land ownership.  Hostilities arose when settlers who had purchased land arrived to claim it.  When one large group of 1,000 settlers arrived at Petone (near Wellington), they landed on a beach surrounded by bush and swamps. There was no shelter.

 In August 1839, Captain William Hobson arrived in New Zealand as British Consul, with orders to annex a part of New Zealand and place it under British rule. His mission was to organise a treaty with Maori chiefs for sovereignty.  The Treaty of Waitangi was finally signed on 6th February 1840, and one of the conditions of the Treaty was the new government's pre-emptive right to purchase land. Land sales before 1840 were declared non-valid. 

Traces of gold were discovered in 1842 in the Coromandel and Nelson areas, but the most important gold find 1861 in Otago led to a gold rush.  One prospector panned 7 ounces of gold in 10 hours.  The quest for gold led to larger scale immigration.



Key dates in New Zealand's history

1893 - New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. 

1896 - Legislation passed to protect the homeless. 

1898 - State funded Pensions for over-65s. 

1903 - Legislation, prohibiting children from smoking... 

1907 - Plunket Society formed - to train women for motherhood and household management .

1911 - Widows' Pensions introduced. 

1920 - School Dental Nursing Service introduced. 

1933 - Unemployment Act, financed by a special tax on all earnings.  

1935 - New Zealand born Jean Batten became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia and back. She was also the first woman to fly solo across the South Atlantic Ocean. 

1935 - Labour Government elected.  Under the leadership of Michael Savage, welfare services were introduced, and the Fair Rent act was passed 

1936 - Factories Amendment Act - reducing the manufacturing working week to 40 hours. 

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