History

New Zealand has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting our unique mix of Māori and European culture.

Māori were the first to arrive in New Zealand, journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. In 1642 a Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight the country but it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire. The Europeans didn't come back until 1769 when British explorer James Cook mapped the entire New Zealand coastline. During the early 19th century, conflict between Maori and the British was quite frequent.

In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, an agreement between the British Crown and Maori. It established British law in New Zealand and is considered New Zealand's founding document and an important part of the country's history. The building where the treaty was signed has been preserved and, today, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a popular attraction.

New Zealand, originally part of the colony of New South Wales, became a separate Colony of New Zealand on 1 July 1841. The colony gained a representative government in 1852 and the 1st New Zealand Parliament met in 1854. In 1907, at the request of the New Zealand Parliament, King Edward VII proclaimed New Zealand a dominion within the British Empire, reflecting its self-governing status. Accordingly, the title "Dominion of New Zealand" dates from 1907. In 1947 the country adopted the Statute of Westminster, confirming that the British parliament could no longer legislate for New Zealand without the consent of New Zealand.

You'll find amazing Māori historic sites and taonga (treasures) - as well as beautiful colonial-era buildings - dotted throughout the country. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country we have become.

  • The Māori people are most likely descended from people who emigrated from Taiwan to Melanesia and then travelled east through to the Society Islands. After a pause of 70 to 265 years, a new wave of exploration led to the discovery and settlement of New Zealand.