xxxxxIt was in 1642 (C1) that the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand. The English explorer James Cook claimed the islands for Britain in 1769, but it was not until the 1820s that the British began to settle in large numbers. This brought them into contact and contention with the indigenous people, the Maori, and to stop open conflict the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. This promised to protect the Maori, their rights and land, but, at the same time, it made New Zealand a colonial possession. This had the effect of increasing the number of settlers and raising the demand for land. When eventually the Maori refused to sell more of their land war, broke out, first in 1847-49 and then throughout the 1860s.The government was forced to moderate its land policy and, by an act of 1867, to elect four Maori members to the House of Representatives, the first step towards the idea of a racial partnership.



Map (New Zealand): licensed under Creative Commons – Treaty: a stained-glass window in the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, Rotorua, date and artist unknown. Bush Fighting: frontispiece for Bush Fighting by the soldier and author James Edward Alexander (1803-1885), published in 1873, artist unknown – Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Map (Australia):

xxxxxAs we have seen, it was in 1642 (C1) that the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand. He sailed north along the west coast of the South Island but, facing opposition from the native Maori, did not land. It was not, in fact, until 1769 that Captain James Cook visited the islands and claimed them for the British crown. By that time it is estimated that well over 100,000 Maori inhabited the main islands, the vast majority having settled in the warmer North Island.

xxxxxIt is thought that the Maori, a Polynesian people, arrived on the North Island - probably from Tahiti - during the ninth to the twelfth centuries, and began crossing onto the South Island in around 1550 (E6). They were generally hostile towards invaders, but by the early 19th century quite a large number of whalers and sealers had settled on the two main islands - particularly in the region known as the Bay of Islands in the north -, and by then British missionaries had also arrived on the scene. Immigration on a larger scale began some thirty years later, encouraged by the New Zealand Company, established in London in 1826 to promote trade and encourage settlement. Despite the Company’s initial failure, the increasing number of settlers within the country posed a serious threat to the life and livelihood of the native people. Then in 1839 the New Zealand Association, founded two years earlier, sent out agents and bought land on either side of the Cook Strait, using trickery and, where necessary, force to secure their holdings. It was soon realised that some form of political agreement was needed if outright conflict was to be avoided between the settlers and the indigenous population.

xxxxxInx1839 the British government appointed a naval officer, Captain William Hobson (1792-1842), to negotiate directly with the Maori, and the result was the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, witnessed by some 50 Maori tribal chiefs from the North Island. This guaranteed the Maori their own territory, and placed them under British protection, but, at the same time, they were obliged to surrender sovereignty of the islands to the British government. For administrative convenience, the country was initially governed as a dependency of New South Wales in Australia, but was made a separate crown colony the following year with Hobson as the first governor. The North Island was claimed by the Waitangi Treaty, and the South Island simply by the right of discovery.

xxxxxBy the letter of the law, the Maori received the protection they needed but, in reality, the treaty led to a marked increase in British immigration, and a consequent worsening of their position. New settlements were established around the coast, such as Christchurch and Dunedin, and the town of Wellington was founded, the colony’s future capital. This expansion led to further encroachment upon Maori lands - despite the Waitangi settlement - and in 1845 the tribes living in the Bay of Islands in North Island broke out in revolt, - the first of the Maori Wars. They were forced to make peace two years later, but Maori resentment continued.

xxxxxIn 1852 an act was passed providing the colony with representative government, but the Maori were given no voice in the country’s administration, and by then much of their land (and the unique way of life that went with it) had been bought up by the crown and sold to the colonists for profit. In 1860 conflict broke out again, this time on both islands. The main cause was the increasing reluctance of the Maoris to sell their land, and the pressures placed upon them by new arrivals. Adopting guerrilla tactics, they continued a campaign of varying violence against the settlers throughout the decade. At Orakau, for example, in 1864, 300 Maoris held out for three days against a British force six times its size, and at one time they even attempted to create their own state (the so-called Maori King movement). By then, however, white settlement had gained too great a hold on the country, spurred on by the discovery of alluvial gold, first in Otago in 1861 and then on the west coast in 1865. This brought a new influx of immigrants from Australia and North America. However, in their struggle, Maori forces acquitted themselves well, and throughout the 1860s the government was obliged to moderate its land policy and adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the native population. The Native Land Act of 1862 permitted the private purchase of Maori land - thus ending the Crown monopoly -, and five years later an act provided for the election of four Maori members to the House of Representatives, the first step towards the idea of a racial partnership. The conclusion of the East Coast War in 1872 is generally regarded as the end of the Maori Wars.

xxxxxOver the next forty years the country’s economy became mainly based on sheep farming, and this industry received an enormous boost in the early 1880s with the introduction of refrigerated ships. This enabled the export of fresh meat worldwide. In 1907 New Zealand was officially designated a dominion.

xxxxxIncidentally, the Treaty of Waitangi contained the seeds of future trouble. The translation of the terms of the treaty led to a great deal of misunderstanding, particularly as the Maori language had no real equivalent for the word “sovereignty”. Several chiefs refused to accept the agreement, and it would seem that those who did sign still believed that they were the guardians or “owners” of their land. This added to the Maori’s discontent, but it was not until the Treaty of Waitangi Act of October 1975 that a measure of financial compensation was given to certain Maori tribes for what they saw as an unlawful loss of their former territory. Then in 1989 the legal equality of the Maori people was confirmed by the New Zealand government. ……

xxxxx…… The date of the Treaty of Waitangi, the 6th February, is commemorated annually throughout New Zealand. The first “Waitangi Day” was held in 1934, and it was made a public holiday in 1960. ……

xxxxx…… The picture above showing the signing of the treaty is a stained glass window in the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute at Rotorua. The Maori sculpture is from Waitangi. ……

xxxxx…… It was during this period (1855) that Britain granted self-government to the island of Tasmania, and established responsible government in all the Australian states except Western Australia - i.e. Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, and South Australia.


The Maori Wars