Hongi Hika and Waikato with Thomas Kendall in England in 1820 
Hongi Hika and Waikato with Thomas Kendall in England in 1820 

Carbon dating of the remains of the Pacific rat, kiore exulans, has revealed that there were visitors to Aotearoa from the Pacific region circa 2000 years ago.  They do not settle, but introduce the rat.


The explorers Kupe, Toi and Whatonga visit Aotearoa and return to their homes in central Polynesia. Polynesian settlers come to Aotearoa from the Pacific Islands of the northeast. They bring a rich agricultural tradition, and adapt their systems of gardening to the soils, climate and topography of the area in which they are.  Much of Aotearoa is covered in forests. Moa are found in many areas of the country. Other birds and seals are very common.

The settlers explore most of Aotearoa. They establish small coastal communities where gardening, fishing and hunting all provide important sources of food.

Moa and other bones supply materials for making fish hooks and ornaments. Sources of obsidian, greenstone and argillite are discovered, and are carried long distances for use as tools. Fine personal ornaments indicate wealth.Pits are used for winter storage of crops by the end of the period.


There is a growth in the population, particularly in the north. Fortified villages, or pa, are developed.

New woodcarving styles are introduced such as the double spiral and manaia motif. Greenstone is used for both ornaments and tools.

Strict rules of tapu develop.

Fires destroy large areas of forest in the South Island. Numbers of moa and other birds decline. Gardens for kumara, taro and gourds are developed, mostly in the North Island.

Kati Mamoe come to Te Wai Pounamu and through inter-marriage and conquest eventually merge with Waitaha.Lines of communication spread throughout the country as a result of trading. Rock drawings are made in caves in North Otago and South Canterbury. Regional styles of ornaments, tools and fishing gear develop.


The moa becomes extinct.
The majority of people now live in the northern half of the North Island.
Ngai Tahu establish themselves in Te Wai Pounamu.
New types of pa defence are built, such as double ditches.


Abel Tasman sights Aotearoa.Climate changes occur, preventing kumara cultivation in colder areas. Greater use is made of fern roots as a food resource.

Carving styles become more intricate.


Capt. James Cook makes his first visit – crew member Tupaia from Tahiti enables communication and Cook reports “Māori” live in this country.


French expedition under Capt. Marion du Fresne arrives. Du Fresne and 26 of his crew are killed, following which the French retaliate by killing 250 northern Māori.


Cook’s second visit. Pigs are introduced.


Cook’s third visit.

European sealers set up temporary camps on the coastline. Māori raise pigs for food and also for trade with Europeans for the goods they have brought with them. 


First severe epidemic amongst Maori. Probably influenza, it wipes out an estimated 2/3 of the southern North Island population.


First sealing gang is left on the New Zealand coastline at Dusky Sound, Fiordland.


Tuki & Huru, nephews of the rangatira Te Pahi, are kidnapped and taken to Norfolk Island to teach flax-weaving to Governor King.


By this time, Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu had many interactions with Europeans visiting Tai Tokerau; explorers, sealers, whalers, timber and flax traders, merchants, missionaries, and diplomats. 

Estimated population: Māori 200 000; Pākehā 50. 

Over 66 million acres of land in Māori control.New diseases introduced by the European settlers caused many deaths by measles, dysentery, sexually-transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, influenza and whooping cough.


Te Pahi visits Governor King in Sydney. He warned the Governor about the kidnapping and maltreatment of Māori by traders and asked the Governor to deal with sea captains going to Aotearoa and abandoning Māori in Sydney.

Mahanga of Ngati Wai (Moehanga in the English literature) travelled with John Savage to England and met with King George III and Queen Charlotte. He returned on the same ship (the Ferret) in 1806 and told many of his observations of royalty, the London water supply, roads and agriculture. He became an advisor to many.While Māori had travelled as far as Tahiti and Australia in the late 18th century, Te Mahanga was the first to make it to the other side of the globe, in April 1806.


First Pakeha women arrive in Aotearoa.


This Assembly was formalised in 1808 and called Te Wakaminenga o Nga hapū o Nu Tireni (the General Assembly of the Tribal Nations of NZ). In the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty, the meetings of Te Wakaminenga were attended and supported by many key leaders from around the country, and gatherings continue well after the Treaty is signed. Te Wakaminenga, known to the British as the Confederation of Chiefs, is the author of the Declaration of Independence and is prominently named in the Treaty. Members of Te Wakaminenga, in concert with the (Anglican) Church Missionary Society (CMS)  missionary Williams, were responsible for the final iteration of the Treaty, transforming it from Hobson’s first draft into Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


Northern chief Ruatara, who had been sailing since 1805, voyaged to London to seek an audience with the King without a patron to introduce them.The Boyd was attacked in the Whangaroa Harbour for the ill treatment of Te Ara, a son of Te Pahi. The majority of the crew were killed and some were eaten as utu. A reprisal by Pākehā sailors killed many in Whangaroa.


Kāi Tahu are trading potatoes with Pākehā in return for iron and steel.


Northern chief Ruatara invites Rev Samuel Marsden from the CMS in Sydney. Marsden arrives at the Bay of Islands, bringing horses, cattle, sheep and poultry with him. Potatoes and other vegetables (introduced by Cook) are now spread throughout Aotearoa, grown mainly by Māori, although small scale farms have been established by missionaries and whalers. Sydney merchants are now trading with Māori for flax, timber and other produce. Māori are building and buying European ships for the purpose of international trade.


First land negotiation with Ngāpuhi. Ngati Torehina’s tuku whenua (grant of land), where 12 axes are “paid” by Marsden, is intended as a bond that holds both parties together – rather like a lease and nothing like a sale. However this permission for about 12 acres to be used, with all the privileges and responsibilities that this relationship entailed, is later treated by the missionaries and the Government as a sale, leading to permanent alienation of about 200 acres of Ngati Torehina land. More than cultural difference is involved here – foreigners had been treated with a great deal of consideration. Hapū were in their own country and could expect foreigners to comply with their law and custom. 


First Mission School established.  More follow in the 1820’s with the Mission Schools’ peak period being the 1830/1840’s. Missionaries seek to convert Māori people to Christianity, and along with this, to initiate them `in the customs and manners of civilised life’ (Samuel Marsden).


Under the auspices of Te Wakaminenga their general secretary, Waikato, and the renowned Ngāpuhi leader Hongi Hika travel to Britain where they obtain an audience with King George IV, establishing a rangatira to rangatira relationship of diplomacy and goodwill between Māori and the British Crown. They were treated as ambassadors and brothers.They also received a small arsenal of muskets.

Waikato, a younger chief also known as Taiapuru, was the General Secretary of the United hapū of Te Whakaminenga. He travelled as a servant companion for Hika. The relationship between King George lV and Hongi Hika is known as the first kawenata (covenant) with England, ensuring that the mana of their own and the collective hapū would be “sustained and nurtured in the future”. Hongi Hika and Waikato spent much time with linguist Dr Samuel Lee, which resulted in a publication Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand.Following their return, and initiated by Ngāpuhi, ten years of musket wars break out.  The casualties of constant raiding eventually become unbearable, causing many tribes to look for new, safer territories.  The new type of warfare makes it difficult for tribes to unite.  Weaker tribes suffer huge losses.


Te Rauparaha, the Ngati Toa leader, and allies from the Waikato and Taranaki regions, migrate south.


Wesleyan missionaries arrive.


In a move of dubious legality, the jurisdiction of the New South Wales ‘Courts of Justice’ is extended to cover British subjects in Aotearoa.


First Māori Christian baptism is recorded.  Missionaries are translating the Bible into Māori.Traders from Australia are living in Māori communities, which are exporting timber, flax and food throughout the Pacific rim, including to North and South America.


First (largely unsuccessful) British attempt at colonisation occurs, initiated by the formation of the New Zealand Company in England. Its principals Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his brother William are both serving four-year prison sentences in England, William for civil debt and Edward for abduction and demanding ransoms, in regard to a 15-year-old heiress.


Te Rauparaha first attacks Kaikoura.


Te Rauparaha visits Kaiapoi and then attacks. Those at the pa defend and this results in the killing of leading Ngati Toa chiefs except for Te Ruaparaha.


The intensity of gardening is recorded by Europeans as is the neatness and regularity of the plots and the great variety of crops including kumara, taro and introduced vegetables like Indian corn, melon, pumpkin, and turnip. 

Estimated 350 Pākehā living in New Zealand.

Trade statistics show 28 ships averaging 110 tons make 56 voyages between Sydney and New Zealand, carrying Māori-grown potatoes and milled grain.

Whalers are established at 22 onshore bases, mainly in the South Island.  ‘Intermarriage’ is occurring. 

Until the 1830s the British policy towards New Zealand is one of reluctance to intervene formally. Britain is busy with problems in some of its colonies, and isn’t really interested in another as far away as this. Pākehā lawlessness is seen in incidents around the country, including murders, kidnappings, enslavements and other criminal acts. Reports on these incidents from rangatira and missionaries are a cause of concern for the British authorities. 

Ngāi Tahu supplies whaling vessels, looks after whalers and traders in need, and shares their knowledge. For the British, matters are brought to a head by the actions of an Englishman, Captain Stewart. In return for one cargo of flax he secretly conveys Te Rauparaha and war party from Kapiti to Akaroa. The sacking of that village and capture of ariki Te Maiharanui and family horrify the British in Sydney. The failure to bring Stewart to justice in Sydney make the British realise that something has to be done about the lawless state of Europeans in New Zealand.


Thirteen of the Northern rangatira (leaders) of Te Wakaminenga at Kororipo Pa – Warerahi, Rewa, Patuone, Nene, Kekeao, Titore, Tamoranga (Te Morenga), Ripi (Ripa), Hara (Haara), Atuahaere, Moetara, Matangi and Taonui – send a letter to King William IV requesting that the King asking for a continuation of their relationship with Britain, to become a “friend and guardian of these islands”, and for him to chastise his people who were fugitives and troublemakers. The letter expresses concern about a possible takeover by the French and suggests that unless the King acts to control the misconduct of British citizens who are living in and visiting New Zealand, the rangatira would be forced to enforce their own laws. A French ship moored in the Bay of Islands.


Te Rauparaha lays seige to Kaiapoi and the Ngāi Tahu defences hold for 3 months till fire destroys the palisades. Ngati Toa goes on to attack Ōnawe, but is then forced to withdraw at Arowhenua. Ngāi Tahu attacks Ngati Toa near Lake Grassmere. Peace was established between Ngāi Tahu and Ngati Toa at the end of the 1830s.


As a direct result of 1) the Kāi Tahu incident with Captain Stewart, 2) the letter from the northern rangatira, 3) the need to protect British trade interests, 4) British government concern at the NZ Company’s activities and the involvement of convicted felons Edward and William Wakefield, as well as 5) the growing lawlessness amongst British subjects resident in NZ, the British government appoints James Busby to act as British Resident in New Zealand.

Busby and his sister Agnes arrived in May 1833 with a reply to the rangatira from King William, and set up the Residence at Waitangi. Settlers are anxious to have a British style justice system. Busby’s role was to prevent outrages by Europeans against Māori, protect settlers and traders, and apprehend escaped convicts. He was nicknamed the ‘Man-o-War without guns’ as he had no means to enforce his authority; unruly Pākehā simply ignored him.

In the far north, some conversions of Ngāpuhi to Christianity are occurring.  Slaves, prisoners of war captured during the musket wars, are released, and they carry both literacy and European ideas back to their iwi.Throughout the 1830’s a rapid spread of literacy occurred amongst Māori.  Those who have learnt to read or write in Māori at these Mission schools are passing their knowledge on to others and establishing their own schools.


On March 20, the Whakaputanga flag, a “new symbol of international identity” was acknowledged at a hui of rangatira and Europeans in Kōrorareka, and adopted by the northern chiefs of Te Wakaminenga, following the seizure of the ‘Sir George Murray’ and the impounding of her cargo in Sydney, on the basis that she is not a registered vessel. Māori ships would now be registered and have official access to Australian and other international ports. The flag was formally recognised by King William IV, by Parliament and by the British Admiralty, affirming Aotearoa as a trading nation with a recognised flag, and thus granting Māori ships the protection of the British Navy when in international waters.Te Wakaminenga also begins conferring regularly with Busby about the development of their international relationships and trade. 


An estimated 4000 Māori, transported by whalers, sweep through the southern South Island. 

The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE is signed at Waitangi by Te Wakaminenga. The document declares New Zealand an independent state, affirms the exclusive sovereignty of hapū, invites other Māori leaders to join Te Wakaminenga to maintain peace, justice and trade, asks the King of England to protect the country’s independence internationally, and promises that Māori will protect British people in the country.  The Declaration was claimed by several prominent Ngāpuhi chiefs to have been drafted by Eruera Pare, to reflect the will and the intent of the Māori people.103 trading ships arrived and departed in the north, where Māori exported more products than they imported. Māori trade and income was growing.


151 whaling vessels visit the Bay of Islands, the numbers being even higher in the following six months. In another account 861 whalers came to New Zealand between 1771 and 1844, on 2153 voyages. Soon, the greater interest in whaling shifts to the South Island and the East Coast of the North Island, although the Bay of Islands remains important.Britain, France and America recognize the sovereign independence of NZ.


Roman Catholic mission in Hokianga.


American consul James Clendon is appointed


Recurring measles epidemics amongst southern Maori.


Over 66 million acres of land is in Māori control (reduced to 3 million acres by 1988). The Pākehā population is estimated at 2000 individuals (1200 in the North Island).

Over 1000 Māori have travelled overseas and returned with stories.

The first major migrations from England, financed by the New Zealand Company, arrive at Port Nicholson, Wanganui and Akaroa.Captain William Hobson arrives on 30 January. Busby helps Hobson draft the TREATY OF WAITANGI based on instructions from England. Missionary Henry Williams and his son, in concert with members of Te Wakaminenga in Waitangi, produce a text in Māori, TE TIRITI O WAITANGI, that differs significantly from Hobson’s draft. Beginning on February the 6th at Waitangi, over the next few months the Māori text is signed by 540 Māori and Hobson. Te Tiriti is a re-declaration of independence, guaranteeing Māori sovereignty and at the same time allowing a British Governor to exercise a limited authority over British settlers in the areas allocated for their use. 

  • Project Waitangi Napier
  • New Perspectives on Race (Inc)
  • The Treaty of Waitangi and the Ngāi Tahu claim, H Evison
  • Race Relations Office
  • Waitangi Consultancy Group
  • Waitangi Tribunal Muriwhenua Report 
  • Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Bloomfield
  • The Treaty of Waitangi, C Orange
  • http://archives.govt.nz/
  • www.teara.govt.nz
  • Ngāpuhi Speaks, Independent Panel report ISBN 978-0-473-22981-8 
  • Ngai TuahuririTuahiwi and Takiwa, Ngai Tuahuriri Education Committee, 2014
  • TITEWHAI – her life and times ISBN: 978-0-473-65374-3

31 March, 2023