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New Zealand History

A Brief History of New Zealand

While New Zealand is a relatively young country, it has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both our Maori and European heritage.Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures), some dating back almost a thousand years, are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country we have become.

Early Settlement

Though a Dutchman was the first European to sight the land, it was the British who colonised New Zealand, leaving an indelible mark on the country and its people

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi , seen as New Zealand's founding document, established the country as a nation. It was signed in 1840 between leading Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, now one of the country's most historic sites. The signing of the treaty began on 6 February, which has become New Zealand's national day, known as 'Waitangi Day'.


New Zealand is an independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth. It has a diverse multi-cultural population of 4 million people, the majority of whom are of British descent. New Zealand's indigenous Maori make up around 14 percent of the population.

Early Settlement

The Maori were New Zealand's first settlers. They made an epic journey from the legendary Hawaiki, probably in Polynesia to the north of New Zealand, about 1000 years ago. The great explorer Kupe, who legend says first discovered New Zealand, named the new land Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud. The first documented European to discover New Zealand was Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, who came here in 1642 in search of the fabled great southern continent. Over a 125 years later, Captain James Cook claimed it for Britain in 1769 and produced a map of the country.

Economy and Government

New Zealand is a modern country with a well-developed economy and a government structure based on the British parliamentary system. New Zealand has long been a sovereign nation in its own right with only tenuous ties to Britain through New Zealand's membership of the British Commonwealth. You can find more information on New Zealand's government and its monetary policy at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and New Zealand Government Online.

Kiwis and kiwis

New Zealand's first settlers, the Maori, named the kiwi bird for the sound of its chirp - kiwi, kiwi, kiwi! This flightless bird, about the size of a domestic hen, has an extremely long beak and plumage that is more like hair than feathers. New Zealanders have adopted this nocturnal, flightless and endearing creature as their national emblem.

Referring to New Zealanders as Kiwis probably dates back to the First World War, when New Zealand soldiers first acquired this nickname.

In the international financial markets, New Zealand's basic currency unit, the New Zealand dollar, is frequently called 'the kiwi' The dollar coin features a kiwi bird on one side.

Perhaps the best-known kiwi is the delicious kiwifruit. Originating in China, kiwifruit were grown in New Zealand domestic gardens for decades as 'Chinese gooseberries'. However, when enterprising New Zealand farmers began propagating the fruit intensively for export, it was given the name kiwifruit and has since achieved worldwide fame

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