Discount Hotel Reservations
Find Hotels Just a Click Away from your Destination
  POPULAR CITIES   HOTEL CHAINS   ATTRACTIONS   ABOUT US  


Countries > New Zealand > History

Countries > New Zealand

New Zealand - History


White New Zealanders have long thought of their country as a model of humanitarian colonization. Most Maori take a different view, however, informed by generations of their ancestors witnessing the theft of land and erosion of rights that were guaranteed by a treaty with the white man. Schoolroom histories have long been faithful to the European view, even to the point of influencing Maori mythology, but in the last couple of decades revisionist historians have largely discredited what many New Zealanders know as fact. Much that is presented as tradition, on deeper investigation turns out to be late nineteenth-century scholarship, often the product of historians who bent what they heard to fit their theories and, in the worst cases, even destroyed evidence. What follows is inextricably interwoven with Maori legend and can be understood more fully with reference to the section on Maoritanga .

Pre-European history
Humans from southeast Asia first started exploring the South Pacific around five thousand years ago, gradually evolving a distinct culture as they filtered down through the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. A thousand years of progressive island hopping got them as far as Tonga and Samoa, where a distinctly Polynesian society continued to evolve, the people honing their seafaring skills and navigational skills to the point where lengthy sea journeys were possible. Around a thousand years ago, Polynesian culture reached its classical apotheosis in the Society Islands, a group west of Tahiti. This was almost certainly the hub for a series of migrations heading southwest across thousands of kilometres of open ocean, past the Cook Islands, eventually striking land in what is now known as New Zealand ( Aotearoa ).

It is thought that the first of these Polynesian people, the ancestors of modern Maori, arrived in double-hulled canoes between 1000 and 1100 AD, as a result of a migration that was planned to the extent that they took with them the kuri (dog) and food plants such as taro (a starchy tuber), yam and kumara (sweet potato). It seems likely that there were several migrations and there may have even been two-way traffic, although archeological evidence points to a cessation of contact well before 1500 AD. The widely believed story of a legendary "Great Fleet" of seven canoes arriving in 1350 AD seems most likely to be the product of a fanciful Victorian adaptation of Maori oral history, which has been readopted into contemporary Maori legend.

Arriving Polynesians found a land so much colder than their tropical home that many of the crops and plants they brought with them wouldn't grow. Fortunately there was an abundance of large quarry in the form of marine life and flightless birds, particularly in the South Island, where most settled. The people of this Archaic Period are often misleadingly known as "Moa Hunters" and while some undoubtedly lived off these birds, they didn't exist in other areas. By 1300, settlements had been established all around the coast, but it was only later that there is evidence of horticulture, possibly supporting the contention that there was a later migration bringing plants for cultivation. On the other hand, it may just signal the beginning of successful year-round food storage allowing a settled living pattern rather than the short-lived campsites used by earlier hunters. Whichever is the case, this marks the beginning of the Classic period when kainga (villages) grew up close to the kumara grounds, often supported by pa (fortified villages) where the people could retreat when under attack. As tasks became more specialized and hunting and horticulture began to take up less time, the arts - particularly carving and weaving - began to flourish and warfare became endemic, digs revealing an armoury of mere, patu and taiaha (fighting clubs) not found earlier. The decline of easily caught birdlife and the relative ease of growing kumara in the warmer North Island marked the beginning of a northward population shift, to the extent that when the Europeans arrived, ninety-five percent of the population was located in the North Island, mostly in the northern reaches, with coastal settlements reaching down to Hawke's Bay and Wanganui.


European contact and the Maori response
Ever since Europeans had ventured across the oceans and "discovered" other continents, many were convinced of the existence of a terra australia incognita, an unknown southern land thought necessary to counterbalance the northern continents. In 1642, the Dutch East India Company, keen to dominate any trade with this new continent, sent Dutchman Abel Tasman to the southern oceans where he became the first European to catch sight of the South Island of Aotearoa. He anchored in Golden Bay, where a small boat being rowed between Tasman's two ships was intercepted by a Maori war canoe and four sailors were killed. Without setting foot on land Tasman turned tail and fled up the west coast of the North Island and went on to add Tonga and Fiji to European maps. He named Aotearoa "Staten Landt" later renamed Nieuw Zeeland after the Dutch maritime province.

New Zealand was ignored for over a century until 1769 when Yorkshireman James Cook sailed his Endeavour into the Pacific to observe the passage of Venus across the sun. He continued west arriving at "the Eastern side of the Land discover'd by Tasman" where he observed the "Genius, Temper, Disposition and Number of the Natives" and meticulously charted the coastline - the only significant errors were to show Banks Peninsula as an island and Stewart Island as a peninsula - and encouraged his botanists, Banks and Solander, to collect numerous samples.

Cook and his crew found Maori a sophisticated people with a highly formalized social structure and an impressive ability to turn stone and wood into fabulously carved canoes, weapons and meeting houses - and yet they were tied to Stone Age technology, with no wheels, roads, metalwork, pottery or animal husbandry. Cook found them aggressive, surly and little inclined to trade, but after an initial unfortunate encounter near Gisborne and another off Cape Kidnappers, near Napier , he managed to strike up friendly and constructive relations with the "Indians". These "Indians" now found that their tribal allegiance was not enough to differentiate them from the Europeans and subsequently began calling themselves maori (meaning "normal" or "not distinctive") while referring to the newcomers as pakeha ("foreign").

Offshore from the Coromandel Peninsula, Cook deviated from instructions and unfurled the British flag, claiming formal possession without the consent of Maori, but was still allowed to return twice in 1772 and 1776. The French were also interested in New Zealand, and on his first voyage Cook had passed Jean Francois Marie de Surville in a storm without either knowing of the other's presence. Two years later, Marion du Fresne spent five amicable weeks around the Bay of Islands, before most of his crew were killed, probably after inadvertently transgressing some tapu (taboo).

The establishment of the Botany Bay penal colony in neighbouring Australia aroused the first commercial interest in New Zealand and from the 1790s to the 1830s New Zealand was very much part of the Australian frontier. By 1830 the coast was dotted with semi-permanent sealing communities which, within thirty years, had almost clubbed the seals into extinction. Meanwhile the British navy was rapidly felling giant kauri trees for its ships' masts, while others were busy supplying Sydney shipbuilders. By the 1820s whalers had moved in, basing themselves at Kororareka (now Russell, in the Bay of Islands), where they could recruit Maori crew and provision their ships. This combination of rough whalers, escaped convicts from Australia and all manner of miscreants and adventurers combined to turn Russell into "the Hellhole of the Pacific", a lawless place populated by what Darwin, on his visit in 1835, found to be "the very refuse of Society".

Before long, the Maori way of life had been entirely disrupted. Maori were quick to understand the importance of guns and inter-tribal fighting soon broke out on a scale never seen before. Hongi Hika from Ngapuhi iwi of the Bay of Islands was the first chief to acquire firearms in 1821, adding 300 muskets to his stock by trading the gifts showered on him by London society when he was presented to George IV as an "equal". Vowing to emulate the supreme power of the imperial king, he set about subduing much of the North Island, using the often badly maintained and inexpertly aimed guns to rattle the enemy, who were then slaughtered with the traditional mere. Warriors abandoned the old fighting season - the lulls between hunting and tending the crops - and set off to settle old scores, resulting in a massive loss of life. The quest for new territory fuelled the actions of Ngati Toa's Te Rauparaha , who soon controlled the southern half of the North Island.

The huge demand for firearms drove Maori to sell the best of their food, relocating to unhealthy areas close to flax swamps, where flax production could be increased. Even highly valued tribal treasures - pounamu (greenstone) clubs and the preserved heads of chiefs taken in battle - were traded. Poor living conditions allowed European diseases to sweep through the Maori population time and again, while alcohol and tobacco abuse became widespread, Maori women were prostituted to pakeha sailors, and the tribal structure began to crumble.

Into this scene stepped the missionaries in 1814, the brutal New South Wales magistrate, Samuel Marsden, arriving in the Bay of Islands a transformed man with a mission to bring Christianity and "civilization" to Maori, and to save the souls of the sealers and whalers. Subsequently Anglicans, Wesleyans and Catholics all set up missions throughout the North Island, playing a significant role in protecting Maori from the worst of the exploitation and campaigning in both London and Sydney for more policing of pakeha actions. In return, they destroyed fine artworks considered too sexually explicit and demanded that Maori abandon cannibalism and slavery; in short Maori were expected to trade in their Maoritanga and become Brown Europeans. By the 1830s, self-confidence and the belief in Maori ways was in rapid decline: the tohunga (priest) was powerless over new European diseases which could often be cured by the missionaries, and Maori had started to believe the pakeha, who were convinced that the Maori race was dying out. They felt they needed help.


The push for colonization
Despite Cook's "discoverer's" claim in 1769, imperial cartographers had never marked New Zealand as a British possession and it was with some reluctance - informed by the perception of an over-extended empire only marginally under control - that New South Wales law was nominally extended to New Zealand in 1817. The effect was minimal; the New South Wales governor had no official representation on this side of the Tasman and was powerless to act. Unimpressed, by 1831 a small group of northern Maori chiefs decided to petition the British monarch to become a "friend and the guardian of these islands", a letter that was later used to justify Britain's intervention.

Britain's response was to send the pompous and less-than-competent James Busby as British Resident in 1833, with a brief to encourage trade, stay on good terms with the missionaries and Maori, and apprehend escaped convicts for return to Sydney. Feeling that New Zealand was becoming a drain on the colony's economy, the New South Wales governor, Bourke, withheld guns and troops, and Busby was unable to enforce his will. Busby was also duped by the madness of Baron de Thierry, a Brit of French parents, who claimed he had bought most of the Hokianga district from Hongi Hika and styled himself the "sovereign chief of New Zealand", ostensibly to save Maori from the degradation he foresaw under British dominion. In a panic, Busby misguidedly persuaded 35 northern chiefs to proclaim themselves as the " United Tribes of New Zealand " in 1835. As far as the Foreign Office was concerned, this allowed Britain to disclaim responsibility for the actions of its subjects.

By the late 1830s there were around two thousand pakeha in New Zealand, the largest concentration around Kororareka in the Bay of Islands, where there were often up to thirty ships at anchor. Most were British, but French Catholics were consolidating their tentative toehold, and in 1839 James Clendon was appointed American consul. Meanwhile, land speculators and colonists were taking an interest for the first time. The Australian emancipationist, William Charles Wentworth, had "bought" the South Island and Stewart Island for a few hundred pounds (the largest private land deal in history, subsequently quashed by government order) and British settlers were already setting sail. The British admiralty finally began to take notice when it became apparent that the Australian convict settlements, originally intended simply as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution to their bulging prisons, looked set to become a ­valuable possession.

It was a combination of these pressures and Busby's continual exaggeration of the Maori inability to control their own affairs that goaded the British government into action. The result was the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi , a document that purported to guarantee continued Maori control of their lands, rights and possessions in return for their loss of sovereignty, a concept poorly understood by Maori. The annexed lands became a dependency of New South Wales until New Zealand was declared a separate colony a year later.


Settlement and the early pioneers
Even before the Treaty was signed, there were moves to found a settlement in Port Nicholson, the site of Wellington, on behalf of the New Zealand Company. This was the brainchild of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who desperately wanted to stem American-style egalitarianism and hoped to use New Zealand as the proving ground for his theory of "scientific colonization". This involved preserving the English squire-and-yokel class structure by encouraging the settlement of a cross-section of English society, though without the "dregs" at the bottom. It was supposed to be a self-regulating system, whereby the company would buy large tracts of land cheaply from the government then charge a price low enough to encourage the relatively wealthy to invest, yet high enough to prevent labourers from becoming landowners. The revenue from land sales was then to fund the transportation of cheap labour to work the land, but the system ended up encouraging absentee landlordism as English "gentlemen", arriving to find somewhere altogether more rugged and less refined than they had been promised, hot-footed it to Australia or America.

Between 1839 and 1843 the New Zealand Company dispatched nearly 19,000 settlers and established them in " planned settlements " in Wellington, Wanganui, Nelson and New Plymouth. This was the core of pakeha immigration, the only substantial non-Wakefield settlement being Auckland, a scruffy collection of waterside shacks which, to the horror of New Zealand Company officials, became the capital after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Maori welfare and social justice had no place in all this, despite the precarious position of pakeha settlements, which were nothing but tiny enclaves in a country still under Maori control. Transgressing the protocols of the local iwi was likely to have graver implications than offending the pakeha government.

The company couldn't buy land direct from Maori, but the government bought up huge tracts and sold it on, often for ten or twenty times what they paid for it. Maori must have been well aware that they were being swindled and could have negotiated better prices themselves, but sold almost the whole of the South Island in a number of large blocks. Some was bought by two more organizations expounding the Wakefield principle: the dour Free Church of Scotland founded Dunedin in 1848, while the Canterbury Association established Christchurch in 1850, fashioning it English, Anglo-Catholic and conservative. In 1850 the New Zealand Company foundered, leaving well-established settlements which, subject to the hard realities of colonial life, had failed to conform to Wakefield's lofty theories and were filled with sturdy workers from labouring and lower middle-class backgrounds.

In 1852 New Zealand achieved self-government and set about dividing the country into six provinces - Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago - which took over land sales and encouraged migrants with free passage, land grants and guaranteed employment on road construction schemes. The same people drawn to the Wakefield settlements heeded the call, hoping for a better life away from the oppression and drudgery of working-class Britain. The new towns were alive with ambitious folk prepared to work hard to realize their high expectations, but many felt stymied by the low-quality land they were able to buy. At this point Maori still held the best land and were doing quite nicely growing potatoes and wheat for both local consumption and export to Australia, where the Victorian gold rush had created a huge demand. Pakeha were barely able to compete, and with the slump in export prices in the mid-1850s, many looked to pastoralism. The Crown helped out by halving the price of land, allowing poorer settlers to become landowners but simultaneously paving the way for the creation of huge pastoral runs and putting further pressure on Maori to sell land.


Maori discontent and the New Zealand wars
The first five years after the signing of the Treaty were a disaster, first under governor Hobson then under the ineffectual FitzRoy. Relations between Maori and pakeha began to deteriorate immediately, as the capital was moved from Kororareka to Auckland and duties were imposed in the Bay of Islands. The consequent loss of trade from passing ships precipitated the first tangible expression of dissent, a famous series of incidents involving the Ngapuhi leader Hone Heke, who repeatedly felled the most fundamental symbol of British authority, the flagstaff at Russell . The situation was normalized to some degree by the appointment of George Grey, the most able of New Zealand's governors and a man who did more than anyone else to shape the country's early years. He was economical with the truth and despotic, but possessed the intelligence to use his deceit in a most effective (and often benign) way. As Maori began to adapt their culture to accommodate pakeha in a way that few other native peoples have - selling their crops, operating flour mills and running coastal shipping - Grey encouraged the process by establishing mission schools, erecting hospitals where Maori could get free treatment, and providing employment on public works. In short, he did what he could to uphold the spirit of the Treaty, thereby gaining enormous respect among Maori. Sadly, he failed to set up any mechanism to perpetuate his policies after he left for the governorship of Cape Town in 1853. Under New Zealand's constitution, enacted in 1852, Maori were excluded from political decision-making and prevented from setting up their own form of government; although British subjects in name, they had few of the practical benefits and yet were increasingly expected to comply with British law.

By now it was clear that Maori had been duped by the Treaty of Waitangi: one chief explained that they thought they were transferring the "shadow of the land" while "the substance of the land remains with us", and yet he now conceded "the substance of the land goes to the Europeans, the shadow only will be our portion". Growing resistance to land sales came at a time when settler communities were expanding and demanding to buy huge tracts of pastoral land. With improved communications pakeha became more self-reliant and dismissive of Maori, who progressively began to lose faith in the government and fell back on traditional methods of handling their affairs. Self-government had given landowners the vote, but since Maori didn't hold individual titles to their land they were denied suffrage. Maori and pakeha aspirations seemed completely at odds and there was a growing sense of betrayal, which helped to replace tribal animosities with a tenuous unity. In 1854, a month before New Zealand's first parliament, Maori held inter-tribal meetings to discuss a response to the degradation of their culture and the rapid loss of their land. The eventual upshot was the 1858 election of the ageing Te Wherowhero, head chief of the Waikatos, as the Maori "King", the leader of the King Movement behind which Maori could rally to hold back the flood of pakeha settlement. Initially just the Waikato and central North Island iwi supported the King, but soon Taranaki and some Hawke's Bay iwi joined in a loose federation united in vowing not to sell any more land. This brave attempt to challenge the changes forced upon them gave Maori a sense of purpose and brought with it a resurgence of ancient customs such as tattooing. While some radical Maori wanted to completely rid the country of the white menace, most were moderates and made peaceful overtures that pakeha chose to regard as rebellious.

By now, most settlers felt that the Treaty of Waitangi had no validity whatsoever and sided with the land sellers to drive the government to repress the Maori landholders. There had been minor skirmishes over land throughout the country, but matters came to a head in 1860, when the government used troops to enforce a bogus purchase of land at Waitara, near New Plymouth. The fighting was temporarily confined to Taranaki but soon spread to consume the whole of the North Island in the New Zealand Wars, once known by pakeha as the Maori Wars and by Maori as te riri pakeha (white man's anger). Maori were divided: most of the supporters of the King movement, particularly the Waikatos, traced their whakapapa (genealogy) back to the Tainui canoe and some others chose this opportunity to settle old grievances by siding with the government against their traditional enemies. Through the early 1860s the number of pakeha troops was tripled to around 3000, providing an effective force against Maori who failed to adopt a co-ordinated strategy. The warrior ethic meant there was no place for more effective guerrilla tactics, except in the east of the North Island, where Te Kooti kept the government troops on the run. Elsewhere Maori frequently faced off against ranked artillery and, though there were notable successes, the final result was inevitable. Fighting had abated by the end of the 1860s but peace wasn't finally declared until 1881, when the Maori fastness of the "King Country" (an area south of Hamilton which still goes by that title) was finally opened up to pakeha once again.

British soldiers had been lured into service with offers of land and free passage and, as a further affront to defeated Maori, many of them were settled in the solidly Maori Waikato. Much of the most fertile land was confiscated - in the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki - with little regard to the owners' allegiances during the conflict. By 1862 the Crown had relinquished its right of pre-emption and individuals could buy land directly from Maori, who were forced to limit the stated ownership first to ten individuals and later to just one owner. With their collective power smashed, there was little resistance to voracious land agents luring Maori into debt then offering to buy their land to save them.

Throughout this period, Maori tradition was ignored by settlers and an Anglo-Saxon world view came to dominate all aspects of New Zealand life; by 1871 the Maori language was no longer used for teaching in schools. A defeated people were widely thought to be close to extinction: Anthony Trollope in 1872 wrote "There is scope for poetry in their past history. There is room for philanthropy as to their present condition. But in regard to their future - there is hardly a place for hope."

Meanwhile, as the New Zealand Wars raged in the North Island, gold fever had struck the South. Flakes had been found near Queenstown in 1861 and the initial rushes soon spread to later finds along the West Coast. For the best part of a decade, gold was New Zealand's major export, but the gold provinces never had a major influence on the rest of the country, nor does the gold era retain the legendary status it does in California and Victoria. The major effect was on population distribution: by 1858 the shrinking Maori population had been outstripped by the rapidly swelling horde of pakeha settlers, a number which doubled during the first three years of the gold rush, most settling in the South Island where relations with Maori played a much smaller part. The South Island prospered, with both Christchurch and Dunedin consolidating their roles, serving the surrounding farms and more distant sheep stations. Dunedin became the largest town in the country, the influx of the "New Iniquity" radically changing the city's staunch front of the "Old Identity".


Consolidation and social reform
The 1870s were dominated by the policies of Julius Vogel, an able Treasurer who started a programme of borrowing on a massive scale to fund public works. Within a decade what had previously been a land of scattered towns in separately governed provinces was transformed into an single country unified by improved roads, an expanding rail system, 7000 kilometres of telegraph wires and numerous public institutions. Almost all the remaining farmable land was bought up or leased from Maori and acclimatization societies sprang up with the express aim of anglicizing the New Zealand countryside and improving farming. New Zealand quickly began to realize the agricultural expectation created by fertile soils, a temperate climate and relatively high rainfall. Arable farming was mostly abandoned and pastoralism was taking hold, particularly among those rich enough to afford to buy and ship the stock. With no extensive market close enough to make perishable produce profitable, wool became the main export item, stimulated by the development of the Corriedale sheep, a Romney-Lincoln cross with a long fleece. Wool continued as the mainstay until 1882, when the first refrigerated shipment left for Britain, signalling a turning point in the New Zealand economy and the establishment of New Zealand as Britain's offshore larder, a role it maintained until the 1970s.

From 1879 until 1896 New Zealand went into the "long depression", mostly overseen by the conservative "Continuous Ministry" - the last government composed of colonial gentry. During this time trade unionism began to influence the political scene and bolstered the Liberal Pact (a Liberal and Labour alliance), which, in 1890, wrested power from those who had controlled the country for two decades and ushered in an era of unprecedented social change. Its first leader, John Ballance, firmly believed in state intervention and installed William Pember Reeves, probably New Zealand's most radically socialist MP, as his Minister of Labour. Reeves was instrumental in pushing through sweeping reforms to working hours and factory conditions that were so progressive that no further changes were made to labour laws until 1936. On his own initiative, with no apparent demand from workers, he introduced the world's first compulsory arbitration system, which went on to award numerous wage rises, so increasing the national prosperity. He had become too radical for most of his colleagues, however, and only remained in office until 1896. When Ballance died in 1892 he was replaced by Richard "King Dick" Seddon, a blunt Lancastrian who became, along with Grey, one of the country's greatest, if least democratic, leaders. Following Ballance's lead he introduced a graduated income tax and repealed property tax, hoping to break up some of the large estates (something eventually achieved much later, as technological changes made dairying and mixed farming more prosperous). New Zealand was already being tagged the "social laboratory of the world", but more was to come.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first nation in the world to enact full female suffrage, undoubtedly in line with the liberal thinking of the time, but apparently an accident nonetheless. The story goes that Seddon let an amendment to an electoral reform bill pass on the assumption that it would be rejected by the Legislative Council (an upper house which survived until 1950), thus diverting the ill will of suffragists. Others contend that female suffrage was approved not for any free-thinking liberal principle but in response to the powerful quasi-religious temperance movement, which hoped to "purify and improve the tone of our politics", effectively giving married couples double the vote of the single man who was often seen as a drunken layabout. In 1898 Seddon further astonished the world by weathering a ninety-hour continuous debate to squeeze through legislation guaranteeing an old age pension. Fabian Beatrice Webb, in New Zealand that same year, allowed that "it is delightful to see a country with no millionaires and hardly any slums".

By early this century, the radical impetus had faded along with the memory of the 1880s depression, and pakeha could rest easy in the knowledge that their standard of living was one of the highest in the world. But things were not so rosy for Maori, whose numbers had dropped from an estimated 200,000 at Cook's first visit to a low of 42,000 in 1896. However, as resistance to European diseases grew, numbers started rising, accompanied by a new confidence buoyed by the rise of Maori parliamentary leadership. Apirana Ngata, Maui Pomare and Te Rangi Hiroa ( Peter Buck ) were all products of Te Aute College, an Anglican school for Maori, and all were committed to working within the administrative and legislative framework of government, convinced that the survival of Maoritanga depended on shedding those aspects of the traditional lifestyle that impeded their acceptance of the modern world.

Seddon died in 1906 and the flame went out of the Liberal torch, though the party was to stay in power another six years. This era saw the rise of the " Red Feds ", international socialists of the Red Federation who began to organize Kiwi labour. They rejected the arbitration system that had kept wage rises below the level of inflation and prevented strikes for a decade, and encouraged strikes, the longest at Blackball on the West Coast, where prime movers in the formation of the Federation of Miners, and subsequently the Federation of Labour, led a three-month stoppage.

The 1912 election was won by William Massey's Reform Party, with the support of the farmers or "cow cockies". Allegiances were now substantially polarized and 1912 and 1913 saw bitter fighting at a series of strikes at the gold mines of Waihi, the docks at Timaru and the wharves of Auckland. As workers opposed to the arbitration system withdrew their labour, the owners organized scab labour, while the hostile Farmers' Union recruited mounted "specials" to add to the government force of "special constables". All were protected by naval and military forces as they decisively smashed the Red Feds. The Prime Minister even handed out medals to strike-breaking dairy farmers. Further domestic conflict was only averted by the outbreak of war


Coming of age: 1916-1945
Though New Zealand had started off as an unwanted sibling of Mother England, it had soon transformed itself into a devoted daughter who could be relied upon in times of crisis. New Zealand had supported Britain in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century and was now called upon to do the same in World War I. Locally born pakeha now outnumbered immigrants and, in 1907, New Zealand had traded its self-governing colony status for that of a Dominion, giving it control over its foreign policy; but the rising sense of nationalism didn't dilute a patriotism for the motherland far in excess of its filial duty. Altogether ten percent of the population were involved in the war effort, 100,000 fighting in the trenches of Gallipoli and elsewhere. Seventeen thousand failed to return, more than were lost in Belgium, a battleground with six times the population.

At home, the Temperance Movement was back in action, attempting to curb vice in the army brought on by the demon drink. Plebiscites in 1911, 1914 and 1919 narrowly averted national prohibition but the "wowsers" succeeded to the point that from 1917 pubs would close at 6pm for the duration of the war. Six o'clock closing entered the statute books in 1918: not until 1967 did its repeal end half a century of the " Six o'clock swill ", an hour or so of frenetic after-work consumption in which the ability to tank down as much beer as possible was raised to an art form. This probably did more to hinder New Zealand's social development than anything else: pubs began to look more like lavatories, which could be hosed down after closing, and the predilection for quantity over quality encouraged breweries to churn out dreadful watery brews.

The wartime boom economy continued until around 1920 as Britain's demand for food remained high. Things looked rosy, especially for pakeha returned servicemen, who were rehabilitated on newly acquired farmland; in contrast, Maori returned servicemen got nothing. These highly mortgaged and inexperienced farmers began to suffer with the rapid drop in produce prices in the early 1920s, fostering a sense of insecurity which pervaded the country. Political leadership was weak and yet New Zealand continued to grow with ongoing improvements in infrastructure - hydroelectric dams and roads - and enormous improvements in farming techniques, such as the application of superphosphate fertilizers, sophisticated milking machines and tractors. New Zealand remained a prosperous nation but was ill prepared for the Great Depression, when the Wall Street Crash sent shock waves through the country. The already high national debt skyrocketed as export income dropped and the Reform government cut pensions, health care and public works' expenditure. The budget was balanced at the cost of producing huge numbers of unemployed. Prime Minister Forbes dictated "no pay without work" and sent thousands of men to primitive rural relief camps for unnecessary tasks such as planting trees and draining swamps in return for a pittance. With the knowledge of the prosperous years to come it is hard to conjure the image of lines of ragged men awaiting their relief money, malnourished children in schools and former soldiers panhandling in the streets.

Throughout the 1920s the Labour Party had gradually watered down some of its socialist policies in an attempt to woo the middle-ground voter. In 1935 they were swept to power and ushered in New Zealand's second era of massive social change, picking up where Seddon left off. Labour's leader Michael Joseph Savage felt that "Social Justice must be the guiding principle and economic organization must adapt itself to social needs", a sentiment translated by a contemporary commentator as aiming "to turn capitalism quite painlessly into a nicer sort of capitalism which will eventually become indistinguishable from socialism". State socialism was out, but "Red Feds" still held half the cabinet posts. Salaries reduced during the depression were restored; public works programmes were rekindled, with workers on full pay rather than "relief"; income was redistributed through graduated taxation; and in two rapid bursts of legislation Labour built the model Welfare State, the first in the world and the most comprehensive and integrated. State houses were built and let at low rental, pensions were increased, a national health service provided free medicines and health care, and family benefits supplemented the income of those with children.

Maori welfare was also on the agenda and there were moves to raise their living standards to the pakeha level, partly achieved by increasing pensions and unemployment payments. Much of the best land had by now been sold off but legal changes paved the way for Maori land to be farmed using pakeha agricultural methods, while maintaining communal ownership. In return, the newly formed Ratana Party, who held all four of the Maori Parliamentary seats, supported Labour, keeping them in office until 1949.

New Zealand's perception of its world position changed dramatically in 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The country was forced to recognize its position half a globe away from Britain and in the military sphere of America. As in World War I, large numbers of troops were called up, amounting to a third of the male labour force, but casualties were fewer and on the home front the economy continued to boom. Foreign wars aside, by the 1940s New Zealand was the world's most prosperous country, with a fabulous quality of life and the comfortable bed of the Welfare State to fall back on


More years of prosperity
The Reform Party and the remnants of the Liberals eventually combined to form the National Party which, in 1949 wrested power from Labour. With McCarthyite rhetoric, National branded the more militant unionists as Communists and succeeded in breaking much of the power of the unions during the violent and emotional 1951 Waterfront dispute - variously described as a strike and a lock-out. From the late 1940s until the mid-1980s, National became New Zealand's natural party of ­government, disturbed only by two three-year stints with Labour in power. The conservatism always bubbling under had now found its expression. Most were happy with the government's strong-arm tactics, which emasculated the militant unions and the country settled down to what novelist C.K. Stead viewed as the Kiwi ideal: "to live in a country with fresh air, an open landscape and plenty of sunshine; and to own a house, car, refrigerator, washing machine, bach, launch, fibre-glass rod, golf clubs, and so on." While the egalitarian myth still perpetuated by many Kiwis may never have existed, by most measures New Zealand's wealth was evenly spread, with few truly rich and relatively few poor.

The exception at least in economic terms were Maori, many now migrating in huge numbers to the cities, especially Auckland, responding to the urban labour shortages and good wages after World War II. By the 1970s the deracination of urban Maori was creating social unrest which, left unchannelled, resulted in high Maori unemployment and a disproportionate representation in prisons. Increasing contact between Maori and Europeans exposed weaknesses in the pakeha belief that the country's race relations were the best in the world. Pakehas took great pride in Maori bravery, skill, generosity and good humour, but were unable to set aside the discrimination which kept Maoris out of professional jobs.

On the economic front the major changes took place under Walter Nash 's 1957-60 Labour government, when New Zealand embarked on a programme designed to relieve the country's dependence on exports. A steel rolling mill, oil refinery, gin distillery and glass factory were all set up and an aluminium industry was encouraged by the prospect of cheap power from hydroelectric project on Lake Manapouri . When Keith Holyoake took over at the helm of the next National government, Britain was still by far New Zealand's biggest export market but was making overtures to the economically isolationist European Common Market. New Zealand was becoming aware that Britain was no longer the guardian she once was. This was equally true in the military sphere, where New Zealand began to court its Pacific allies, signing the anti-Communist SEATO (South-East Asia Treaty Organization) document, and the ANZUS pact, which provided for mutual defence of Australia, New Zealand and the US.


Dithering in the face of adversity 1972-1984
In a landslide victory, the third Labour government took control in 1972. Again it was to only last a single three-year term, largely due to the difficulties of having to deal with international events beyond its control. Most fundamental was the long-expected entry of Britain into the Common Market. Some other export markets had been found but New Zealand still felt betrayed. Later the same year oil prices quadrupled in a few months and the treasury found itself with mounting fuel bills and decreasing export receipts. The government borrowed heavily but couldn't avoid electoral defeat in 1975 by National's obstreperous and pugnacious Robert "Piggy" Muldoon, who denounced Labour's borrowing and then outdid them. In short order New Zealand had dreadful domestic and foreign debt, unemployment was the highest for decades, and the unthinkable was happening - the standard of living was falling. People began to leave in their thousands and the "brain drain" almost reached crisis point. Muldoon's solution was to " Think Big " a catch-all term for a number of capital-intensive petrochemical projects designed to utilize New Zealand's abundant natural gas to produce ammonia, urea fertilizer, methanol and synthetic petrol. Though undoubtedly self-aggrandizing it made little economic sense. Rather than use local technology and labour to convert New Zealand vehicles to run on compressed natural gas (a system already up and running), Muldoon chose to pay international corporations to design and build huge prefabricated processing plants which were then shipped to New Zealand for assembly, mostly around New Plymouth.

Factory outfalls often jeopardized traditional Maori shellfish beds, and where once iwi would have accepted this as inevitable, a new spirit of protest saw them win significant concessions. Throughout the mid-1970s Maori began to question the philosophy of pakeha life and looked to the Treaty of Waitangi to correct the grievances that were aired at occupations of traditional land at Bastion Point in Auckland , and Raglan, and through a petition delivered to parliament after a march across the North Island.

Maori also found expression in the formation of gangs - Black Power, the Mongrel Mob and the bike-oriented Highway 61 - along the lines graphically depicted in Lee Tamahori's film Once Were Warriors, which was originally written about south Auckland life in the 1970s. Fortified suburban homes still exist and such gangs continue to be influential among Maori youth, a position now being positively exploited to bring wayward Maori youth back into the fold.

Race relations were never Muldoon's strong suit and when large numbers of illegal Polynesian immigrants from south Pacific islands - particularly Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands - started arriving in Auckland he responded by instructing the police to conduct random street checks for "over-stayers", many of whom were deported. Muldoon opted for a completely hands-off approach when it came to sporting contacts with South Africa and in 1976 let the pig-headed rugby administrators send an All Black team over to play racially selected South African teams. African nations responded by boycotting the Montreal Olympics, putting New Zealand in the unusual position of being an international pariah. New Zealand signed the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement requiring it to "vigorously combat the evil of apartheid" and yet in 1981 the New Zealand Rugby Union courted a Springbok Tour, which sparked New Zealand's greatest civil disturbance since the labour riots of the 1920s.


Modern New Zealand: A maturing nation
Muldoon's big-spending economic policies were widely perceived to be unsuccessful, and when he called a snap election in 1984, Labour were returned to power under David Lange. Just as National had eschewed traditional right-wing economics in favour of a "managed economy", Labour now changed tactics, addressing the massive economic problems by shunning the traditional left-of-centre approach. Instead, they grasped the baton of Thatcherite economics and sprinted off with it. Under Finance Minister Roger Douglas's Rogernomics, the dollar was devalued by twenty percent, exchange controls were abolished, tariffs slashed, the maximum income tax rate was halved, a Goods and Services Tax was introduced, Air New Zealand and the Bank of New Zealand were privatized, and state benefits were cut. Unemployment doubled to twelve percent, a quarter of manufacturing jobs were lost, and the moderately well-off benefited at the expense of the poor; nevertheless, market forces and enterprise culture had come to stay. As one of the world's most regulated economies became one of the most deregulated, the longstanding belief that the state should provide for those least able to help themselves was cast aside.

In other spheres Labour's views weren't so right-wing. One of Lange's first acts was to refuse US ships entry to New Zealand ports unless they declared that they were nuclear-free. The Americans would do nothing of the sort and withdrew support for New Zealand's defence safety net, the ANZUS pact. Most of the country backed Lange on this but were less sure about his overtures towards Maori who, for the first time since the middle of the nineteenth century, got legal recognition for the Treaty of Waitangi. Now, Maori grievances dating back to 1840 could be addressed.

The rise in apparent income under Rogernomics created consumer confidence and the economy boomed until the stock market crash of 1987, which hit New Zealand especially hard. The country went into freefall and all confidence in the reforms was lost. Labour's position, consolidated in the 1987 election, now became untenable, and in the 1990 election National's Jim Bolger took the helm. Throughout the deep recession National continued Labour's free-market reforms, cutting welfare programmes (a policy dubbed "Ruthanasia" after its perpetrator Ruth Richardson) and extracting teeth from the unions by passing the Employment Contracts Act, which established the pattern of individual workplaces coming to their own agreements on wages and conditions. By the middle of the 1990s the economy had improved dramatically and what for a time had been considered a foolhardy experiment was seen by monetarists as a model for open economies the world over. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen and New Zealand's classless society is increasingly exposed for the myth it always was.

While many have relished the good life, those at the bottom of the pile have suffered. In her resignation speech, Cath Tizard, the most popular and charismatic Governor-General New Zealand has had for years, levelled a thinly veiled attack at the government for its record on health care, but succeeded only in raising anti-monarchist hackles at her vice-regal intervention. Nonetheless, the kind of republican rabble-rousing championed across the Tasman in recent years largely falls on deaf ears in Aotearoa, where, despite the maturing of the nation in the last decade or so, and a progressive realignment with the Pacific and Asia, most seem happy to maintain links with Britain.

Ever since New Zealand achieved self-government from Britain in 1852, it had maintained a first-past-the-post Westminster style of parliament, with the exception of the scrapping of the upper house in 1950 and the provision for four (later five, and now six) Maori seats. Maori can chose to vote for their general or Maori candidate but not both. Through the late 1980s and early 1990s both parties had promised electoral reform and, in the depths of the recession in 1993, New Zealand voted for Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP), a system which purports to give smaller parties an opportunity to have some say. In the two MMP elections since then, this has certainly proved to be the case. In 1996, National and Labour shared the majority of the vote, but the balance of power was held by New Zealand First, a new Maori-dominated party headed by former National MP, Winston Peters, who shaped their policies of reducing Asian immigration, increasing government spending and accountability, and getting long-term unemployed back to work. They eventually formed a coalition with National under Jim Bolger and introduced a new Maori spirit in parliament, with far more Maori MPs than ever before and maiden speeches received with a waiata (song) from their whanau (extended family group) in the public gallery. Unfortunately, most were political neophytes and NZ First self-destructed in short order after a spate of scandals. Bolger's poor handling of the situation saw his support wane, and his attendance at a Commonwealth leaders' conference left the field open for a palace coup, in which Jenny Shipley became New Zealand's first female prime minister. Her brand of right-wing economics and more liberal social views succeeded in holding the coalition together but failed to bolster the polls on the lead up to the 1999 election. Suddenly, out of left-field came the Green Party, long-sidelined but newly resurgent under MMP. The vagaries of the MMP system meant that, on a nail-biting election night, the Greens were teetering between getting no seats at all and racking up six seats, a tally they eventually achieved with the counting of special votes. They formed a government with Labour and the Alliance, and sent New Zealand's first Rastafarian MP to parliament, one Nandor Tanczos. Resplendent in waist-length dreads and a new hemp suit he has become both a bogeyman for the opposition and something of a hero to disenfranchised youth. As if the political landscape weren't topsy-turvy enough, the staunchly conservative Wairarapa district returned the world's first transgender MP, Carterton's former mayor, Georgina Beyer.

Nine years in opposition left Labour (the senior coalition partner) with a considerable agenda for change, and they haven't held back. Logging of beech forests on the West Coast has been stopped, the Employment Contracts Act has been replaced by more worker-friendly legislation, and they've unilaterally abolished knighthoods. Support remains strong, but some are already voicing doubts about how long the honeymoon period can last.

Meanwhile, Maoritanga looks set to play an ever increasing role in the life of all New Zealanders as Maori consolidate the gains of the past few years. In the twenty-first century the number of New Zealanders who consider themselves Maori may well surpass the number of pakeha, and it remains to be seen just how significant that will be.


Chronology of New Zealand history
c. 1000AD Arrival of first Polynesians.

c.1350 Mythical arrival of the "Great Fleet" from Hawaiki.

1642 Dutchman Abel Tasman sails past the West Coast but doesn't land.

1769 Englishman James Cook circum-navigates both main islands and makes first constructive contact.

1772 French sailor Marion du Fresne and 26 of his men killed in the Bay of Islands.

1809 Whangaroa Maori attack the Boyd ; most of the crew killed.

1814 Arrival of Samuel Marsden, the first Christian missionary.

1830s Sealing and whaling stations dotted around the coast.

1833 James Busby installed as British Resident at Waitangi.

1835 Independence of the United Tribes of NZ proclaimed.

1840 Treaty of Waitangi signed; capital moved from Kororareka to Auckland.

1840s Cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, New Plymouth, Wanganui and Wellington all established.

1852 NZ becomes a self-governing colony divided into six provinces.

1858 Settlers outnumber Maori.

1860-65 Land Wars between pakeha and Maori.

1860s Major gold rushes in the South Island.

1865 Capital moved from Auckland to Wellington.

1867 Maori men given the vote.

1870s Wool established as the mainstay of the NZ economy.

1876 Abolition of provincial governments. Power centralized in Wellington.

1882 First refrigerated meat shipment to Europe. Lamb becomes increas-ingly important.

1890 NZ becomes "social laboratory" with introduction of compulsory arbitra-tion and graduated income tax.

1893 Full women's suffrage ; a world first.

1898 Old-age pension introduced.

1910s Rise of organized labour under the socialist Red Federation. Strikes at Blackball, Waihi and Auckland.

1914-18 NZ takes part in WWI with terrible loss of life.

1917 Temperance Movement gets pubs closed after 6pm. Only repealed in 1967.

1920s Initial prosperity evaporates as the Great Depression takes hold.

1935 M.J. Savage's Labour government ushers in the world's first Welfare State with free health service, family benefits, state housing and increased pensions.

1941 Bombing of Pearl Harbor and WWII begins NZ's military realignment with the Pacific region.

1947 New Zealand becomes fully independent from Britain.

1950 Parliament's upper house abol-ished.

1951 NZ joins ANZUS military pact with the US and Australia.

1950s NZ comfortable as one of the world's most prosperous nations.

1957-60 Infrastructure improvements: steel mill, oil refinery, and numerous hydro-electric power stations built or planned.

1960s Start of immigration from Pacific Islands. Major urbaniza-tion of Maori population.

1972-75 Third Labour government. NZ econ-omy struggles to cope with huge oil price hikes and Britain's entry into the Common Market.

1975 Waitangi Tribunal established to consider Maori land claims.

1975-84 National's Robert "Piggy" Muldoon tries to borrow NZ out of trouble, investing heavily in ill-considered petro-chemical projects.

1976 African nations boycott Montreal Olympics because of NZ's rugby contacts with South Africa.

1977 NZ signs Gleneagles Agreement banning sporting ties with South Africa.

1981 Springbok Tour. Massive protests as a racially selected South African rugby team tours NZ.

1983 NZ signs Closer Economic Relations (CER) Treaty with Australia.

1984 The "Hikoi" land march brings Maori grievances into political focus.

1984 Labour regains power under David Lange. Widespread privatization and deregulation of NZ's protectionist economy. Refusal to allow American nuclear warships into NZ ports severely strains US/NZ relations.

1985 French secret service agents bomb Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour.

1987 New Zealand becomes a Nuclear-Free Zone.

1987 Stock market crash devastates NZ economy.

1990-96 Jim Bolger leads National govern-ment, pressing on with Labour's free-market reforms and further dismantling the welfare state.

1996 First MMP election returns an alliance of National and NZ First.

1997 Jenny Shipley ousts Bolger to become NZ's first woman Prime Minister.

1999 Labour regain power under Jenny Shipley in coalition with the Alliance and the Green Party. The Greens' Nandor Tanczos installed as NZ's first Rastafarian MP and Labour's Georgina Beyer becomes the world's first transgender MP