New Zealand’s history dates back more than 700 years to when these islands were first discovered and settled by people from Polynesia. They sailed south by out-rigger canoe to New Zealand, and they first named it Aoteoroa, the `Land of the Long White Cloud.’
These people developed a distinct Maori culture with a focus on strong family relationships (Whakapapa), and a connection with the land (Tangewhenua). They were a tribal people, and lived on a plentiful supply of wildlife and fish (kai).
A Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first to set sight of New Zealand in 1642, and James Cook was the first English sailor to set foot on New Zealand soil. During his three trips to New Zealand, he extensively circumnavigated and mapped the country.
From the late 18 th Century, a number of explorers, traders and missionaries arrived in New Zealand. In fact, the early 1800’s was rather akin to the Wild West! In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Crown and a number of Maori chiefs, allowing the Maori people equal rights to European, and bringing New Zealand into the Commonwealth.
However this was not the actual experience for the Maori people, as in some cases the early land-hungry European settlers exploited the opportunity to take ownership of the land. This led to the Maori wars, and the marginalization of the Maori people.
Once the Maori wars subsided by around 1860, there was an influx of settlers who took up farming the land. These early pioneers felled the bush, cleared the land and planted pasture. They also imported sheep and cattle from England and as a result, New Zealand’s agriculture industry was born.
The New Zealand Government enacted several world-leading reforms in the late 1800’s including woman’s suffrage (votes for women), and the welfare system, including old-age pensions.
The advent of the Great Depression in the early 1930’s meant very hard times for much of the population, and Napier was devastated by a severe earthquake in 1931 with the loss of 256 lives.
New Zealand entered the Second World War in 1939, and was under threat from Japan until the US armed forces managed to turn the tide against Japan at the Battle of Midway in 1942. New Zealand soldiers served with honor, both in the Pacific and European theatres of war, and later in the Korean War (1950) and Vietnam in the 70’s.
During the 1950’s New Zealand experienced a boom in its economy due to the post-war demand for wool and food. Its population grew very strongly during this time (post-war baby boom), resulting in a housing boom. This was also helped by an influx in the number of new immigrants to New Zealand during the 50’s and 60’s, mainly from the UK and Europe.
New Zealand also formed close relationships with Australia and the USA during this time, however this latter relationship was blighted somewhat in the 1970’s by the refusal of New Zealand to allow nuclear-powered ships to enter its ports. In recent years, New Zealand has continued to fiercely protect its `clean green’ image and has gained a world re-class reputation for producing quality foodstuffs.
The country managed to escape the excesses of the Global Financial Crisis, largely due to its trading relationship with Australia whose economy remained robust due to the strong demand from China for its mining resources.
The Christchurch earthquake in 2011 was a major event that has impacted the country significantly, resulting in the loss of 185 lives and approximately 10,000 homes and the destruction of the CBD. A major re-build is now under way, which ironically will benefit the New Zealand economy.
Today, New Zealand faces a promising future as a prosperous, increasingly multi-cultural and egalitarian nation. The door is open to those with the right skills, so if you would like to know more about how to immigrate to New Zealand, contact us below.
My name is Norman Sutton and I am a fourth-generation Kiwi who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. My wife and I are passionate about our country, and we enjoy helping people from all around the globe get to experience the beauty and uniqueness that is New Zealand, whether as a tourist or as a new immigrant. If you would like us to help you discover New Zealand, go to