History Introduction g4i19ik
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.
First Maori were the first inhabitants of Aotearoa/New Zealand (meaning ‘Land
of the Long White Cloud’). After arriving from their ancestral Polynesian
homeland of Hawaiki, probably about 1000 years ago, they set up a thriving society
based on the iwi (tribe), which flourished for hundreds of years.
Arriving in Aotearoa
According to Maori, the first explorer to reach New Zealand was Kupe. Using
the stars and ocean currents as his navigational guides, he ventured across
the Pacific on his waka hourua (voyaging canoe) from his ancestral Polynesian
homeland of Hawaiki. It is thought that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga Harbour
in Northland, around 1000 years ago.
Where is Hawaiki?
You will not find Hawaiki on a map, but it is believed Maori came from an island
or group of islands in Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. It is not known
exactly which place, but there are distinct similarities between the Maori language
and culture, and others of Polynesia including the Cook Islands, Hawaii, and
Maori were expert hunters and fishermen. As mostly coastal dwellers, fishing
was vitally important to them. It also played a part in their mythology - the
god, Maui, was believed to have ‘fished up’ the North Island. Maori
wove fishing nets from harakeke (flax), and carved fishhooks from bone and stone.
Maori considered whales as kaitiaki (guardians), and used their flesh for food
and their hard, strong bones for weapons. A Maori tradition that remains today
is to throw back the first fish caught. This is a way of thanking Tangaroa,
god of the sea, for his bounty.
With the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, New Zealand became a British
colony. This saw a great increase in the number of British migrants coming to
New Zealand. Many had their passage paid for by colonial companies. The systematic
colonial settlement of New Zealand was largely based on the ideas of Edward
Gibbon Wakefield, who believed the colonial settlements should be modelled on
the structures of British society. Many New Zealand cities and towns were established
and populated in this way. These settlements were intended to be civilised and
self-sufficient, with small farmers cultivating their land, and living in peace
with the native people.
Throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century, the ‘homeland’
of Britain had an enormous influence on New Zealand. Government administration,
education, and culture were largely built on British models. New Zealand troops
fought, and suffered severe casualties in the Boer War and the two World Wars.
As Prime Minister Michael Savage said about England in 1939, ‘where she
goes, we go, where she stands, we stand’.
Towards a Republic?
While New Zealand is still heavily influenced by its colonial heritage, the
country now has its own strong sense of identity. While still a member of the
British Commonwealth, and maintaining close, friendly relations with the USA,
New Zealand now has a far more independent trading and foreign policy. Since
the mid 1980s, New Zealand has been a nuclear free zone, with its armed forces
primarily focused on peacekeeping in the Pacific region. Today, even conservative
politicians talk openly about New Zealand eventually becoming a republic - something
unheard of until quite recently.
Climate - Land of the Long White Cloud
Since the Maori people named New Zealand ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’,
climate has been of paramount importance to the people of New Zealand - many
of whom make their living from the land. New Zealand has mild temperatures,
moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the
country. Its climate is dominated by two main geographical features - the mountains
and the sea.
Four Seasons in One Day
New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, lacking the extremes one
finds in most continental climates. However, the weather can change unexpectedly
- as cold fronts or tropical cyclones quickly blow in. Because of this, you
should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you’re
going hiking or doing other outdoor activities.
New Zealand has a unique and dynamic culture. The culture of its indigenous
Maori people affects the language, the arts, and even the accents of all New
Zealanders. Their place in the South Pacific, and their love of the outdoors,
sport, and the arts make New Zealanders and their culture unique in the world.
Today, New Zealanders are largely sophisticated and highly educated urban dwellers.
Members of a unique and vibrant multicultural society, New Zealanders are embracing
21st century technology and culture in record numbers. But New Zealanders also
have a background of quiet but rugged individualism, self-reliance, and a genius
for invention — qualities still evident in the population today.
Unique in the World
New Zealand has a diverse population — but with some uniting features
that make it unique in the world. Our relatively isolated South Pacific location
and rugged landscapes still makes many New Zealanders quiet and independent,
yet resourceful and self-reliant, with a famous ‘Kiwi ingenuity’.
New New Zealanders
In the 1970s, large numbers of Pacific Island immigrants settled in New Zealand,
followed in the 80s and 90s by Asians, Europeans, and many others. These new
arrivals contributed, along with technological and economic changes, to a totally
new national identity. In the last twenty years or so, New Zealanders have embraced
the global economy and the latest technology. Per head of population, New Zealanders
are some of the highest mobile phone and Internet users in the world. They also
read the most newspapers.
Taming the Land
Despite recent changes, New Zealand still has a sizeable rural population and
farming is a major export earner. While the traditional exports of wool, meat,
and dairy products are still very strong, new products, including Cervena (New
Zealand venison), flowers, fruit, biotechnology, and wine are now also contributing
greatly to our exports. Like the rest of the population, the farming sector
have diversified and embraced technology, making New Zealand one of the most
productive and efficient agricultural producers in the world.
With vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches,
often spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity, a temperate climate and
fascinating animal and plant life, and it is no surprise that New Zealand’s
pure natural environment is so attractive to visitors from other countries.
And the great advantage of New Zealand is there are many different landscapes,
environments, and ecosystems so close to each other.
New Zealand’s Awesome Landscape
You’ll find a variety of awesome landscapes in New Zealand, all within
easy reach of each other. Spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains,
vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, volcanic plateau, miles
of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches — it’s all here. No wonder
New Zealand is becoming so popular as a location for movies!