Timeline of New Zealand history

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a timeline of the history of New Zealand that includes only events deemed to be of principal importance – for less important events click the year heading or refer to List of years in New Zealand.

Prehistory (to 1000 CE)[edit]

  • 85 mya: Around this time New Zealand splits from the supercontinent Gondwana.[1]
  • 5 mya: New Zealand's climate cools as Australia drifts north. Animals that have adapted to warm temperate and subtropical conditions become extinct.
  • 26,500 BP: The Taupō volcano erupts extremely violently, covering much of the country with volcanic ash and causing the Waikato River to avulse from the Hauraki Plains to its current path through the Waikato to the Tasman Sea.
  • 18,000 BP: New Zealand's North and South islands are connected by a land bridge during the last ice age. Glaciers spread from the Southern Alps carving valleys and making fiords in the South Island. The land bridge is submerged around 9,700 BCE.[citation needed]
  • 181 CE: Lake Taupō erupts violently.[2][3]

Pre-colonial time (1000 to 1839)[edit]

1000 to 1600[edit]

  • c1280: Earliest archaeological sites provide evidence that initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280 CE.[4]
  • ~1300: Most likely period of ongoing early settlement of New Zealand by Polynesian people (the Archaic Moa-Hunter Culture).[5]
  • ~1400: Rangitoto Island near Auckland is formed by a series of eruptions.[3]
  • 1400~1500: Development of the Classic Māori Material Culture including expansion of Māori settlement from coastal to inland areas, increase in horticulture and development of (hillforts)[citation needed]
  • ~1400~1450: Most likely extinction of the moa.[6][7]
  • 1576: Speculation exists[8][9] that around this time Spanish explorer Juan Fernández visited New Zealand[10] although this is not generally accepted by most reputable authorities.[11]

17th century[edit]

1601 onwards
  • Expansion and migration of Māori groups and formation of classic iwi. (many still existing today)
  • 13 December: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sights the South Island. He called it Staten Landt but the Dutch East India Company cartographer Joan Blaeu subsequently changed it to Nieuw Zeeland.[12]
  • 18 December: Abel Tasman's expedition sails around Farewell Spit and into Golden Bay. Dutch sailors sight local Māori.[13]
  • 19 December: Four of Tasman's crew are killed at Wharewharangi (Murderers) Bay by a Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri war party. Tasman's ships are approached by 11 waka as he leaves and his ships fire on them, hitting a Māori standing in one of the waka.[14] Tasman's ships depart without landing. The Dutch chart the west of the North Island.

18th century[edit]

  • April: Cook's second expedition arrives in Queen Charlotte Sound
  • 18 December: A skirmish at Grass Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound results in the deaths of two Māori and nine members of Cook's expedition.
  • Cook returns to New Zealand aboard the Resolution, accompanied by the Discovery captained by Charles Clerke.[23]
  • New South Wales founded, which, according to Governor Phillip's Commission, includes the islands of New Zealand.
  • An epidemic of rewha-rewha (possibly influenza) kills 60% of the Māori population in the southern North Island.[23]

Early 19th century; 1801 to 1839[edit]

  • First Pākehā (European) women arrive in New Zealand.
1807 or 1808
  • Ngāpuhi fight Ngāti Whātua, Te-Uri-o-Hau and Te Roroa iwi at the battle of Moremonui on the west coast of Northland, the first battle in which Maori used muskets.
  • Ngati Uru attack and burn the ship Boyd, killing all but four of its crew and passengers. Whalers wrongly blame Te Puna chief Te Pahi and in a revenge attack kill 60 of his followers.
  • February: Thomas Holloway King is the first Pākehā child born in New Zealand, at Rangihoua.
  • Raids on Taranaki and Te Whanganui-a-tara regions by Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Toa people led by chiefs Patuone, Nene, Moetara, Tuwhare, and Te Rauparaha.
  • 17 August: the country's second mission station is established, at Kerikeri, when Rev Marsden, John Butler, Francis Hall and William Hall mark out the site which was previously visited by Marsden in 1815.
  • 25 September: Rev Marsden plants 100 vines, the first grapes grown in New Zealand.
  • 4 November: Chiefs Hongi Hika and Rewa sell 13,000 acres (5260 hectares) at Kerikeri to the Church Missionary Society for 48 felling axes.
  • 3 May: At Kerikeri, Reverend John Butler uses a plough for the first time in the country.
  • Hongi Hika visits England, meets King George IV and secures supply of muskets.
  • Continuation of musket wars by Hongi Hika and Te Morenga on southern iwi throughout the decade.
  • Ngāti Toa begin migration south to Cook Strait region, led by Te Rauparaha.
  • The battle of Te Ika-a-ranganui between Ngāpuhi and hapu against Ngatiwhatua, resident occupiers of the land fought upon.
  • Te Rauparaha's invasion of the South Island from Kapiti begins.
  • 19 April: stonemason William Parrott begins work on the missionaries' Stone Store at Kerikeri.
  • James Busby appointed British Resident.
  • Captain William Hobson sent by New South Wales Governor to report on New Zealand. He suggested a treaty with the Māori and imposition of British Law.
  • New Zealand Association formed in London, becoming the New Zealand Colonisation Society in 1838 and the New Zealand Company in 1839, under the inspiration of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
  • William Hobson instructed to establish British rule in New Zealand, as a dependency of New South Wales.
  • Colonel William Wakefield of the New Zealand Company arrives on the Tory to purchase land for a settlement.

Colony and self-government (1840 to 1946)[edit]


  • Main body of settlers arrive at Nelson.
  • 10 September: Governor Hobson dies in Auckland.
  • Hone Heke begins the Flagstaff War.
  • New Zealand Company suspends its colonising operations due to financial difficulties.




  • The country's first electric telegraph line opens, between Christchurch and Lyttelton.
  • First gold shipment from Dunedin to London.
  • Capital and seat of government transferred from Auckland to Wellington
  • New Zealand Exhibition held in Dunedin
  • Native Land Court established.
  • Government launches the first of what would become 3,000,000 acres of land-confiscations from Māori in Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, and Hawke's Bay.
  • Māori resistance continues.
  • Auckland streets lit by gas for first time.
  • Māori resistance continues through campaigns of Te Kooti Arikirangi and Titokowaru.
  • New Zealand's first sheep breed, the Corriedale, is developed.


  • Te Kooti retreats to the King Country and Māori armed resistance ceases.
  • Telegraph communication links Auckland, Wellington and southern provinces.
  • First New Zealand steam engine built at Invercargill.
  • Abolition of the provinces and establishment of local government by counties and boroughs.
  • New Zealand-Australia telegraph cable established.
  • Education Act passed, establishing national system of primary education, "free, secular, and compulsory".


  • First shipment of frozen meat leaves Port Chalmers for England on the Dunedin.
  • "State" visit of King Tawhiao to Auckland – civic reception, banquet & fireworks display.
  • Te Kooti pardoned, Te Whiti and other prisoners released.
  • Direct steamer link established between New Zealand and Britain.
  • King Tawhiao visits England with petition to the Queen, appealing to the Treaty of Waitangi, and is refused access.
  • First overseas tour by a New Zealand rugby team, to New South Wales.
  • Construction of King Country section of North Island main trunk railway begins.
  • 22 June: 1884 New Zealand general election.
  • 1 August International Industrial Exhibition opened in Wellington.
  • 9 September total Eclipse of the Sun observed at Wellington.
  • November Russian Invasion Scare.
  • 23–24 February – First national convention of Women's Christian Temperance Union New Zealand held in Wellington, launching the organisational strategies for a campaign for women's right to vote in national elections.
  • 29 March − 10 April – Visit of German warships to Auckland – SMS Gneisenau & SMS Olga.
  • 11–21 May – Visit of Japanese warship Tsubka to Wellington.
  • 23 May – 2 June surprise visit of Russian naval Vestnik to Wellington.
  • 10 June Mount Tarawera erupts and the Pink and White Terraces are destroyed, 153 people die.
  • Oil is discovered in Taranaki.
  • 12 August: Reefton becomes first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have a public supply of electricity after the commissioning of the Reefton Power Station.


  • First Kotahitanga Māori Parliament meets.
  • Compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes and reform of employment laws.
  • Advances to Settlers Act.
  • Clark, Fyfe and Graham become the first people to climb Mt Cook.
  • Wreck of SS Wairarapa.
  • First of series of colonial and later imperial conferences held in London.
  • Āpirana Ngata and others form the Te Aute College Students' Association. [1]
  • Old Age Pensions Act.
  • First cars imported to New Zealand.


  • Māori Councils Act passed.
  • Public Health Act passed setting up Department of Public Health in 1901.
  • "Red" Federation of Labour formed.
  • SS Penguin wrecked in Cook Strait, 75 people die.
  • Compulsory military training introduced.
  • Stamp–vending machine invented and manufactured in New Zealand.


  • Waterfront strikes in Auckland and Wellington.
  • New Zealand forces take part in Gallipoli campaign.
  • Reform and Liberal parties form National War Cabinet.
  • Britain announces its intention to purchase all New Zealand meat exports during war.
  • 25 April: First landings at Gaba Tepe and Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
  • 27 April: Counterattack launched by Turkish forces under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
  • 20 December: Final withdraw of all troops from Anzac Cove.
  • New Zealand troops transfer from Western Front.
  • Conscription introduced.
  • Labour Party formed.
  • Lake Coleridge electricity supply scheme opened.
  • 10 June: Passing of the Military Services Bill introduces conscription.
  • July: Battle of Romani defaults Turkish force advancing towards the Suez Canal.
  • New Zealand Division in the Battle of the Somme.
  • End of World War I.
  • Influenza pandemic in which an estimated 8,500 die.
  • Creation of power boards for electricity distribution.
  • Prohibition petition with 242,001 signatures presented to Parliament.


  • All Black 'Invincibles' tour of Britain and France.
  • National public broadcasting begins under auspices of Radio Broadcasting Co. Ltd.


  • Unemployment Board set up to provide relief work.
  • Compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes abolished.
  • Unemployed riots in Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch.
  • Reductions in old-age and other pensions.
  • Distinctive New Zealand coins first issued, see New Zealand pound.
  • Reserve Bank and Mortgage Corporation established.
  • First trans-Tasman airmail.
  • Reserve Bank taken over by state.
  • State housing programme launched.
  • Guaranteed prices for dairy products introduced.
  • National Party formed from former Coalition MPs.
  • Inter-island trunk air services introduced.
  • Jack Lovelock wins Olympic gold and sets world record for 1500m.
  • Jean Batten's record flight from England.
  • Working week reduced from 44 to 40 hours.
  • April: Federation of Labour unifies trade union movement.
  • RNZAF set up as separate branch of armed forces.
  • March: Free Milk in schools introduced.
  • Social Security Act establishes revised pensions structure and the basis of a national health service.
  • Import and exchange controls are introduced.
  • 15 October: General election, Labour re-elected.

1940 to 1946[edit]

  • 20 May – 1 June: New Zealand forces suffer heavy losses in the Battle of Crete.
  • 8 December: New Zealand declares war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Māori War Effort Organisation set up.
  • Pharmaceutical and general practitioner medical benefits introduced.
  • Economic stabilisation.
  • Fears of a Japanese Invasion prompts precautions such as air raid drills. Membership of the Home Guard became compulsory for men aged between 35 and 50. The threat is eased after the Battle of the Coral Sea.
  • New Zealand troops in First and Second Battles of El Alamein.
  • Food rationing introduced.
  • Mobilisation of women for essential work.
  • 12 June: First 5 ships of American troops from the 37th US Army Division land in Auckland.
  • 14 June: First American Marines from the 1st Corps Division land in Wellington.
  • Australia-New Zealand Agreement provides for co-operation in the South Pacific.
  • NZ Troops suffer heavy losses during The Italian Campaign
  • March: Meat rationing begins,

Full independence (1947 to date)[edit]

1947 to 1949[edit]

  • 1 January: New Zealanders become "British Subjects and New Zealand Citizens"
  • Referendum agrees to compulsory military training.
  • New Zealand gets first four navy frigates.
  • 30 November: General election: National Government elected.


  • New Zealand troops sent to Malaya.
  • Roxburgh and Whakamaru power stations in operation.


  • Regular television programmes begin in Auckland.
  • Government Service Equal Pay Act passed.
  • 26 November: General election, National Government elected.
  • Treasury leases New Zealand's first computer from IBM.
  • NAFTA agreement negotiated with Australia.
  • Benmore Dam commissioned.
  • Inter-Island HVDC commissioned, connecting the North and South Island power grids.
  • Support for United States in Vietnam; New Zealand combat force sent, protest movement begins.
  • Cook Islands becomes self-governing.
  • 1 April: TEAL renamed Air New Zealand.
  • Air New Zealand introduces the Douglas DC-8 jet aircraft on international routes.
  • Referendum extends hotel closing hours to 10pm.
  • 10 July: Decimal currency introduced; New Zealand dollar replaces the pound at a rate of £1 to $2 (one shilling to 10 cents; one penny to 56 cent)
  • Lord Arthur Porritt becomes first New Zealand-born Governor-General.
  • Denny Hulme becomes New Zealand's first (and currently only) Formula 1 World Champion.
  • Vote extended to 20-year-olds.
  • First output from Glenbrook Steel Mill.
  • Television networked nationwide.
  • Breath and blood tests introduced for suspected drunk drivers.
  • 29 November: General election, National wins fourth election in a row.


  • US Vice President Spiro Agnew Visits New Zealand to prop up the NZ Governments support for the Vietnam War and is met by an anti-war protest in Auckland which turns violent.
  • Natural gas network commissioned, supplying gas from Kapuni to Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Palmerston North and Wellington.
  • Naval frigate dispatched in protest against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
  • New Zealand's population reaches three million.
  • Oil price hike means worst terms of trade in 30 years.
  • Colour TV introduced.
  • New Zealand's national day 6 February renamed from New Zealand Day to Waitangi Day
  • Matrimonial Property Act passed.
  • Pacific Islands "overstayers" deported.
  • EEC import quotas for New Zealand butter set until 1980.
  • Introduction of metric system of weights and measures.
  • Subscriber toll dialling introduced.
  • Lyttelton–Wellington steamer ferry service ends.
  • Registered unemployed reaches 25,000.
  • New Zealand Film Commission established.
  • 12 February: 17 arrested after protestors led by Eva Rickard set up camp on the Raglan golf course.
  • 1 April: National Airways Corporation merges with Air New Zealand.
  • 25 May: Army and Police remove protesters from Bastion Point, 218 arrests are made.
  • 25 November: General election, National re-elected.


  • Anti-nuclear policy leads to refusal of a visit by the American warship, the USS Buchanan.
  • 10 July: Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior bombed and sunk by French DGSE agents in Auckland harbour.
  • 4 March: New Zealand dollar floated.
  • First case of locally contracted AIDS is reported.
  • Waitangi Tribunal given power to hear grievances arising since 1840.
  • 20 November: Archbishop Paul Reeves appointed Governor General.
  • Number of unemployed exceeds 100,000.
  • Bastion Point land returned to Māori ownership.
  • Combined Council of Trade Unions formed. Royal Commission on Social Policy issues April Report.
  • Gibbs Report on hospital services and Picot Report on education published.
  • State Sector Act passed.
  • Cyclone Bola strikes northern North Island.
  • Electrification of the central section of the North Island Main Trunk railway completed.
  • New Zealand Post closes 432 post offices.
  • Fisheries quota package announced for Māori iwi.
  • Prime Minister David Lange suggests formal withdrawal from ANZUS.
  • Jim Anderton founds NewLabour Party.
  • Lange resigns and Geoffrey Palmer becomes 33rd Prime Minister.
  • First annual balance of payments surplus since 1973.
  • Reserve Bank Act sets bank's role as one of maintaining price stability.
  • First school board elections under Tomorrow's Schools reforms.
  • First elections under revised local government structure.
  • Sunday trading begins.
  • The final Remnants of capital punishment are abolished
  • 26 November: Third TV channel begins.
  • Māori Fisheries Act passed.


  • Government and Māori interests negotiate Sealord fisheries deal.
  • Public health system reforms.
  • State housing commercialised.
  • New Zealand gets seat on United Nations Security Council.
  • Student Loan system is started / Tertiary Fees raised
  • Government commits 250 soldiers to front-line duty in Bosnia.
  • Government proposes $1 billion cap in plan for final settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims.
  • New Zealand's first casino opens in Christchurch.
  • David Bain is convicted of murdering five members of his family.
  • First fast-ferry service begins operation across Cook Strait.
  • Imported pests Mediterranean fruit flies and white-spotted tussock moths cause disruption to export trade and to Aucklanders.
  • Kahurangi National Park, the 13th National Park, is opened in north-west Nelson.
  • Waitangi Tribunal recommends generous settlement of Taranaki land claims.
  • First legal sports betting at TAB.
  • The commercial radio stations and networks owned by Radio New Zealand are sold to Clear Channel creating The Radio Network.
  • $170 million Ngāi Tahu settlement proposed, $40 million Whakatohea settlement announced.
  • 12 October: First MMP election brings National/New Zealand First coalition government.
  • America's Cup damaged in an attack by a Māori activist.
  • TV4 begins daily broadcasts.
  • Customs Service cracks down on imported Japanese used cars following claims of odometer fraud.
  • Auckland's Sky Tower is opened.
  • Compulsory superannuation is rejected by a margin of more than nine to one in New Zealand's first postal referendum.
  • Jim Bolger resigns as prime minister after losing the support of the National Party caucus and is replaced by New Zealand's first woman prime minister, Jenny Shipley.
  • Auckland city businesses hit by a power cut lasting several weeks. The crisis of over a month results in an inquiry into Mercury Energy.
  • The women's rugby team, the Black Ferns, become the world champions.
  • The National – New Zealand First coalition Government is dissolved leaving the Jenny Shipley led National Party as a minority government.
  • Several cases of tuberculosis discovered in South Auckland in the worst outbreak for a decade.
  • The Hikoi of Hope marches to Parliament, calling for more support for the poor.
  • The government announces plans to lease 28 new fighter aircraft but says no to a new naval frigate.
  • Prime TV launched


  • January: The name suppression of American billionaire Peter Lewis, who was arrested and convicted of drug possession charges, causes controversy.
  • Knighthoods are Abolished
  • Labour enacts its election promise to remove interest on loans to students living in New Zealand.[44]
  • Five cent coins are dropped from circulation and existing 10-cent, 20-cent and 50-cent coins are replaced with smaller coins.[45]
  • The government announces a NZ$11.5 billion surplus, the largest in the country's history and second only to Denmark in the Western World.[46]
  • South Island population reaches 1 million[47]
  • Knighthoods, Abolished by the previous government, are restored.
  • 6 March: David Bain retrial begins, resulting in not guilty verdicts on all five murder charges on 5 June.[58]
  • 28 April: First confirmed New Zealand case in the 2009 swine flu pandemic.[59]


  • 5 November: Royal Commission into the Pike River mine disaster reports.
  • February: New Zealand joins the fight against ISIS by sending troops to Iraq to train Iraqi Soldiers against the Islamic Terror Group.
  • 25 October: The All Blacks Win the Rugby World Cup, the only team to ever win the tournament twice in a row.
  • 14 November: A magnitude 7.8 earthquake strikes near the town of Kaikoura in the South Island.
  • 5 December: John Key announces he will stand down as prime minister and leader of the National Party on 12 December.
  • 12 December: Bill English becomes the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand.
  • 15 March: Christchurch mosque shootings, 51 people are killed during an attack on two mosques.
  •  December 2019: Whakaari / White Island eruption. 47 people were on the island at the time. Twenty-two people died, either in the explosion or from injuries sustained, including two whose bodies were never found and were later declared dead. A further 25 people suffered injuries, with the majority needing intensive care for severe burns.



See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Volcanic Zone". Destination Lake Taupo. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
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  4. ^ Lowe, David J. (2008). "Polynesian settlement of New Zealand and the impacts of volcanism on early Maori society: an update" (PDF). University of Waikato. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
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  7. ^ Woodhouse, Graeme. "TerraNature – New Zealand ecology – Flightless birds, Moa, the fastest extinction of a megafauna and the world's tallest bird". Terranature.org. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
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  9. ^ Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa ref B.024210
  10. ^ The Vallard Atlas, produced in early 17th century by the French and held in a Los Angeles library vault contains the coast of the North Island
  11. ^ Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand; Vol 27, 1894. p. 617 "A statement exists that, as far back as 1576, Juan Fernandez., a Spanish pilot, sailed W.S.W. from Chili for the space of a month, and that then he came upon a fertile and pleasant land, inhabited by light-complexioned people, who wore woven cloth, and who were exceedingly hospitable. From the course steered and the time occupied on the voyage it has been concluded that this fertile land was New Zealand."
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  25. ^ Dinah Holman, Newmarket Lost and Found, 2nd edition, The Bush Press of New Zealand, Auckland, 2010, p. 247.
  26. ^ A. G Butchers, Young New Zealand, Coulls Somerville Wilkie Ltd, Dunedin, 1929, pp. 124 – 126.
  27. ^ "Auckland's First Catholic School – And its Latest", Zealandia, Thursday, 26 January 1939, p. 5
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External links[edit]