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Skiing in New Zealand

New Zealand is a major skiing destination in the Southern Hemisphere, due to its high latitude, mountainous terrain, and well-developed economy and tourism industry.

While there are several ski resorts on the North Island, most are found in the South Island. There are both major commercial resorts, and smaller intrepid and club skifields which provide access to affordable skiing for club members. There are also specialist backcountry skiing areas such as Mount Potts and Invincible Snowfieldswhich provide heliskiing and snowcat skiing for adventure-seekers.

New Zealand has competed at most Winter Olympics since 1952, when Sir Roy McKenzie led a team. In 1992 Annelise Coberger became the first person from the Southern Hemisphere to win a medal at the Winter Olympics when she won silver in the slalom at Albertville in France.

Other forms of skiing that New Zealand is known for include heli-skiing and kite-skiing. Snow-kiting, while a relative new sport, has an avid following in New Zealand, with a festival in Wanaka held annually.

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching a height of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft).[3] It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island; it is a popular tourist destination.

November 26, 2015 / by / in
Territorial authorities of New Zealand

Territorial authorities are the second tier of local government in New Zealand, below regional councils. There are 67 territorial authorities: 12 city councils, 53 district councils, Auckland Council and Chatham Islands Council. Six territorial authorities (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, the Gisborne, Tasman, and Marlborough district councils and Chatham Islands Council) also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are unitary authorities. Territorial authority districts are not subdivisions of regions, and some of them fall within more than one region. Taupo District has the distinction of straddling the boundaries of four different regions (see below). Regional council areas are based on water catchment areas, whereas territorial authorities are based on community of interest and road access. Regional councils are responsible for the administration of many environmental and public transport matters, while the territorial authorities administer local roading and reserves, sewerage, building consents, the land use and subdivision aspects of resource management, and other local matters. Some activities are delegated to council-controlled organisations.

Territorial authorities

The word “Council” is omitted from the names of the territorial authorities in this section.

North Island

Name Seat Area (km2) Population Density (/km2) Region(s)
Far North District Kaikohe 7,505 61,200 8.15 Northland
Whangarei District Whangarei 3,314 85,900 25.92 Northland
Kaipara District Dargaville 3,122 21,100 6.76 Northland
Auckland Auckland 5,600 1,570,500 280.45 Auckland (Unitary authority)
Thames-Coromandel District Thames 3,193 27,800 8.71 Waikato
Hauraki District Paeroa 1,186 19,100 16.10 Waikato
Waikato District Ngaruawahia 4,506 69,500 15.42 Waikato
Matamata-Piako District Te Aroha 1,755 33,700 19.20 Waikato
Hamilton City Hamilton 94 156,800 1,668.09 Waikato
Waipa District Te Awamutu 1,473 50,400 34.22 Waikato
South Waikato District Tokoroa 1,814 23,500 12.95 Waikato
Otorohanga District Otorohanga 2,063 9,720 4.71 Waikato
Waitomo District Te Kuiti 3,551 9,530 2.68 Waikato (94.87%)
Taupo District Taupo 6,955 35,600 5.12 Waikato (73.74%)
Bay of Plenty(14.31%)
Hawke’s Bay(11.26%)
Manawatu-Wanganui (0.69%)
Western Bay of Plenty District Greerton, Tauranga City 2,120 46,800 22.08 Bay of Plenty
Tauranga City Tauranga 168 124,600 741.67 Bay of Plenty
Opotiki District Opotiki 3,098 8,800 2.84 Bay of Plenty
Whakatane District Whakatane 4,441 34,600 7.79 Bay of Plenty
Rotorua District Rotorua 2,614 69,200 26.47 Bay of Plenty (61.52%)
Waikato (38.48%)
Kawerau District Kawerau 22 6,660 302.73 Bay of Plenty
Gisborne District Gisborne 8,351 47,400 5.68 Gisborne (Unitary authority)
Wairoa District Wairoa 4,124 8,180 1.98 Hawke’s Bay
Hastings District Hastings 5,218 77,900 14.93 Hawke’s Bay
Napier City Napier 106 60,400 569.81 Hawke’s Bay
Central Hawke’s Bay District Waipawa 3,324 13,450 4.05 Hawke’s Bay
New Plymouth District New Plymouth 2,225 79,000 35.51 Taranaki
Stratford District Stratford 2,161 9,230 4.27 Taranaki (68.13%)
Manawatu-Wanganui (31.87%)
South Taranaki District Hawera 3,577 27,700 7.74 Taranaki
Ruapehu District Taumarunui 6,730 12,450 1.85 Manawatu-Wanganui
Rangitikei District Marton 4,476 14,700 3.28 Manawatu-Wanganui (86.37%)
Hawke’s Bay (13.63%)
Wanganui District Wanganui 2,372 43,600 18.38 Manawatu-Wanganui
Manawatu District Feilding 2,628 29,300 11.15 Manawatu-Wanganui
Palmerston North City Palmerston North 337 85,500 253.71 Manawatu-Wanganui
Tararua District Dannevirke 4,367 17,400 3.98 Manawatu-Wanganui (98.42%)
Wellington (1.58%)
Horowhenua District Levin 1,066 31,400 29.46 Manawatu-Wanganui
Masterton District Masterton 2,298 24,400 10.62 Wellington
Kapiti Coast District Paraparaumu 733 51,400 70.12 Wellington
Carterton District Carterton 1,181 8,800 7.45 Wellington
South Wairarapa District Martinborough 2,452 10,000 4.08 Wellington
Upper Hutt City Upper Hutt 542 42,000 77.49 Wellington
Porirua City Porirua 182 54,500 299.45 Wellington
Hutt City Lower Hutt 377 102,000 270.56 Wellington
Wellington City Wellington 289 203,800 705.19 Wellington
  • Population as of June 2015 estimate.

South Island

Name Seat Area (km2) Population Density (per km2) Region(s)
Tasman District Richmond 9,786 49,500 5.06 unitary authority
Nelson City Nelson 445 49,900 112.13 unitary authority
Marlborough District Blenheim 12,484 45,300 3.63 unitary authority
Buller District Westport 7,950 10,350 1.30 West Coast
Grey District Greymouth 3,516 13,650 3.88 West Coast
Westland District Hokitika 11,870 8,720 0.73 West Coast
Kaikoura District Kaikoura 2,050 3,650 1.78 Canterbury
Hurunui District Amberley 8,661 12,500 1.44 Canterbury
Selwyn District Rolleston 6,557 52,700 8.04 Canterbury
Waimakariri District Rangiora 2,216 56,400 25.45 Canterbury
Christchurch City Christchurch 1,610 367,800 228.45 Canterbury
Ashburton District Ashburton 6,208 33,200 5.35 Canterbury
Mackenzie District Fairlie 7,442 4,440 0.60 Canterbury
Timaru District Timaru 2,726 46,300 16.98 Canterbury
Waimate District Waimate 3,577 7,870 2.20 Canterbury
Waitaki District Oamaru 7,212 21,900 3.04 Canterbury (59.61%)
Otago (40.39%)
Queenstown-Lakes District Queenstown 9,368 32,400 3.46 Otago
Central Otago District Alexandra 9,966 19,200 1.93 Otago
Dunedin City Dunedin 3,340 125,800 37.66 Otago
Clutha District Balclutha 6,406 17,400 2.72 Otago
Southland District Invercargill 32,605[6] 30,600 0.94 Southland
Gore District Gore 1,251 12,450 9.95 Southland
Invercargill City Invercargill 491 54,200 110.39 Southland
  • Population as of June 2015 estimate.
  • Total of Christchurch City and Banks Peninsula areas.
  • Includes Stewart Island/Rakiura, also listed separately below, and Solander Islands .

Stewart Island/Rakiura

Name Seat Area (km2) Population Region
Part of Southland District Invercargill, South Island 1746 402 Southland

Chatham Islands

  • Chatham Islands Territory is a district governed by the Chatham Islands Council, a unitary authority.

Other islands

There are a number of islands where the Minister of Local Government is the territorial authority, two of which have a ‘permanent population and/or permanent buildings and structures.’ The main islands are listed below (population according to 2001 census in parenthesis):

  • Mayor Island/Tuhua (3)
  • Motiti Island (30)
  • Whakaari/White Island
  • Moutohora Island
  • Bare Island

In addition, seven of the nine groups of the New Zealand Outlying Islands are outside of any territorial authority:

  • Kermadec Islands (3)
  • Three Kings Islands
  • Bounty Islands
  • The Snares
  • Antipodes Islands
  • Auckland Islands
  • Campbell Islands


1989 local government reforms

For many decades until the local government reforms of 1989, a borough with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city. The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so little distinction was made between the urban area and the local government area.

New Zealand’s local government structural arrangements were significantly reformed by the Local Government Commission in 1989 when approximately 700 councils and special purpose bodies were amalgamated to create 87 new local authorities. Regional councils were reduced in number from 20 to 13, territorial authorities (city/district councils) from 200 to 75, and special purpose bodies from over 400 to 7. The new district and city councils were generally much larger and most covered substantial areas of both urban and rural land. Many places that once had a city council were now being administered by a district council.

As a result, the term “city” began to take on two meanings.

The word “city” came to be used in a less formal sense to describe major urban areas independent of local body boundaries. This informal usage is jealously guarded. Gisborne, for example, adamantly described itself as the first city in the world to see the new millennium. Gisborne is administered by a district council, but its status as a city is not generally disputed.

Under the current law the minimum population for a new city is 50,000.

Changes since 1989

Since the 1989 reorganisations, there have been few major reorganisations or status changes in local government. Incomplete list:

  • 1991: Invercargill re-proclaimed a city.
  • 1992: Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council abolished by a Local Government Amendment Act. Of its territorial authorities, Kaikoura District was transferred to the Canterbury Region, and Nelson City and Tasman and Marlborough districts became unitary authorities.
  • 1995: The Chatham Islands County was dissolved and reconstituted by a specific Act of Parliament as the “Chatham Islands Territory”, with powers similar to those of territorial authorities and some functions similar to those of a regional council.
  • 2004: Tauranga became a city again on 1 March.
  • 2006: Banks Peninsula District merged into Christchurch City as a result of 2005 referendum.
  • 2010: Auckland Council, a unitary authority, replaced seven local councils and the regional council.

Reports on completed reorganisation proposals since 1999 are available on the Local Government Commission’s site (link below).

2007–2009 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance

On 26 March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended the Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland City, Manukau, Papakura and Franklin territorial councils and the Auckland Regional Council be abolished and the entire Auckland region to be amalgamated into one “supercity”. The area would consist of one city council (with statutory provision for three Maori councillors), four urban local councils, and two rural local councils:

  • Rodney local council would lose Orewa, Dairy Flat, and Whangaparaoa but retain the remainder of the current Rodney District. The split areas as well as the current North Shore City would form a Waitemata local council.
  • Waitakere local council would consist of the current Waitakere City as well as the Avondale area.
  • Tamaki Makaurau would consist of the current Auckland City and Otahuhu (excluding CBD)
  • Manukau local council would consist of the urban parts of the current Manukau City and of the Papakura District.
  • Hunua local council would consist of the entire Franklin District, much of which is currently in the Waikato Region, along with rural areas of the current Papakura District and Manukau City.
  • The entire Papakura District would be dissolved between urban and rural councils.

The National-led Government responded within about a week. Its proposal, which will go to a Select Committee, has the supercity and many community boards but no local councils and for the first election no separate seats for Maori.

Public reaction to the Royal Commission report was mixed, especially in regards to the Government’s amended proposal. Auckland Mayor John Banks supported the amended merger plans.

Criticism of the amended proposal came largely from residents in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore Cities. In addition, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples spoke against the exclusion of the Maori seats, as recommended by the Royal Commission. Opposition Leader Phil Goff called for a referendum on the issue.

Failed proposed changes

  • 2015: Proposals to amalgamate local councils in Wellington and Northland were accepted by the Local Government Commission for consideration, although following consultation they ultimately were not formed into a final proposal. The status quo remains.
  • 2015: Amalgamation of four local councils and the regional council in Hawke’s Bay was proposed by the Local Government Commission. A district wide referendum was held in Sep-2015, and the proposal was defeated by 66% of voters.
November 11, 2015 / by / in

Pākehā is a Māori language term for New Zealanders who are “of European descent”. Recently, the word has been used to refer inclusively either tofair-skinned persons or any non-Māori New Zealander. Papa’a has a similar meaning in Cook Islands Māori.

Its etymology is unclear, but the term was in use by the late 18th century, and in December 1814, the Māori children at Rangihoua in the Bay Of Islands were “no less eager to see the packaha than the grown folks”.  In the Māori language, plural nouns of Pākehā may include Ngā Pākehā (definite article) and He Pākehā (indefinite article). When the word was first adopted, the usual plural in English was Pakehas. However New Zealand English speakers are increasingly removing the terminal s and treating Pākehā as a collective noun.

Opinions of the term vary amongst New Zealanders. Some find it highly offensive, others are indifferent, some find it inaccurate and archaic, while some happily use the term and find the main alternatives such as “New Zealand European” inappropriate. In 2013, the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study carried out by The University of Auckland found no evidence that the word was derogatory, although only 14% of the overall respondents chose the term Pākehā with the remainder preferring New Zealander, New Zealand European or simply Kiwi.


Māori in the Bay of Islands and surrounding districts had no doubts about the meaning of the word pākehā in the 19th century. In 1831, thirteen rangatirafrom the far north of the country met at Kerikeri to compose a letter to King William IV, seeking protection from the French, “the tribe of Marion”. Written inMāori, the letter used the word pākehā to mean “British European”, and the words tau iwi to mean “strangers (non-British)” — as shown in the translation that year of the letter from Māori to English by the missionary William Yate. Māori also used other terms such as tupua (“supernatural”, “object of fear, strange being”), kehua (“ghosts”), and maitai (“metal” or referring to persons “foreign”) to refer to some of the earliest visitors.

However, The Concise Māori Dictionary (Kāretu, 1990) defines the word pākehā as “foreign, foreigner (usually applied to white person)”, while theEnglish–Māori, Māori–English Dictionary (Biggs, 1990) defines Pākehā as “white (person)”. Sometimes the term applies more widely to include all non-Māori. No Māori dictionary cites pākehā as derogatory. Some early European settlers who lived among Māori became known as Pākehā Māori.


The etymology of Pākehā is unknown, although the most likely sources are the words pākehakeha or pakepakehā, which refer to mythical human-like creatures, with fair skin and hair, sometimes described as having come from the sea. When Europeans first arrived they rowed to shore in longboats, facing backwards while rowing the boats to shore. In traditional Māori canoes or “waka”, paddlers face the direction of travel. This is supposed to have led to the belief that the sailors were supernatural beings.

In her book The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Encounters in the South Seas, anthropologist Anne Salmond wrote that tribal traditions held that Toiroa, a tohunga from Mahia, had predicted the coming of the Europeans. He said “ko te pakerewha”, meaning “it is the pakerewha”, red and white strangers.

There have been several dubious interpretations given to the word Pākehā by people aiming to discredit it as a term. One claims that it derives from poaka the Māori word for (pig), and keha, one of the Māori words for (flea), and therefore expresses derogatory implications. There is no etymological or linguistic support for this notion — like all Polynesian languages, Māori is generally very conservative in terms of vowels; it would be extremely unusual for ‘pā-‘ to derive from ‘poaka’. The more common Māori word for flea is puruhi. It is also sometimes claimed that ‘Pakeha’ means white pig or unwelcome white stranger. However, no part of the word signifies “pig”, “white”, “unwelcome”, or “stranger”.

Attitudes to the term

New Zealanders of European ancestry vary in their attitude toward the word “Pākehā” as applied to themselves. Some embrace it wholeheartedly as a sign of their connection to New Zealand, in contrast to the European identity of their forebears. Still others find the term as being predominantly a relational term, and as archaic as calling Māori “natives”, while also lacking any meaningful description of cultural roots. It is commonly used by a range of journalists and columnists from the New Zealand Herald, New Zealand’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. Others object to the word, some strongly, claiming it to be derogatory or to carry implications of being an outsider, this is often based on false information about the meaning of the term. Some believe being labelled as Pākehā compromises their status and their birthright links to New Zealand. A joint response code of “NZ European or Pakeha” was tried in the 1996 census, but was replaced by “New Zealand European” in later censuses because it drew what Statistics New Zealand described as a “significant adverse reaction from some respondents”. Sociologist Paul Spoonley criticised the new version, however, saying that many Pākehā would not identify as European.

The term Pākehā is also sometimes used among New Zealanders of European ancestry in distinction to the Māori term Tauiwi (foreigner), as an act of emphasising their claims of belonging to the space of New Zealand in contrast to more recent arrivals. Those who prefer to emphasise nationality rather than ethnicity in relating to others living in New Zealand may refer to all New Zealand citizens only as New Zealanders or Kiwis.

Historian Judith Binney called herself a Pākehā and said, “I think it is the most simple and practical term. It is a name given to us by Māori. It has no pejorative associations like people think it does — it’s a descriptive term. I think it’s nice to have a name the people who live here gave you, because that’s what I am.”

A survey in 2013 found no evidence that the word was used in a derogatory sense.


The point at which European settlers in New Zealand became Pākehā – or indeed New Zealanders – is subjective.

The first European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the early nineteenth century, but most were missionaries, traders and adventurers who did not intend to stay permanently. From the 1840s, following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the assumption of British sovereignty, large numbers of Europeans began to settle permanently in New Zealand. Most of these settlers were from Britain, with a disproportionate number coming from Scotland. There were also numerous settlers from Ireland and Northern and Central Europe.

In the late nineteenth century there were some moves towards cultural nationalism, and many Pākehā began to see themselves as different from people living in Britain. However, there were still strong ties to the ‘mother country’ (the United Kingdom, particularly England), which were maintained well into the twentieth century. Until some point in the mid twentieth century most Pākehā considered themselves to be both British and New Zealanders. Many Pākehā intellectuals migrated to Britain in order to pursue their careers as this was not possible in New Zealand. Notable expatriate Pākehā from this period include writer Katherine Mansfield and physicist Ernest Rutherford.

Pākehā ties with Britain were drastically weakened in the decades after World War II. Quicker, cheaper international travel allowed more Pākehā to visit and live in other countries, where they saw that they were different from the British and felt the need for a stronger national identity. In 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community, cutting New Zealand off from free trade with its biggest market and leaving Pākehā feeling betrayed by the people they had thought of as their own. Meanwhile, Māori were becoming more assertive, especially about the value of their culture and their ownership over it. The Māori cultural renaissance made many Pākehā feel that they lacked a culture of their own, and from the 1970s numerous Pākehā writers and artists began to explore issues of Pākehā identity and culture. It was at this point that the word ‘Pākehā’ grew in popularity, although it remained controversial.

Cultural identity

In general, Pākehā continue to develop identities distinct from and complementary to those of their (often) British origins and those of the other Anglosphere nation-states such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Ireland, as well as Māori. As with most other settler societies, it can be said descriptively that Pākehā contemporary culture is an amalgam of cultural practices, tensions, and accommodations: British/European with some Māori and Polynesian influences and more recently wider cultural inputs, particularly from Chinese and other Far Eastern cultures. Some have also argued that especially modern Pākehā culture is defined by “shock entry” of Britain into the European Economic Community in 1975, which “[left] the descendants of the colonisers, the Anglo-Celtic majorities, seemingly abandoned and marooned in Australia and New Zealand”.

Christianity in New Zealand, despite its foreign origins, has also been shaped by Māori through movements such as the Ratana Church and Destiny Church, as well as their involvements in churches of European origin such as the Anglican Church. Where Pākehā identity is identified, commonly NZ kitsch and symbols from marketing such as the Chesdale Cheese men are used as signifiers, and might more appropriately be called “Kiwiana”.

Michael King, a leading writer on Pākehā identity, discussed the concept of distinct Pākehā practices and imaginations in his books: Being Pākehā (1985) and Being Pākehā Now (1999), and the edited collection, Pakeha: The Quest for Identity in New Zealand (1991), conceptualising Pākehā as New Zealand’s “second indigenous” culture.

In contrast, Maori art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki described Pākehā as “…the people who define themselves by what they are not. Who want to forget their origins, their history, their cultural inheritance — who want Maori, likewise, to deny their origins so that we can all start off afresh”

November 9, 2015 / by / in
Musket Wars

The Short Story


After Europeans brought muskets (long-barrelled, muzzle-loaded guns) to New Zealand, these guns were used in a series of battles between Māori tribes, mostly between 1818 and 1840. Around 20,000 people may have died from direct and indirect causes. Tribal boundaries were also changed by the musket wars.

Buying and using muskets

Tribes that wanted muskets had to increase production of pigs and potatoes, which were used as currency to pay for the guns. At first tribes had just a few muskets, which were mainly used to scare their opponents. Tribes then bought hundreds of muskets – meaning they had to work hard to produce enough pigs and potatoes. Once they had enough guns, work returned to normal.

Māori learnt tactics for using firearms, and designed pā to protect against musket attacks.


In 1807–8, despite having some muskets, Ngāpuhi were defeated in a battle with Ngāti Whātua (who used traditional weapons).

By about 1818 Ngāpuhi had significant numbers of muskets, and in 1821 the chief Hongi Hika returned from overseas with hundreds more. Over the next six years Ngāpuhi attacked and defeated Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Maru, Waikato, Te Arawa and Ngāti Whātua. In 1827 Hongi was shot in a battle. He died the following year from his injuries. After his death Ngāpuhi had less military impact.


In 1821 Waikato tribes expelled Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha from Kāwhia after intertribal fighting. Waikato, led by Te Wherowhero, then attacked Ngāti Toa in Taranaki. In 1824 Waikato and Ngāti Tūwharetoa defeated Ngāti Kahungunu at Napier, and in 1826 Waikato invaded Taranaki, forcing some groups to move south. Waikato attacked Taranaki tribes again in the early 1830s.

Waikato ended the wars successfully. They defended their lands against northern invaders, and expelled other tribes.

Ngāti Toa

After Te Rauparaha and Ngāti Toa left Waikato, they moved first to north Taranaki and then to the Kapiti coast. They captured Kapiti Island and established a base there. In 1824 other tribal groups attacked the island but were defeated.

Te Rauparaha wanted to extend his trading strength by controlling pounamu (greenstone) in the South Island. From 1827 Ngāti Toa and their Te Āti Awa allies attacked southern tribes and captured much of the South Island.

Ngāti Toa allies Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama invaded the Chatham Islands in 1835. They conquered the Moriori and also fought each other.

The Musket Wars were a series of three thousand or more battles and raids fought in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands amongst Māori between 1807 and 1845, after Māori obtained muskets.

Northern tribes such as the rivals Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua were the first to obtain firearms, and inflicted heavy casualties upon each other and on neighbouring tribes, some of whom had never seen muskets. The wars were characterised by their brutality and ruthlessness – with treachery, the burning of villages, killing of prisoners, torture, slavery, and cannibalism being commonplace.

The first occasion [of the use of the musket] appears to have been the defeat of a Ngāpuhi war party by Ngāti Whātua at Moremonui near Maunganui, between Hokianga and Kaipara harbours in 1807. In this instance, it was the Ngāpuhi who were equipped with muskets. But the Ngāti Whātua ambushed them with traditional weapons before Ngāpuhi had sufficient opportunity to load or reload.

— Michael King

Hongi Hika, who was later to lead Ngāpuhi raids across most of the northern North Island, saw two of his brothers killed in this debacle.

Hongi Hika actively sought muskets and other technology from the west. In 1814, as leader of the Ngāpuhi, Hongi went to Sydney and encouraged missionaries to establish themselves on his land. He went to England in March 1820 with the missionary Kendall. He met many people at Cambridge, including French adventurer “Baron” de Thierry, with whom he completed a land-for-guns transaction. On his return to New Zealand, with the aid of a large musket-based army, Hongi Hika captured many slaves. They were put to work producing cash crops that could be traded for muskets from passing ships. This gave the Ngāpuhi a huge advantage in subsequent wars, until other tribes also acquired muskets of their own. It is estimated that more than 18,500 Māori were killed along with about 1,636 Moriori who died on the Chatham Islands, from a population of only about 100,000.

These early intertribal conflicts caused much territory to be won and lost between various tribes, which complicated dealings with European settlers wishing to gain land. It also gave Māori experience in fighting with and defending against muskets, and may help explain why rebel Māori felt so confident in taking on the combined British and New Zealand forces in the New Zealand Land Wars in the 1860s.


Historian James Belich has suggested “Potato Wars” as a more accurate name for these battles, due to the revolution the potato brought to the Māori economy. Historian Angela Ballara says that new foods made some aspects of the wars different. Māori adopted potatoes which were introduced in 1769, and they became a key staple with better food-value for weight than kūmara (sweet potato), and easier cultivation and storage. Unlike the kūmara, potatoes were tillable by slaves and women and this freed up men to go to war.

Belich saw this as a logistical revolution; potatoes effectively fuelled the long range taua that made the Musket Wars different from any fighting that had come before. However it has been pointed out by Ballara that, in many respects, it was a continuation of traditional inter-iwi feuding that had produced such massive slaughter as the Battle of Hingakaka in either the late 18th or early 19th century (probably 1807) near Ohaupo, when about 8,000 warriors were killed by traditional weapons. Crosby favours the view that the reasons behind the multitude of conflict were based on traditional tikanga, especially the concept of utu or revenge. Revenge killings, war parties, cannibalism and the taking of slaves were nothing new but muskets allowed greater killing and initially, at least, a far greater chance of success against Maori with only traditional weapons.

Slaves captured during massive musket war raids were put to work tending potato patches, freeing up labour to create even larger taua. This can be seen in the progressive size of the war parties, starting at around one hundred and reaching one to two thousand within a few years. After 1832 the average size of the taua declined, until by 1836 they were as small as 120-200. The missionaries at Tauranga in 1839 recorded that 170 Ngati Haua warriors in five waka went to attack Maungatapu Pa.(Crosby P 338)

Additionally, the duration of the raids were longer by the 1820s; it was common for men to be away for up to a year. Because potatoes are not as sensitive to temperature in the “winterless” north as kūmara, it was easy to grow a series of crops.

Also American sailors had reintroduced the much larger fist-sized, American sweet potato, which quickly replaced the thumb-sized Māori kūmara. The availability of the potato and its ease of growing in a wide variety of climatic and soil conditions may have led to a rise in population, putting increasing pressure on a traditional Māori tribal structure that was geared towards a very tiny increase in population, i.e., far more healthy vigorous young men in the pā to challenge for positions of leadership.

Historian Angela Ballara presents evidence that the wars simply continued the traditional conflicts between and within the many hapū of New Zealand waged from about the mid 18th century. Ballara, in Taua, says the musket wars were fought for essentially the same reasons as pre-musket wars—mainly to do with mana, tapu and utu, only the weapons changed. Even at the end of the period in the mid-1840s Māori essentially followed the same tikanga or cultural war traditions as in the pre-musket 1700s. Both the earlier 1700 wars and the musket wars show that it was possible for various hapū to combine into a much larger taua under one or more leader for very long lengths of time—over a year, without regard to planting seasons or food supply for those left behind. Ballara commented that missionaries observed that in the north the warriors would leave the old and the young at home with very inadequate food—they had to forage for food as best as they could. As they had traditionally done, the warriors could expect to obtain food, weapons and other supplies from those defeated in attacks. The only new resource they sought in the musket wars were male slaves, rather than the traditional quest for female or child slaves[12] as in earlier times.

In the years of peak conflict between 1820 and 1833 there were as many as 10 major campaigns happening at the same time, covering virtually the whole of New Zealand. Nearly every iwi or hapu alliance produced a war leader such as Honi Hika, Patuone, Pomare, Te Waharoa, Te Heuheu, Wiremu Kingi, Te Momo, Te Rangihaeta, Te Rauparaha, Waka nene and Te Wherowhero who achieved considerable success in either attacking of defending, or both, during multiple campaigns. Crosby identifies 102 Maori war leaders who he classifies as “generals”

The account of a musket war expedition by Henry Williams

The most comprehensive written account of a war expedition or heke was written by missionary Henry Williams. This heke was a consequence of the so-called Girls’ War, which was a fight that occurred on the beach at Kororareka, Bay of Islands in March 1830 between northern and southern hapū within the Ngāpuhi iwi. Hengi, a chief of Whangaroa, was shot and killed while he attempted to stop the fighting. The duty of seeking revenge had passed to Mango and Kakaha, the sons of Hengi; they took the view that the death of their father should be acknowledged through a muru (war expedition to honour the death of an important chief), against tribes to the south. It was within Māori traditions to conduct a muru against tribes who had no involvement in the events that caused the death of the chief.

Mango and Kakaha did not commence the muru until January 1832. Henry Willams accompanied the first expedition, without necessarily believing that he could end the fighting, but with the intention of continuing to persuade the combatants as to Christian teaching of peace and goodwill. The journal of Henry Williams provides an extensive account of this expedition, In this expedition Mango and Kakaha were successful in fights on the Mercury Islands and Tauranga, with the muru continuing until late July 1832.

When the heke set out it had no leader and each group or toa set out with its own chief at its own pace and acted independently with no common leader or plan. Henry Williams accompanied the heke with the idea of preventing bloodshed, and so was able to document the haphazard and leisurely progress of the warriors going south. Much time was spent fishing and collecting fern root and by various hapū going off by themselves to carry out minor attacks. Although the first group had set off on 10 Dec, by 1 March the following year the heke had only reached Tairua.

Henry Williams estimated there were 600 fighting men plus a small number of women and children. Many of the waka carried cannon. On 7 March the 80-waka-strong fleet went to attack a pā at Otumoetai and exchanged long range fire with the pā. Henry Williams noted the casualness of the women and children in particular who paid little heed to the flying lead. Children dug up spent lead bullets as they fell. Traders in the cutter Fairey sold cannons, shot and powder to the Māori on credit.

On 3 April 1832 there was more fighting on a beach at Otumoetai and Ngāpuhi were victorious. After this the heke spluttered to a close with the majority groups returning to the north by the end of July though Titore did not return until 27 November 1832. Henry Williams noted that he returned with the heads of 14 enemy and three of his own kin. Henry Williams also noted that the Ngāpuhi had stopped fighting on Sunday, even though none of those taking part were Christian. Henry Williams wrote that the number of dead of attackers and defenders was about equal and that no people of rank had been killed. Ballara points out that most of the traditional rituals used in pre-musket days were in everyday use.

Chatham Islands

The Musket Wars extended past a Māori vs Māori conflict when the culturally distinct Moriori inhabitants of the Chatham Islands were invaded in 1835 by displaced Taranaki Māori from Wellington. The Chathams were chosen by the Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama because of the known pacifist nature of Moriori society.

Use of the musket by Māori

The largest battle by far in this period, Hingakaka in 1807, was fought between two opposing Maori alliances near modern Te Awamutu, with about 16,000 warriors estimated to have taken part in the battle. It can be considered the last of the non musket wars, but as late as about 1815 conflicts were mainly fought with traditional weapons, though very small numbers of muskets were present – often on just one side.

In 1820 missionary Thomas Kendall took Hongi Hika to Britain. Hongi Hika met the French adventurer Charles de Thierry in Cambridge and traded land in New Zealand for an estimated 500 muskets, plus shot and powder, swords and daggers. He uplifted the muskets at Port Jackson, Sydney on their return voyage on the Westmoreland, and Kendall himself was later involved in the musket trade and may have been party to the land /musket swap. The muskets may have been manufactured in Sydney which was making muskets at this time.

Generally, the musket did not affect the strategic aims of hapū in the 19th century. However, the tactics used were influenced especially where there was significant imbalance in the numbers of muskets being employed by one side against another. The musket slowly put an end to the traditional combat of Māori warfare using mainly hand weapons and increased the importance of coordinated group manoeuvre. The legendary one-on-one fights such asPotatau Te Wherowhero’s at the battle of Okoki in 1821 became rare. It can be contrasted with the death of Te Hiakai who, like many, was shot in the same battle.

Initially, the musket was a tool which inflicted “shock and awe” and enabled traditional and iron weapons to wreak bloody slaughter on a demoralised foe. However, by the 1830s equally well-armed taua engaged each other with varying degrees of success. Te Waharoa, leader of Ngāti Hauā, was particularly innovative in his use of musket-armed troops in the attack. Tactics he employed at the battle of Taumatawiwi (1830), such as covering fire, would be recognisable to a modern soldier.

Māori learnt most of their musket technology from the various Pākehā Māori who lived in the Bay of Islands and Hokianga area. Some of these men were skilled sailors well experienced in the use of muskets in battles at sea. Maori were not beyond customising their muskets; for example, some enlarged the touch holes which, while reducing muzzle velocity, increased rate of fire. Initially Maori found it very hard to obtain muskets as the missionaries refused to trade them or sell powder or shot. The Ngāpuhi put missionaries under intense pressure to repair muskets even at times threatening them with violence. Most muskets were initially obtained while in Australia. Hongi Hika obtained 500. Pakeha Maori such as Jacky Marmon were instrumental in obtaining muskets from trading ships in return for flax, timber and smoked heads. Most muskets sold were low quality, short barrel trade muskets, made cheaply in Birmingham with inferior steel and less precision in the action. The range and accuracy of a trade musket (40 m range) could not be compared with that of a proper military musket such as a Brown Bess or the later standard issue Enfield which required the less common fine grain black powder. Often Maori preferred the double barreled tupara (2 barrel) as they could fire twice before reloading. In some battles women were used to reload muskets while the men kept on fighting. Later this presented a problem for the British and colonial forces during the New Zealand Land Wars, when iwi would habitually keep women in the pā. Northern Maori, such as Ngāpuhi, learnt to speed load their muskets by holding three lead balls between the fingers of the left hand. The powder was premeasured in paper twists. When the powder was poured down the barrel, instead of using the ramrod which was slow and awkward, they thumped the butt on the ground. As the barrel was fouled by partly burnt powder residue, the warriors used progressively smaller balls. The muzzle velocity dropped as a result but the large balls could still cause severe wounds at close range. (p129 Cannibal Jack)

As well as using Pakeha-Maori as traders, some chiefs, such as Hongi Hika, used them as gunsmiths, as trade muskets in particular needed regular maintenance. Some, such as Jacky Marmon, became influential members of the hapū and participated in several wars such as the attack by Ngāpuhi on the twin Tamaki strongholds in what is now Panmure, in late September 1821.

Outcomes of the Musket Wars

The wars gave Māori experience in fighting with and defending against firearms. One important innovation was the “gunfighter’s pā”, which was designed to be defended with ranged weapons and to offer defenders protection against the firearms of the enemy This type of pā was later widely used in the New Zealand Land Wars, with extensive modifications to deal with the heavy artillery, superior numbers and discipline in attack of British troops. The experience in combat with modern weaponry given by the Musket Wars may help explain why Māori fared far better in the later New Zealand Land Wars than did most tribal peoples.

In time, all the tribes traded to obtain muskets and the conflict ultimately reached an uneasy stalemate after decimating the population of some tribes and drastically shifting the boundaries between areas controlled by various others. The wars themselves generally resolved themselves for various reasons. As Māori sought a way out of the cycle of violence the door was opened to Christianity. Some Māori were also willing to let the government bear the burden of seeking utu.

In the latter stages, as in the Howick-Otahuhu area in 1835-36, missionaries such as Henry Williams and William Fairburn were able to carry out negotiations between warring factions and purchase disputed land to put an end to conflict. At least 20,000 people died in these conflicts. In addition another 30,000 were enslaved or forced to migrate, according to Crosby, using the data of noted New Zealand demographer Ian Poole. This figure may have been as high as 80,000. Ballara points out it was common even in traditional times for a defeated hapū to flee their best land temporarily for up to two years but they usually returned when utu was satisfied and peace returned.

Crosby says over half of all iwi suffered major population loss through battle casualties, cannibalism, or enslavement (for instance, the Moriori in the Chatham Islands). A few iwi, for example Ngati Tumatakokiri in Nelson and Ngati Ira in Wellington were exterminated. In addition there were over 40 major migrations forced on iwi by conflict. Lands between Whangarei and Auckland isthmus was uninhabited in 1840 and to European eyes ownerless.

Perhaps the most important outcome of the musket wars was the bitter legacy of inter-hapū and -iwi mistrust stemming from the extreme violence with which they were fought. The constant use of treachery as a battlefield tactic, coupled with the enslavement of so many, left a long legacy of mistrust. The third to last battle of the Musket Wars was a few months before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. A taua (war party) from the Te Awamutu area attacked and slaughtered Arawa people (Rotorua area) and brought back 60 basket-loads of human flesh to eat.

The missionaries and Christian Maori were sickened and moved out of the pā to establish a separate missionary village. The penultimate battle was at Tauranga in 1842, when a Hauraki Iwi raiding toa attacked a pā. Chief Taraia claimed this was utu (revenge) for encroachment on his land and other issues. The Colonial Secretary Willoughby Shortland carried out an investigation and found two bodies had been eaten. Te Mutu, the defeated chief, told Shortland that if he caught Taraia he would eat him. Missionaries had been able to gain the trust of many iwi, while Māori remained wary of other iwi outside their rohe (area). By 1844 the conversion of Ngāpuhi chiefs resulted in a significant reduction incidents of intertribal warfare in the north. The last battle of the musket wars was fought by Te Heuheu of Tuwharetoa against Nga Rauru in 1844-45. This was the immediate background to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Prohibition Measures

From 1845 after the rebellion of Hone Heke, the government enacted a number of laws to attempt to slow or stop the flow of muskets, gunpowder and other warlike stores into New Zealand. The first was the Arms, Gunpowder and other Warlike Stores Act. 13 Dec 1845. On 12 November 1846 the Arms Ordinance was passed. This was followed by the Gunpowder Ordinance Act August 1847. Penalties were severe with fines of 100-200 pounds for selling a musket to a native in 1848. These laws combined to put a stop to gunrunners selling muskets to Maori. To undermine the law the sellers spread rumours that it was a government plot to disarm Maori. Some chiefs however such as Tamati Ngapora of Ngati Mahuta at Mangere wanted the law passed in April 1856, to stop Maori killing each other. In June 1857 the government passed a law allowing people to have guns and powder for sporting purposes. This appears to have opened a flood of firearms into Maori communities. In November 1857, Lt Colonel Wynyard wrote to Governor Brown expressing his concern that this was allowing large quantities of weapons going to Maori, far beyond what was required for sporting purposes. He expressed concern that iwi would use the weapons to settle tribal squabbles with arms. Te Whero whero, the first Maori king, came to see to the governor at the same time and expressed his concern that so many weapons could be sold to volatile Maori. A Maori veteran of the Battle of Orakau 1864, told Members of Parliament that Maori had been collecting large quantities of weapons for years prior to the battle to protect their land against other tribes, not with the intention of fighting Europeans. After the Land Wars the government passed the Firearms Amendments Act 1869 making it illegal for any person to sell weapons to a Maori in rebellion. The only punishment was the death sentence.

November 9, 2015 / by / in
New Zealand


  • Population – 4.47 million (Statistics NZ. 201 3)
  • Capital – Wellington
  • Largest City – Auckland
  • Area – 270,534 sq km (104,454 m miles)
  • Major Languages — English, Maori
  • Major Religion – Christianity
  • Life Expectancy – 79 years (Men), 83 years (women)
  • Main Exports – Wool, Food and Dairy products, Wood and Paper products
  • Main Imports — Education and Tourism
  • GNI per capita – US $30,620 (World Bank. 2011)
  • Time Zone – NZST (UTC+12)

New Zealand (/njuːˈzilənd/ new-zee-lənd, Māori: Aotearoa [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses – that of the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu – and numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country’s varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand’s capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.


Coat of Arms New Zealand

Polynesians settled New Zealand in 1250–1300 CE and developed a distinctive Māori culture. Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to sight New Zealand in 1642. In 1840, representatives of the British Crown and Māori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, making New Zealand a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand’s population of 4.5 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand’s culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant.

New Zealand is a developed country with a market economy that is dominated by the exports of dairy products, meat and wine, along with tourism. New Zealand is a high-income economy and ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as health, education, economic freedom and quality of life. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected,unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently John Key. Queen Elizabeth II is the country’s head of state and is represented by a Governor-General. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica. New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS,Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.



Detail from a 1657 map showing the western coastline of “Nova Zeelandia”

Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt, supposing it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the landNova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. British explorer James Cook subsequently anglicised the name to New Zealand.

Aotearoa (often translated as “land of the long white cloud”) is the current Māori name for New Zealand. It is unknown whether Māori had a name for the whole country before the arrival of Europeans, with Aotearoa originally referring to just the North Island. Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui) for the North Island and Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) orTe Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki) for the South Island. Early European maps labelled the islands North (North Island), Middle (South Island) and South (Stewart Island / Rakiura). In 1830, maps began to use North and South to distinguish the two largest islands and by 1907 this was the accepted norm. The New Zealand Geographic Board discovered in 2009 that the names of the North Island and South Island had never been formalised, and names and alternative names were formalised in 2013. This set the names as North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui, and South Island or Te Waipounamu. Note that for each island, either its English or Māori name can be used, or both can be used together.


280px-Polynesian_Migration.svgThe Māori people are most likely descended from people who emigrated from Taiwan to Melanesia and then travelled east through to the Society Islands. After a pause of 70 to 265 years, a new wave of exploration led to the discovery and settlement of New Zealand.

New Zealand was one of the last major landmasses settled by humans. Radiocarbon dating, evidence of deforestation and mitochondrial DNA variability within Māori populations suggest New Zealand was first settled by Eastern Polynesians between 1250 and 1300, concluding a long series of voyages through the southern Pacific islands. Over the centuries that followed these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori. The population was divided into iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) who would sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete and sometimes fight with each other. At some point a group of Māori migrated to the Chatham Islands (which they named Rēkohu) where they developed their distinct Moriori culture. The Moriori population was all but wiped out between 1835 and 1862, largely because of Taranaki Māori invasion and enslavement in the 1830s, although European diseases also contributed. In 1862 only 101 survived and the last known full-blooded Moriori died in 1933.


The Waitangi sheet from the Treaty of Waitangi

The first Europeans known to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and his crew in 1642. In a hostile encounter, four crew members were killed and at least one Māori was hit by canister shot. Europeans did not revisit New Zealand until 1769 when British explorer James Cook mapped almost the entire coastline. Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing and trading ships. They traded food, metal tools, weapons and other goods for timber, food, artifacts and water. The introduction of the potato and the musket transformed Māori agriculture and warfare. Potatoes provided a reliable food surplus, which enabled longer and more sustained military campaigns. The resulting intertribal Musket Wars encompassed over 600 battles between 1801 and 1840, killing 30,000–40,000 Māori. From the early 19th century, Christian missionaries began to settle New Zealand, eventually converting most of the Māori population. The Māori population declined to around 40 percent of its pre-contact level during the 19th century; introduced diseases were the major factor.

In 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip assumed the position of Governor of the new British colony of New South Wales which according to his commission included New Zealand.The British Government appointed James Busby as British Resident to New Zealand in 1832 following a petition from northern Māori. In 1835, following an announcement of impending French settlement by Charles de Thierry, the nebulous United Tribes of New Zealand sent a Declaration of the Independence to King William IV of the United Kingdom asking for protection. Ongoing unrest, the proposed settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Company (which had already sent its first ship of surveyors to buy land from Māori) and the dubious legal standing of the Declaration of Independence prompted the Colonial Office to send Captain William Hobson to claim sovereignty for Great Britain and negotiate a treaty with the Māori. The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in the Bay of Islands on 6 February 1840. In response to the New Zealand Company’s attempts to establish an independent settlement in Wellington and French settlers purchasing land in Akaroa, Hobson declared British sovereignty over all of New Zealand on 21 May 1840, even though copies of the Treaty were still circulating throughout the country for Māori to sign. With the signing of the Treaty and declaration of sovereignty the number of immigrants, particularly from the United Kingdom, began to increase.


Painting of Mount Earnslaw by John Turnbull Thomson, oil on canvas, 1888

New Zealand, still part of the colony of New South Wales, became a separateColony of New Zealand on 1 July 1841. The colony gained a representative government in 1852 and the first Parliament met in 1854. In 1856 the colony effectively became self-governing, gaining responsibility over all domestic matters other than native policy. (Control over native policy was granted in the mid-1860s.) Following concerns that the South Island might form a separate colony, premier Alfred Domett moved a resolution to transfer the capital from Auckland to a locality near the Cook Strait. Wellington was chosen for its harbour and central location, with parliament officially sitting there for the first time in 1865. As immigrant numbers increased, conflicts over land led to the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, resulting in the loss and confiscation of much Māori land. 

In 1891 the Liberal Party led by John Ballance came to power as the first organised political party. The Liberal Government, later led by Richard Seddon, passed many important social and economic measures. In 1893 New Zealand was the first nation in the world to grant all women the right to vote and in 1894 pioneered the adoption of compulsory arbitration between employers and unions. In 1898 Seddon’s government passed the Old-age Pensions Act of 1898, the first general pensions scheme in the British Empire.

In 1907, at the request of the New Zealand Parliament, King Edward VII proclaimed New Zealand a dominion within the British Empire, reflecting its self-governing status. Accordingly, the title “Dominion of New Zealand” dates from 1907.

In 1947 the country adopted the Statute of Westminster, confirming that the British parliament could no longer legislate for New Zealand without the consent of New Zealand. New Zealand was involved in world affairs, fighting, as part of the British Empire, in the First and Second World Wars and suffering through the Great Depression. The depression led to the election of the first Labour government and the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state and a protectionist economy. New Zealand experienced increasing prosperity following World War II and Māori began to leave their traditional rural life and move to the cities in search of work. A Māori protest movement developed, which criticised Eurocentrism and worked for greater recognition of Māori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1975, a Waitangi Tribunal was set up to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty, and it was enabled to investigate historic grievances in 1985. The government has negotiated settlements of these grievances with many iwi, although Māori claims to the foreshore and seabed have proved controversial in the 2000s.



John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2008

John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2008

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, although its constitution is not codified. Elizabeth II is the Queen of New Zealand and the head of state. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General, whom she appoints on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General can exercise the Crown’sprerogative powers, such as reviewing cases of injustice and making appointments of ministers, ambassadors and other key public officials, and in rare situations, the reserve powers (e.g. the power to dissolve Parliament or refuse theRoyal Assent of a bill into law). The powers of the Queen and the Governor-General are limited by constitutional constraints and they cannot normally be exercised without the advice of Cabinet.
class=”thumb tmulti tleft”>

class=”thumbimage”>The Queen of New Zealand and her vice-regal representative, the Governor-General


Sir Jerry Mateparae

The New Zealand Parliament holds legislative power and consists of the Queen and the House of Representatives. It also included an upper house, the Legislative Council, until this was abolished in 1950. The supremacy of Parliament, over the Crown and other government institutions, was established in England by the Bill of Rights 1689 and has been ratified as law in New Zealand. The House of Representatives is democratically elected and a Government is formed from the party or coalition with the majority of seats. If no majority is formed a minority government can be formed if support from other parties during confidence and supply votes is assured. The Governor-General appoints ministers under advice from the Prime Minister, who is by convention the Parliamentary leader of the governing party or coalition. Cabinet, formed by ministers and led by the Prime Minister, is the highest policy-making body in government and responsible for deciding significant government actions. By convention, members of cabinet are bound by collective responsibility to decisions made by cabinet.

class=”magnify”>Seddon_Statue_in_Parliament_GroundsA statue of Richard Seddon, the “Beehive” (Executive Wing), and Parliament House (right), in Parliament Grounds, Wellington.

Almost all parliamentary general elections between 1853 and 1993 were held under the first-past-the-post voting system. The elections since 1930 have been dominated by two political parties, National and Labour. Since the 1996 election, a form of proportional representation called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) has been used. Under the MMP system each person has two votes; one is for electoral seats (including some reserved for Māori), and the other is for a party. Since the 2014 election, there have been 71 electorate seats (which includes 7 Māori electorates), and the remaining 49 seats are assigned so that representation in parliament reflects the party vote, although a party has to win one electoral seat or 5 percent of the total party vote before it is eligible for these seats. Between March 2005 and August 2006 New Zealand became the only country in the world in which all the highest offices in the land (Head of State, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker and Chief Justice) were occupied simultaneously by women.

Judges and judicial officers are appointed non-politically and under strict rules regarding tenure to help maintain constitutional independence from the government. This theoretically allows the judiciary to interpret the law based solely on the legislation enacted by Parliament without other influences on their decisions. The Privy Council in London was the country’s final court of appeal until 2004, when it was replaced with the newly established Supreme Court of New Zealand. The judiciary, headed by the Chief Justice, includes the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and subordinate courts.

New Zealand is identified as one of the world’s most stable and well-governed nations. As of 2011, the country was ranked fifth in the strength of its democratic institutions and first in government transparency and lack of corruption. New Zealand has a high level of civic participation, with 79% voter turnout during the most recent elections, compared to an OECD average of 72%. Furthermore, 67% of New Zealanders say they trust their political institutions, far higher than the OECD average of 56%.

Foreign relations and the military


Anzac Day service at the National War Memorial

class=”magnify”>Early colonial New Zealand allowed the British Government to determine external trade and be responsible for foreign policy. The 1923 and 1926 Imperial Conferences decided that New Zealand should be allowed to negotiate their own political treaties and the first commercial treaty was ratified in 1928 with Japan. On 3 September 1939 New Zealand allied itself with Britain and declared war on Germany with Prime Minister Michael Savage proclaiming, “Where she goes, we go; where she stands, we stand.”


Māori Battalion haka in Egypt, 1941

In 1951 the United Kingdom became increasingly focused on its European interests, while New Zealand joined Australia and the United States in the ANZUS security treaty. The influence of the United States on New Zealand weakened following protests over the Vietnam War, the refusal of the United States to admonish France after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, disagreements over environmental and agricultural trade issues and New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy. 

Despite the US’s suspension of ANZUS obligations the treaty remained in effect between New Zealand and Australia, whose foreign policy has followed a similar historical trend. Close political contact is maintained between the two countries, with free trade agreements and travel arrangements that allow citizens to visit, live and work in both countries without restrictions. In 2013, there are about 650,000 New Zealand citizens living in Australia, which is about 15 percent of the population of New Zealand. 65,000 Australians live in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a strong presence among the Pacific Island countries. A large proportion of New Zealand’s aid goes to these countries and many Pacific people migrate to New Zealand for employment. Permanent migration is regulated under the 1970 Samoan Quota Scheme and the 2002 Pacific Access Category, which allow up to 1,100 Samoan nationals and up to 750 other Pacific Islanders respectively to become permanent New Zealand residents each year. A seasonal workers scheme for temporary migration was introduced in 2007 and in 2009 about 8,000 Pacific Islanders were employed under it. New Zealand is involved in the Pacific Islands Forum, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (including the East Asia Summit). New Zealand is also a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

220px-New_Zealand_trench_Flers_September_1916Infantry from the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment in the Battle of the Somme, September 1916

The New Zealand Defence Force has three branches: the Royal New Zealand Navy, the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. New Zealand’s national defence needs are modest because of the unlikelihood of direct attack, although it does have a global presence. The country fought in both world wars, with notable campaigns in Gallipoli, Crete, El Alamein and Cassino. The Gallipoli campaign played an important part in fostering New Zealand’s national identity and strengthened the ANZAC tradition it shares with Australia. According to Mary Edmond-Paul, “World War I had left scars on New Zealand society, with nearly 18,500 in total dying as a result of the war, more than 41,000 wounded, and others affected emotionally, out of an overseas fighting force of about 103,000 and a population of just over a million.” New Zealand also played key parts in the naval Battle of the River Plate and the Battle of Britain air campaign. During World War II, the United States had more than 400,000 American military personnel stationed in New Zealand.

In addition to Vietnam and the two world wars, New Zealand fought in the Korean War, the Second Boer War, the Malayan Emergency, the Gulf War and the Afghanistan War. It has contributed forces to several regional and global peacekeeping missions, such as those in Cyprus, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sinai, Angola, Cambodia, the Iran–Iraq border, Bougainville, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands. New Zealand also sent a unit of army engineers to help rebuild Iraqi infrastructure for one year during the Iraq War.

New Zealand ranks 8th in the Center for Global Development’s 2012 Commitment to Development Index, which ranks the world’s most developed countries on their dedication to policies that benefit poorer nations. New Zealand is considered the fourth most peaceful country in the world according to the 2014 Global Peace Index.

Local government and external territories


Realm of New Zealand

The early European settlers divided New Zealand into provinces, which had a degree of autonomy.

Because of financial pressures and the desire to consolidate railways, education, land sales and other policies, government was centralised and the provinces were abolished in 1876. As a result, New Zealand now has no separately represented subnational entities. The provinces are remembered in regional public holidays and sporting rivalries.

Since 1876, various councils have administered local areas under legislation determined by the central government. In 1989, the government reorganised local government into the current two-tier structure of regional councils and territorial authorities. The 249 municipalities that existed in 1975 have now been consolidated into 67 territorial authorities and 11 regional councils. The regional councils’ role is to regulate “the natural environment with particular emphasis on resource management”, while territorial authorities are responsible for sewage, water, local roads, building consents and other local matters. Five of the territorial councils are unitary authorities and also act as regional councils. The territorial authorities consist of 13 city councils, 53 district councils, and the Chatham Islands Council. While officially the Chatham Islands Council is not a unitary authority, it undertakes many functions of a regional council.

New Zealand is one of 16 realms within the Commonwealth. The Realm of New Zealand is the territory over which the Queen of New Zealand is sovereign and comprises New Zealand, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, the Cook Islands and Niue. The Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament cannot pass legislation for these countries, but with their consent can act on behalf of them in foreign affairs and defence.

Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory that uses the New Zealand flag and anthem, but is administered by a council of three elders (one from each Tokelauan atoll). The Ross Dependency is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica, where it operates the Scott Base research facility. New Zealand citizenship law treats all parts of the realm equally, so most people born in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency before 2006 are New Zealand citizens. Further conditions apply for those born from 2006 onwards.



New Zealand is located near the centre of the water hemisphere and is made up of two main islands and a number of smaller islands. The two main islands (theNorth Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu) are separated by the Cook Strait, 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point. Besides the North and South Islands, the five largest inhabited islands are Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier Island (in the Hauraki Gulf), d’Urville Island (in the Marlborough Sounds) and Waiheke Island (about 22 km (14 mi) from central Auckland). The country’s islands lie between latitudes 29° and 53°S, and longitudes 165° and 176°E.

New Zealand is long and narrow (over 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) along its north-north-east axis with a maximum width of 400 kilometres (250 mi)), with about 15,000 km (9,300 mi) of coastline and a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi) Because of its far-flung outlying islands and long coastline, the country has extensive marine resources. Its Exclusive Economic Zone is one of the largest in the world, covering more than 15 times its land area.

The South Island is the largest landmass of New Zealand, and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps. There are 18 peaks over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), the highest of which is Aoraki / Mount Cook at 3,754 metres (12,316 ft). Fiordland’s steep mountains and deep fiords record the extensive ice age glaciation of this south-western corner of the South Island. The North Island is less mountainous but is marked by volcanism. The highly active Taupo Volcanic Zone has formed a large volcanic plateau, punctuated by the North Island’s highest mountain, Mount Ruapehu (2,797 metres (9,177 ft)). The plateau also hosts the country’s largest lake, Lake Taupo, nestled in the caldera of one of the world’s most active supervolcanoes.

The country owes its varied topography, and perhaps even its emergence above the waves, to the dynamic boundary it straddles between the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates. New Zealand is part of Zealandia, a microcontinent nearly half the size of Australia that gradually submerged after breaking away from the Gondwanan supercontinent. About 25 million years ago, a shift in plate tectonic movements began to contort and crumple the region. This is now most evident in the Southern Alps, formed by compression of the crustbeside the Alpine Fault. Elsewhere the plate boundary involves the subduction of one plate under the other, producing the Puysegur Trench to the south, the Hikurangi Trench east of the North Island, and the Kermadec and Tonga Trenches further north.

New Zealand is not part of the continent of Australia, but of the separate, submerged continent of Zealandia. New Zealand and Australia are both part of the wider regions known as Australasia and Oceania. The term Oceania is often used to denote the region encompassing the Australian continent, New Zealand and various islands in the Pacific Ocean that are not included in the seven-continent model.


New Zealand has a mild and temperate maritime climate (Köppen: Cfb) with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10 °C (50 °F) in the south to 16 °C (61 °F) in the north. Historical maxima and minima are 42.4 °C (108.32 °F) in Rangiora, Canterbury and −25.6 °C (−14.08 °F) in Ranfurly, Otago. Conditions vary sharply across regions from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to almost semi-arid in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury and subtropical in Northland. Of the seven largest cities, Christchurch is the driest, receiving on average only 640 millimetres (25 in) of rain per year and Wellington the wettest, receiving almost twice that amount. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average of more than 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400–1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive about 2,400–2,500 hours. The general snow season is about early June until early October in the South Island. Snowfall is less common on the North Island, although it does occur.


New Zealand’s geographic isolation for 80 million years and island biogeography is responsible for the country’s unique species of animals, fungi and plants. They have either evolved from Gondwanan wildlife or the few organisms that have managed to reach the shores flying, swimming or being carried across the sea. About 82 percent of New Zealand’s indigenous vascular plants are endemic, covering 1,944 species across 65 genera and includes a single endemic family. The number of fungi recorded from New Zealand, including lichen-forming species, is not known, nor is the proportion of those fungi which are endemic, but one estimate suggests there are about 2300 species of lichen-forming fungi in New Zealand and 40 percent of these are endemic. The two main types of forest are those dominated by broadleaf trees with emergent podocarps, or by southern beech in cooler climates. The remaining vegetation types consist of grasslands, the majority of which are tussock.

Before the arrival of humans an estimated 80 percent of the land was covered in forest, with only high alpine, wet, infertile and volcanic areas without trees. Massive deforestation occurred after humans arrived, with around half the forest cover lost to fire after Polynesian settlement. Much of the remaining forest fell after European settlement, being logged or cleared to make room for pastoral farming, leaving forest occupying only 23 percent of the land.


The endemic flightless kiwiis a national icon.

The forests were dominated by birds, and the lack of mammalian predators led to some like the kiwi, kakapo and takahēevolving flightlessness. The arrival of humans, associated changes to habitat, and the introduction of rats, ferrets and other mammals led to the extinction of many bird species, including large birds like the moa and Haast’s eagle.

Other indigenous animals are represented by reptiles (tuataras, skinks and geckos), frogs, spiders (katipo), insects (weta) and snails. Some, such as the wrens and tuatara, are so unique that they have been called living fossils. Three species of bats (one since extinct) were the only sign of native land mammals in New Zealand until the 2006 discovery of bones from a unique, mouse-sized land mammal at least 16 million years old. Marine mammals however are abundant, with almost half the world’s cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and large numbers of fur seals reported in New Zealand waters. Many seabirds breed in New Zealand, a third of them unique to the country. More penguin species are found in New Zealand than in any other country.

Since human arrival almost half of the country’s vertebrate species have become extinct, including at least fifty-one birds, three frogs, three lizards, one freshwater fish, and one bat. Others are endangered or have had their range severely reduced. However, New Zealand conservationists have pioneered several methods to help threatened wildlife recover, including island sanctuaries, pest control, wildlife translocation, fostering, and ecological restoration of islands and other selected areas. According to the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, New Zealand is considered a “strong performer” in environmental protection, ranking 14th out of 132 assessed countries.


New Zealand has a modern, prosperous and developed market economy with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity(PPP) per capita of roughly NZ$47,784. The currency is the New Zealand dollar, informally known as the “Kiwi dollar”; it also circulates in the Cook Islands (see Cook Islands dollar), Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. New Zealand was ranked sixth in the 2013 Human Development Index, fourth in The Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, and 13th in INSEAD’s 2012 Global Innovation Index.
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Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destinations.

Historically, extractive industries have contributed strongly to New Zealand’s economy, focussing at different times on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, kauri gum, and native timber. With the development of refrigerated shipping in the 1880s meat and dairy products were exported to Britain, a trade which provided the basis for strong economic growth in New Zealand. High demand for agricultural products from the United Kingdom and the United States helped New Zealanders achieve higher living standards than both Australia and Western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1973, New Zealand’s export market was reduced when the United Kingdom joined the European Community and other compounding factors, such as the 1973 oil and 1979 energy crisis, led to a severe economic depression. Living standards in New Zealand fell behind those of Australia and Western Europe, and by 1982 New Zealand had the lowest per-capita income of all the developed nations surveyed by the World Bank. Since 1984, successive governments engaged in major macroeconomic restructuring (known first as Rogernomics and then Ruthanasia), rapidly transforming New Zealand from a highly protectionist economy to a liberalised free-trade economy.

Unemployment peaked above 10 percent in 1991 and 1992, following the 1987 share market crash, but eventually fell to a record low of 3.4 percent in 2007 (ranking fifth from twenty-seven comparable OECD nations). However, the global financial crisis that followed had a major impact on New Zealand, with the GDP shrinking for five consecutive quarters, the longest recession in over thirty years, and unemployment rising back to 7 percent in late 2009. At May 2012, the general unemployment rate was around 6.7 percent, while the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 21 was 13.6 percent. In the September 2014 quarter, unemployment was 5.4%. New Zealand has experienced a series of “brain drains” since the 1970s that still continue today. Nearly one quarter of highly skilled workers live overseas, mostly in Australia and Britain, which is the largest proportion from any developed nation. In recent years, however, a “brain gain” has brought in educated professionals from Europe and lesser developed countries.


New Zealand is heavily dependent on international trade, particularly in agricultural products. Exports account for a high 24 percent of its output making New Zealand vulnerable to international commodity prices and global economic slowdowns. Food products made up 55% of the value of all the country’s exports in 2014; wood was the second largest earner (7%). Its major export partners are Australia, United States, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. On 7 April 2008, New Zealand and China signed the New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement, the first such agreement China has signed with a developed country. The service sector is the largest sector in the economy, followed by manufacturing and construction and then farming and raw material extraction. Tourism plays a significant role in New Zealand’s economy, contributing $15.0 billion to New Zealand’s total GDP and supporting 9.6 percent of the total workforce in 2010. International visitors to New Zealand increased by 3.1 percent in the year to October 2010 and are expected to increase at a rate of 2.5 percent annually up to 2015.

In 1984 New Zealand eliminated agricultural subsidies.


Wool has historically been one of New Zealand’s major exports.

Wool was New Zealand’s major agricultural export during the late 19th century. Even as late as the 1960s it made up over a third of all export revenues, but since then its price has steadily dropped relative to other commodities and wool is no longer profitable for many farmers. In contrast dairy farming increased, with the number of dairy cows doubling between 1990 and 2007, to become New Zealand’s largest export earner. In the year to June 2009, dairy products accounted for 21 percent ($9.1 billion) of total merchandise exports, and the country’s largest company, Fonterra, controls almost one-third of the international dairy trade. Other agricultural exports in 2009 were meat 13.2 percent, wool 6.3 percent, fruit 3.5 percent and fishing 3.3 percent. New Zealand’s wine industry has followed a similar trend to dairy, the number of vineyards doubling over the same period, overtaking wool exports for the first time in 2007.


In 2008, oil, gas and coal generated about 69 percent of New Zealand’s gross energy supply while 31% was generated from renewable energy, primarily hydroelectric power and geothermal power.

New Zealand’s transport network comprises 93,805 kilometres (58,288 mi) of roads, including 199 kilometres (124 mi) of motorways, and 4,128 kilometres (2,565 mi) of railway lines. Most major cities and towns are linked by bus services, although the private car is the predominant mode of transport. The railways were privatised in 1993, but were re-nationalised by the government in stages between 2004 and 2008. The state-owned enterprise KiwiRail now operates the railways, with the exception of Auckland commuter services which are operated by Transdev. Railways run the length of the country, although most lines now carry freight rather than passengers. Most international visitors arrive via air and New Zealand has six international airports, but currently only the Auckland and Christchurch airports connect directly with countries other than Australia or Fiji.

The New Zealand Post Office had a monopoly over telecommunications until 1987 when Telecom New Zealand was formed, initially as a state-owned enterprise and then privatised in 1990. Telecom was rebranded as Spark New Zealand in 2014. Chorus, which was split from Telecom in 2011, still owns the majority of the telecommunications infrastructure, but competition from other providers has increased. The United Nations International Telecommunication Union ranks New Zealand 12th in the development of information and communications infrastructure, having moved up four places between 2008 and 2010.

Water supply and sanitation

class=”hatnote relarticle mainarticle”>Main article: Water supply and sanitation in New Zealand
Water supply and sanitation in New Zealand is universal and of good quality in urban areas. It is provided by local government called Territorial Authorities in New Zealand. Territorial Authorities consist of 14 city councils in urban areas and 53 district councils in rural areas. The legal framework includes the Health Act 1956 amended in 2007, the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991.



New Zealand’s historical population (black) and projected growth (red)

As of June 2015, the population of New Zealand is estimated at 4.597 million. New Zealand is a predominantly urban country, with 72 percent of the population living in 16 main urban areas and 53 percent living in the four largest cities of Auckland, Christchurch,Wellington, and Hamilton. New Zealand cities generally rank highly on international livability measures. For instance, in 2010 Auckland was ranked the world’s 4th most liveable city and Wellington the 12th by the Mercer Quality of Life Survey.


New Zealand population pyramid at the 2013 Census.

Life expectancy for New Zealanders in 2012 was 84 years for females, and 80.2 years for males. Life expectancy at birth is forecast to increase from 80 years to 85 years in 2050 and infant mortality is expected to decline. New Zealand’s fertility rate of 2.1 is relatively high for a developed country, and natural births account for a significant proportion of population growth. Consequently, the country has a young population compared to most industrialized nations, with 20 percent of New Zealanders being 14 years old or younger. By 2050 the population is forecast to reach 5.3 million, the median age to rise from 36 years to 43 years and the percentage of people 60 years of age and older to rise from 18 percent to 29 percent. Despite the high life expectancy, mortality from heart disease is higher in New Zealand than it is in various other developed Western countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Ethnicity and immigration

In the 2013 census, 74.0% of New Zealand residents identified ethnically as European, and 14.9% as Māori. Other major ethnic groups include Asian (11.8%) and Pacific peoples (7.4%). The population has become more diverse in recent decades: in 1961, the census reported that the population of New Zealand was 92 percent European and 7 percent Māori, with Asian and Pacific minorities sharing the remaining 1 percent.


Lion dancers perform at the Auckland Lantern Festival.

While the demonym for a New Zealand citizen is New Zealander, the informal “Kiwi” is commonly used both internationally and by locals. The Māori loanword Pākehā has been used to refer to New Zealanders of European descent, although others reject this appellation. The word Pākehā today is increasingly used to refer to all non-Polynesian New Zealanders.

The Māori were the first people to reach New Zealand, followed by the early European settlers. Following colonisation, immigrants were predominantly from Britain, Ireland and Australia because of restrictive policies similar to the white Australian policies. There was also significant Dutch, Dalmatian, Italian, and German immigration, together with indirect European immigration through Australia, North America, South America and South Africa. Following the Great Depression policies were relaxed and migrant diversity increased. In 2009–10, an annual target of 45,000–50,000 permanent residence approvals was set by the New Zealand Immigration Service—more than one new migrant for every 100 New Zealand residents. Just over 25% of New Zealand’s population was born overseas, with the majority (52%) living in the Auckland region. In the late 2000s, Asia overtook the UK and Ireland as the largest source of overseas migrants; at the 2013 census, 31.6% of overseas-born New Zealand residents were born in Asia (mainly China, India, the Philippines and South Korea), while 26.5% were born in the UK and Ireland. Australia, the Pacific Islands, and South Africa are also significant sources of migrants. The number of fee-paying international students increased sharply in the late 1990s, with more than 20,000 studying in public tertiary institutions in 2002.


English is the predominant language in New Zealand, spoken by 98 percent of the population. New Zealand English is similar to Australian English and many speakers from the Northern Hemisphere are unable to tell the accents apart. The most prominent differences between the New Zealand English dialect and other English dialects are the shifts in the short front vowels: the short-“i” sound (as in “kit”) has centralised towards the schwa sound (the “a” in “comma” and “about”); the short-“e” sound (as in “dress”) has moved towards the short-“i” sound; and the short-“a” sound (as in “trap”) has moved to the short-“e” sound. Hence, the New Zealand pronunciation of words such as “bad”, “dead”, “fish” and “chips” sound like “bed”, “did”, “fush” and “chups” to non-New Zealanders.

After the Second World War, Māori were discouraged from speaking their own language (te reo Māori) in schools and workplaces and it existed as a community language only in a few remote areas. It has recently undergone a process of revitalisation, being declared one of New Zealand’s official languages in 1987, and is spoken by 4.1 percent of the population. There are now Māori language immersion schools and two Māori Television channels, the only nationwide television channels to have the majority of their prime-time content delivered in Māori. Many places have both their Māori and English names officially recognised. Samoan is one of the most widely spoken languages in New Zealand (2.3 percent), followed by French, Hindi, Yue (Cantonese, Spoken in Hong Kong) and Northern Chinese. New Zealand Sign Language is used by about 28,000 people. It was declared one of New Zealand’s official languages in 2006.


Primary and secondary schooling is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16, with the majority attending from the age of 5. There are 13 school years and attending state (public) schools is free to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents from a person’s 5th birthday to the end of the calendar year following their 19th birthday. New Zealand has an adult literacy rate of 99 percent, and over half of the population aged 15 to 29 hold a tertiary qualification. There are five types of government-owned tertiary institutions: universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, specialist colleges, and wānanga, in addition to private training establishments. In the adult population 14.2 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 30.4 percent have some form of secondary qualification as their highest qualification and 22.4 percent have no formal qualification. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment ranks New Zealand’s education system as the 7th best in the world, with students performing exceptionally well in reading, mathematics and science.
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A Rātana church

Christianity is the predominant religion in New Zealand, although its society is among the most secular in the world. In the 2013 Census, 55.0 percent of the population identified with one or more religions, including 49.0 percent identifying as Christians. Another 41.9 percent indicated that they had no religion. The main Christian denominations areRoman Catholicism (12.6 percent), Anglicanism (11.8 percent), Presbyterianism (8.5 percent) and “Christian not further defined” (i.e. people identifying as Christian but not stating the denomination, 5.5 percent). The Māori-based Ringatūand Rātana religions (1.4 percent) are also Christian. Other significant minority religions include Hinduism (2.3 percent), Buddhism (1.5 percent) and Islam (1.2 percent). The indigenous Māori Christians tend to be associated with the Anglican and Catholic churches, while Pacific people tend to be Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic and Latter-day Saint adherents.


140px-KupeWhekeEarly Māori adapted the tropically based east Polynesian culture in line with the challenges associated with a larger and more diverse environment, eventually developing their own distinctive culture. Social organisation was largely communal with families (whanau), sub-tribes (hapu) and tribes (iwi) ruled by a chief (rangatira) whose position was subject to the community’s approval. The British and Irish immigrants brought aspects of their own culture to New Zealand and also influenced Māori culture, particularly with the introduction of Christianity. However, Māori still regard their allegiance to tribal groups as a vital part of their identity, and Māori kinship roles resemble those of other Polynesian peoples. More recently American, Australian, Asian and other European cultures have exerted influence on New Zealand. Non-Māori Polynesian cultures are also apparent, with Pasifika, the world’s largest Polynesian festival, now an annual event in Auckland.

The largely rural life in early New Zealand led to the image of New Zealanders being rugged, industrious problem solvers. Modesty was expected and enforced through the “tall poppy syndrome”, where high achievers received harsh criticism. At the time New Zealand was not known as an intellectual country. From the early 20th century until the late 1960s Māori culture was suppressed by the attempted assimilation of Māori into British New Zealanders. In the 1960s, as higher education became more available and cities expanded urban culture began to dominate. Even though the majority of the population now lives in cities, much of New Zealand’s art, literature, film and humour has rural themes.


As part of the resurgence of Māori culture, the traditional crafts of carving and weaving are now more widely practised and Māori artists are increasing in number and influence. Most Māori carvings feature human figures, generally with three fingers and either a natural-looking, detailed head or a grotesque head. Surface patterns consisting of spirals, ridges, notches and fish scales decorate most carvings. The pre-eminent Māori architecture consisted of carved meeting houses (wharenui) decorated with symbolic carvings and illustrations. These buildings were originally designed to be constantly rebuilt, changing and adapting to different whims or needs.

Māori decorated the white wood of buildings, canoes and cenotaphs using red (a mixture of red ochre and shark fat) and black (made from soot) paint and painted pictures of birds, reptiles and other designs on cave walls. Māori tattoos (moko) consisting of coloured soot mixed with gum were cut into the flesh with a bone chisel. Since European arrival paintings and photographs have been dominated by landscapes, originally not as works of art but as factual portrayals of New Zealand. Portraits of Māori were also common, with early painters often portraying them as “noble savages”, exotic beauties or friendly natives. The country’s isolation delayed the influence of European artistic trends allowing local artists to developed their own distinctive style of regionalism. During the 1960s and 70s many artists combined traditional Māori and Western techniques, creating unique art forms. New Zealand art and craft has gradually achieved an international audience, with exhibitions in the Venice Biennale in 2001 and the “Paradise Now” exhibition in New York in 2004.


Portrait of Hinepare of Ngāti Kahungunu by Gottfried Lindauer, showing chin moko,pounamu hei-tiki and woven cloak

Māori cloaks are made of fine flax fibre and patterned with black, red and white triangles, diamonds and other geometric shapes. Greenstone was fashioned into earrings and necklaces, with the most well-known design being the hei-tiki, a distorted human figure sitting cross-legged with its head tilted to the side. Europeans brought English fashion etiquette to New Zealand, and until the 1950s most people dressed up for social occasions. Standards have since relaxed and New Zealand fashion has received a reputation for being casual, practical and lacklustre. However, the local fashion industry has grown significantly since 2000, doubling exports and increasing from a handful to about 50 established labels, with some labels gaining international recognition.


Māori quickly adopted writing as a means of sharing ideas, and many of their oral stories and poems were converted to the written form. Most early English literature was obtained from Britain and it was not until the 1950s when local publishing outlets increased that New Zealand literature started to become widely known. Although still largely influenced by global trends (modernism) and events (the Great Depression), writers in the 1930s began to develop stories increasingly focused on their experiences in New Zealand. During this period literature changed from a journalistic activity to a more academic pursuit. Participation in the world wars gave some New Zealand writers a new perspective on New Zealand culture and with the post-war expansion of universities local literature flourished. Dunedin is a UNESCO City of Literature.

Media and entertainment

New Zealand music has been influenced by blues, jazz, country, rock and roll and hip hop, with many of these genres given a unique New Zealand interpretation. Māori developed traditional chants and songs from their ancient South-East Asian origins, and after centuries of isolation created a unique “monotonous” and “doleful” sound. Flutes and trumpets were used as musical instruments or as signalling devices during war or special occasions. Early settlers brought over their ethnic music, with brass bands and choral music being popular, and musicians began touring New Zealand in the 1860s. Pipe bands became widespread during the early 20th century. The New Zealand recording industry began to develop from 1940 onwards and many New Zealand musicians have obtained success in Britain and the USA. Some artists release Māori language songs and the Māori tradition-based art of kapa haka (song and dance) has made a resurgence. The New Zealand Music Awards are held annually by Recorded Music NZ; the awards were first held in 1965 by Reckitt & Colman as the Loxene Golden Disc awards. Recorded Music NZ also publishes the country’s official weekly record charts.

Radio first arrived in New Zealand in 1922 and television in 1960. The number of New Zealand films significantly increased during the 1970s. In 1978 the New Zealand Film Commission started assisting local film-makers and many films attained a world audience, some receiving international acknowledgement. The highest grossing New Zealand movies include: Boy, The World’s Fastest Indian, Once Were Warriors, and Whale Rider. Deregulation in the 1980s saw a sudden increase in the numbers of radio and television stations.

New Zealand television primarily broadcasts American and British programming, along with a large number of Australian and local shows. The country’s diverse scenery and compact size, plus government incentives, have encouraged some producers to film big budget movies in New Zealand. The New Zealand media industry is dominated by a small number of companies, most of which are foreign-owned, although the state retains ownership of some television and radio stations. Between 2003 and 2008, Reporters Without Borders consistently ranked New Zealand’s press freedom in the top twenty. As of 2011, New Zealand was ranked 13th worldwide in press freedom by Freedom House, with the 2nd freest media in the Asia-Pacific region after Palau.



A haka performed by the New Zealand national rugby league teambefore a game.

A haka is a war cry by the Maori people with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet

Most of the major sporting codes played in New Zealand have British origins. Rugby union is considered the national sport and attracts the most spectators. Golf, netball, tennis and cricket have the highest rates of adult participation, while netball, rugby union and football (soccer) is popular among young people. Around 54 percent of New Zealand adolescents participate in sports for their school. Victorious rugby tours to Australia and the United Kingdom in the late 1880s and the early 1900s played an early role in instilling a national identity. Horseracing was also a popular spectator sport and became part of the “Rugby, Racing and Beer” culture during the 1960s. Māori participation in European sports was particularly evident in rugby and the country’s team performs a haka, a traditional Māori challenge, before international matches.

New Zealand has competitive international teams in rugby union, netball, cricket, rugby league, and softball and has traditionally done well in triathlons, rowing, yachting and cycling. New Zealand participated at the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1912 as a joint team with Australia, before first participating on its own in 1920. The country has ranked highly on a medals-to-population ratio at recent Games. The All Blacks, the national men’s rugby union team, are the most successful in the history of international rugby and the reigning World Cup champions. New Zealand is known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism and strong mountaineering tradition. Other outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, tramping, canoeing, hunting, snow sports and surfing are also popular. The Polynesian sport of waka ama racing has increased in popularity and is now an international sport involving teams from all over the Pacific.
The Emerald Lakes, Mt Tongariro.

October 20, 2015 / by / in

Kiwi (pronounced /kw/) or kiwis are flightless birds native to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae. At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites (which also consist of ostriches, emus, rheas, and cassowaries), and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world. DNA sequence comparisons have yielded the surprising conclusion that kiwi are much more closely related to the extinct Malagasy elephant birds than to the moa with which they shared New Zealand. There are five recognised species, two of which are currently vulnerable, one of which is endangered, and one of which is critically endangered. All species have been negatively affected by historic deforestation but currently the remaining large areas of their forest habitat are well protected in reserves and national parks. At present, the greatest threat to their survival is predation by invasive mammalian predators.

The kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand, and the association is so strong that the term Kiwi is used internationally as the colloquial demonym for New Zealanders.


The Māori language word kiwi (/ˈkw/ kee-wee) is generally accepted to be “of imitative origin” from the call. However, some linguists derive the word from Proto-Nuclear Polynesian *kiwi, which refers to Numenius tahitiensis, the bristle-thighed curlew, a migratory bird that winters in the tropical Pacific islands. With its long decurved bill and brown body, the curlew resembles the kiwi. So when the first Polynesian settlers arrived, they may have applied the word kiwi to the new-found bird. The genus name Apteryx is derived from Ancient Greek “without wing”: a-, “without” or “not”; pterux, “wing”.

Taxonomy and systematics


Clockwise from left: brown kiwi (Apteryx australis), little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) and great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haastii) at Auckland War Memorial Museum

Although it was long presumed that the kiwi was closely related to the other New Zealand ratites, the moa, recent DNA studies have identified its closest relative as the extinct elephant bird of Madagascar, and among extant ratites, the kiwi is more closely related to the emu and thecassowaries than to the moa.

Research published in 2013 on an extinct genus, Proapteryx, known from the Miocene deposits of the Saint Bathans Fauna, found that it was smaller and probably capable of flight, supporting the hypothesis that the ancestor of the kiwi reached New Zealand independently from moas, which were already large and flightless by the time kiwis appeared.


There are five known species of kiwi, as well as a number of subspecies

  • haastii
  • owenii
  • australis
  • rowi
  • mantelli
  • The largest species is the great spotted kiwi or Roroa, Apteryx haastii, which stands about 45 cm (18 in) high and weighs about 3.3 kg (7.3 lb) (males about 2.4 kg (5.3 lb)). It has grey-brown plumage with lighter bands. The female lays just one egg, which both parents then incubate. Population is estimated to be over 20,000, distributed through the more mountainous parts of northwest Nelson, the northern West Coast, and the Southern Alps.
  • The small little spotted kiwi, Apteryx owenii is unable to withstand predation by introduced pigs, stoats and cats, which have led to its extinction on the mainland. About 1350 remain on Kapiti Island and it has been introduced to other predator-free islands and appears to be becoming established with about 50 ‘Little Spots’ on each island. A docile bird the size of a bantam, it stands 25 cm (9.8 in) high and the female weighs 1.3 kg (2.9 lb). She lays one egg which is incubated by the male.
  • The Okarito kiwi, also known as the rowi or Okarito brown kiwi, Apteryx rowi, first identified as a new species in 1994, is slightly smaller, with a greyish tinge to the plumage and sometimes white facial feathers. Females lay as many as three eggs in a season, each one in a different nest. Male and female both incubate. Distribution of these kiwi are limited to a small area on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. However, studies of ancient DNA have revealed that in prehuman times it was far more widespread up the west coast of the South Island and was present in the lower half of the North Island where it was the only kiwi species detected.
  • The southern brown kiwi, Tokoeka, or Common kiwi, Apteryx australis, relatively common species of kiwi known from south and west parts of the South Island that occurs at most elevations. It is approximately the size of the great spotted kiwi and is similar in appearance to the brown kiwi but its plumage is lighter in colour. Ancient DNA studies have shown that in prehuman times the distribution of this species included the east coast of the South Island. There are several subspecies of the Tokoeka recognised:
    • The Stewart Island southern brown kiwi, Apteryx australis lawryi, is a subspecies of Tokoeka from Stewart Island/Rakiura.
    • The Northern Fiordland southern brown kiwi (Apteryx australis ?) and Southern Fiordland tokoeka (Apteryx australis ?) live in the remote southwest part of the South Island known as Fiordland. These sub-species of tokoeka are relatively common and are nearly 40 cm (16 in) tall.
    • The Haast southern brown kiwi, Haast tokoeka, Apteryx australis ‘Haast’, is the rarest subspecies of kiwi with only about 300 individuals. It was identified as a distinct form in 1993. It occurs only in a restricted area in the South Island’s Haast Range of the Southern Alps at an altitude of 1,500 m (4,900 ft). This form is distinguished by a more strongly downcurved bill and more rufous plumage.
  • The North Island brown kiwi, Apteryx mantelli or Apteryx australis before 2000 (and still in some sources), is widespread in the northern two-thirds of the North Island and, with about 35,000 remaining, is the most common kiwi. Females stand about 40 cm (16 in) high and weigh about 2.8 kg (6.2 lb), the males about 2.2 kg (4.9 lb). The North Island brown has demonstrated a remarkable resilience: it adapts to a wide range of habitats, even non-native forests and some farmland. The plumage is streaky red-brown and spiky. The female usually lays two eggs, which are incubated by the male.


Their adaptation to a terrestrial life is extensive: like all the other ratites (ostrich, emu, rhea and cassowary) they have no keel on the sternum to anchor wing muscles. Thevestigial wings are so small that they are invisible under the bristly, hair-like, two-branched feathers. While most adult birds have bones with hollow insides to minimise weight and make flight practicable, kiwi have marrow, like mammals and the young of other birds. With no constraints on weight due to flight requirements, brown kiwi females carry and lay a single egg which may weigh as much as 450 g (16 oz). Like most other ratites, they have no uropygial gland (preen gland). Their bill is long, pliable and sensitive to touch, and their eyes have a reduced pecten. Their feathers lack barbules and aftershafts, and they have large vibrissae around the gape. They have 13 flight feathers, no tail and a smallpygostyle. Their gizzard is weak and their caecum is long and narrow.

Behaviour and ecology


Relative size of the egg

Before the arrival of humans in the 13th century or earlier, New Zealand’s only endemic mammals were three species of bat, and the ecological niches that in other parts of the world were filled by creatures as diverse as horses, wolves and mice were taken up by birds (and, to a lesser extent, reptiles, insects and gastropods).

Kiwi are shy and usually nocturnal. Their mostly nocturnal habits may be a result of habitat intrusion by predators, including humans. In areas of New Zealand where introduced predators have been removed, such as sanctuaries, kiwi are often seen in daylight. They prefer subtropical and temperate podocarp and beech forests, but they are being forced to adapt to different habitat, such as sub-alpine scrub, tussock grassland, and the mountains. Kiwi have a highly developed sense of smell, unusual in a bird, and are the only birds with nostrils at the end of their long beaks. Kiwi eat small invertebrates, seeds, grubs, and many varieties of worms. They also may eat fruit, small crayfish, eels and amphibians. Because their nostrils are located at the end of their long beaks, kiwi can locate insects and worms underground using their keen sense of smell, without actually seeing or feeling them.

Once bonded, a male and female kiwi tend to live their entire lives as a monogamous couple. During the mating season, June to March, the pair call to each other at night, and meet in the nesting burrow every three days. These relationships may last for up to 20 years. They are unusual among other birds in that along with some raptors, they have a functioning pair of ovaries. (In most birds and in platypuses, the right ovary never matures, so that only the left is functional.) Kiwi eggs can weigh up to one-quarter the weight of the female. Usually only one egg is laid per season. The kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to its size of any bird in the world, so even though the kiwi is about the size of a domestic chicken, it is able to lay eggs that are about six times the size of a chicken’s egg. The eggs are smooth in texture, and are ivory or greenish white. The male incubates the egg, except for the Great Spotted Kiwi, A. haastii, in which both parents are involved. The incubation period is 63–92 days. Producing the huge egg places a lot of demands on the female. For the thirty days it takes to grow the fully developed egg the female must eat three times her normal amount of food. Two to three days before the egg is laid there is little space left inside the female for her stomach and she is forced to fast.

Status and conservation

Nationwide studies show that on average only five percent of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood. However, in areas under active pest management, survival rates for North Island brown kiwi can be far higher. For example, prior to a joint 1080 poison operation undertaken by DOC and the Animal Health Board in Tongariro Forest in 2006, 32 kiwi chicks were radio-tagged. 57% of the radio-tagged chicks survived to adulthood. Thanks to ongoing pest control, the adult kiwi population at Tongariro has almost doubled since 1998.


In 2000, the Department of Conservation set up five kiwi sanctuaries focused on developing methods to protect kiwi and to increase their numbers.

There are three kiwi sanctuaries in the North Island:

  • Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary (for Northland brown kiwi)
  • Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary on the Coromandel Peninsula (Coromandel brown kiwi)
  • Tongariro Kiwi Sanctuary near Taupo (western brown kiwi)
and two in the South Island:

  • Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary (Okarito kiwi)
  • Haast Kiwi Sanctuary (Haast tokoeka)

A number of other mainland conservation islands and fenced sanctuaries have significant populations of kiwi, including:

  • Zealandia fenced sanctuary in Wellington (little spotted kiwi)
  • Maungatautari Restoration Project in Waikato (brown kiwi)
  • Bushy Park Forest Reserve near Kai Iwi, Whanganui (brown kiwi)
  • Otanewainuku Forest in the Bay of Plenty (brown kiwi)
  • Hurunui Mainland Island, south branch, Hurunui River, North Canterbury (great spotted kiwi)

North island brown kiwi were introduced to the Cape Sanctuary in Hawke’s Bay between 2008 and 2011, which in turn provided captive-raised chicks that were released back into Maungataniwha Native Forest.

Operation “Nest Egg”

Operation Nest Egg is a programme run by the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust—a partnership between the Bank of New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. Kiwi eggs and chicks are removed from the wild and hatched and/or raised in captivity until big enough to fend for themselves—usually when they weigh around 1200 grams (42 ounces). They are then returned to the wild. An Operation Nest Egg bird has a 65% chance of surviving to adulthood—compared to just 5% for wild-hatched and raised chicks. The tool is used on all kiwi species except little spotted kiwi.

1080 poison

Main article: 1080 usage in New Zealand

In 2004, anti-1080 activist Phillip Anderton posed for the New Zealand media with a kiwi he claimed had been poisoned. An investigation revealed that Anderton lied to journalists and the public. He had used a kiwi that had been caught in a possum trap. Extensive monitoring shows kiwi are not at risk from the use of biodegradable 1080 poison.


Introduced mammalian predators, namely stoats, dogs, ferrets, and cats, are the number one threat to kiwi. Other threats include habitat modification/loss and motor vehicle strike. The restricted distribution and small size of some kiwi populations increases their vulnerability to inbreeding.

Stoats are responsible for approximately half of kiwi chick deaths in many areas through New Zealand. Cats also to a lesser extent prey on kiwi chicks. Research has shown that the combined effect of predators and other mortality (accidents etc.) results in less than 5% of kiwi chicks surviving to adulthood. Young kiwi chicks are vulnerable to stoat predation until they reach about 1–1.2 kg in weight, at which time they can usually defend themselves.

Ferrets and dogs often kill adult kiwi. These predators can cause large and abrupt declines in populations. In particular, dogs find the strong distinctive scent of kiwi irresistible and easy to track, such that they can catch and kill kiwi in seconds. Motor vehicle strike is a threat to all kiwi where roads cross through their habitat. Badly set possum traps often kill or maim kiwi.

Relationship to humans


Detail of the bottom edge of a kahu kiwi, showing the distinctive hair-like nature of the kiwi feathers.

The Māori traditionally believed that kiwi were under the protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest. They were used as food and their feathers were used for kahu kiwi—ceremonial cloaks. Today, while kiwi feathers are still used, they are gathered from birds that die naturally or through road accidents or predation, or from captive birds. Kiwi are no longer hunted and some Maori consider themselves the birds’ guardians.

Scientific documentation

The first kiwi specimen to be studied by Europeans was a kiwi skin brought to George Shaw by Captain Andrew Barclay aboard the shipProvidence, who was reported to have been given it by a sealer in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) around 1811. George Shaw gave the bird its scientific name and drew sketches of the way he imagined a live bird to look which appeared as plates 1057 and 1058 in volume 24 of The Naturalist’s Miscellany in 1813.


In 1851, London Zoo became the first zoo to keep kiwi. The first captive breeding took place in 1945. As of 2007 only 13 zoos outside New Zealand hold kiwi. The Frankfurt Zoo has 12, the Berlin Zoo has seven, Walsrode Bird Park has one, the Washington Zoo has three, theAvifauna Bird Park in the Netherlands has three, the San Diego Zoo has five, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has one, the National Zoo in Washington, DC has five, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute has one, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has three.

As a national symbol


The kiwi on an 1898 New Zealand stamp

The kiwi as a symbol first appeared in the late 19th century in New Zealand regimental badges. It was later featured in the badges of the South Canterbury Battalion in 1886 and the Hastings Rifle Volunteers in 1887. Soon after, the kiwi appeared in many military badges, and in 1906 when Kiwi Shoe Polish was widely sold in the UK and the US the symbol became more widely known.

During the First World War, the name “kiwi” for New Zealand soldiers came into general use, and a giant kiwi (now known as the Bulford kiwi), was carved on the chalk hill above Sling Camp in England. Use has now spread so that now all New Zealanders overseas and at home are commonly referred to as “Kiwis”.

The kiwi has since become the most well-known national symbol for New Zealand, and the bird is prominent in the coat of arms, crests and badges of many New Zealand cities, clubs and organisations; at the national level, the red silhouette of a kiwi is in the centre of the roundel of theRoyal New Zealand Air Force. The kiwi is featured in the logo of the New Zealand Rugby League, and the New Zealand national rugby league team are nicknamed the Kiwis.

The reverse of a New Zealand dollar coin contains an image of a kiwi, and in currency trading the New Zealand dollar is often referred to as “the kiwi”

October 19, 2015 / by / in

A possum (plural form: possums) is any of about 70 small- to medium-sized arboreal marsupial species native to Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi (and introduced to New Zealand and China). The name derives from their resemblance to the opossums of the Americas(the name is from Algonquian wapathemwa, not Greek or Latin, so the plural is possums, not possa or possi).

Possums are quadrupedal diprotodont marsupials with long tails. The smallest possum, indeed the smallest diprotodont marsupial, is theTasmanian pygmy possum, with an adult head-body length of 70 mm (2 34 in) and a weight of 10 g (38 oz). The largest are the two species of bear cuscus which may exceed 7 kg (15 lb 7 oz). Possums are typically nocturnal and at least partially arboreal. The various species inhabit most vegetated habitats, and several species have adjusted well to urban settings. Diets range from generalist herbivoresor omnivores (the common brushtail possum) to specialist browsers of eucalyptus (greater glider), insectivores (mountain pygmy possum) and nectar-feeders (honey possum).


Threat to native plants and species


Possum damage on Mamaku, Pirongia Forest Park

The common brushtail possum was introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in an attempt to establish a fur industry. There are no native predators of the possum in New Zealand, so its numbers in New Zealand have risen to the point where it is considered a serious pest. Numerous attempts to eradicate them have been made because of the damage they do to native trees and wildlife, as well as acting as a carrier of bovine tuberculosis. By 2009, these measures had reduced the possum numbers to less than half of the 1980s levels – from around 70 million to around 30 million animals.

Since 1996, possum fur, obtained from about two million wild-caught possums per year, has been used in clothing with blends of fine merino wool with brushtail possum fur – variously known as Ecopossum, Merinosilk, Merinomink, possumdown, eco fur or possum wool. Possum fur is also used for fur trim, jackets, bed throws, and possum leather gloves.

The damage to native forests can be seen all too clearly in many areas. Possums ignore old leaves and select the best new growth. In some areas they have eaten whole canopies of rata, totara, titoki, kowhai and kohekohe.

Possums compete with native birds for habitat and for food such as insects and berries. They also disturb nesting birds, eat their eggs and chicks and may impact on native land snails.

Dairy and deer farmers have the added worry of possums spreading bovine tuberculosis.

Possums are a nuisance in suburban gardens, and sometimes even indoors.

DOC’s work

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is charged with the care of New Zealand’s native plants and wildlife. Possums are a threat to these values and in fact, the survival of whole ecosystems is affected by the possum.

DOC commits resources to possum control at priority sites to ensure long-term survival of species and the ecosystems that support them.

View videos:

Signs that possums are present

Tracks (‘pads’ or ‘runs’) are often most evident where possums emerge from forests to feed on pasture. They are also visible in forests when possum numbers are high.

Frequently used trees show extensive surface scratches. Bark biting, usually a series of horizontal scars, can be seen on a variety of native and introduced trees and shrubs. Often the same trunk, marked repeatedly, becomes heavily scarred.

Faecal pellets are usually about 15-30 mm long, 5-14 mm wide, crescent shaped slightly pointed at the ends and found singly or in groups; colour and texture vary with diet. Leaves browsed by possums have torn rather than cut edges, with the midrib and lower part of the leaf often partly remaining, unlike insect browse.

Possums are distinctive feeders, leaving the ground littered with broken branches, discarded leaves, or partly eaten fruits of native plants.

Dark brown urine trails may be seen, particularly if possums have been feeding on kamahi or five-finger, both of which stain the urine.

Control methods

Hunting/shooting, trapping and poisoning are the main methods of control for possums.


If you are planning a pest control operation enrol for the Animal Pest Control Methods field based course.

The course provides an overview of animal pests, their impacts and control methods (including the principles these are based on, and the task specifications DOC has developed).

The course covers all the legal requirements for animal welfare and handling toxins. Working within the law is vital to allow pest control agencies and community groups continued access to the full suite of animal pest control methods.

In particular, it describes the control methods most commonly used in DOC, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Monitoring your control

All operations require monitoring below are examples of methods used.

Residual trap catch index

A method for estimating possum abundance based on sampling populations by means of traps.

Wax tags

A method for estimating possum abundance based on sampling populations by means of interference with “wax tags” (scented ice-cube sized wax blocks).

Possum management in New Zealand

The National Possum Control Agencies (NPCA) was established in the early 1990s to co-ordinate strategic planning, standardise quality control and provide training and information exchange between agencies for possum control.

The member agencies of the NPCA are:

  • TBfree New Zealand (formerly the Animal Health Board) is charged with eradication of bovine tuberculosis in farmed cattle and deer. To do this, it needs to control possums, which carry the disease in the wild and re-infect herds of animals adjacent to bush pasture margins.
  • Regional councils have biosecurity obligations to control possums for animal health and conservation priorities. Councils are actively involved in possum control in urban and rural areas to reduce the spread of TB and to protect forestry and conservation values.
  • Department of Conservation  is charged with the care of New Zealand’s native plants and wildlife. Possums are a threat to these values and in fact, the survival of whole ecosystems is affected by the possum. It commits resources to possum control at priority sites to ensure long term survival of species and the ecosystems that support them.
  • Ministry for Primary Industries is the government agency that has overall responsibility for biosecurity issues. Possums are a threat to New Zealand’s export potential because of the disease threat that possums pose. MPI keeps a close eye on all aspects of control operations.
October 19, 2015 / by / in
New Zealand Pigeon Kererū

The New Zealand pigeon or kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is a bird endemic to New Zealand. Māori call it kererū in most of the country but kūkupa and kūkū in some parts of the North Island, particularly in Northland. Commonly called wood pigeon, they are distinct from the wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) of the Northern Hemisphere, which is a member of a different genus.

The New Zealand pigeon belongs to the family Columbidae, and the subfamily Treroninae, which is found throughout Southeast Asia,Malaya, Africa and New Zealand. The members of this subfamily feed largely on fruits, mainly drupes. New Zealand pigeons are members of the pigeon genus Hemiphaga (Bonaparte, 1854), which is endemic to the New Zealand archipelago and Norfolk Island. However recently a Hemiphaga bone was found on Raoul Island. The Chatham pigeon or Chatham Island pigeon (Hemiphaga chathamensis) is traditionally considered a subspecies of the kererū, but is here treated as a separate species.



Closeup of head showing iridescent feather colours, Kapiti Island

The New Zealand pigeon is a large, 550–850 grams (19–30 oz), arboreal fruit-pigeon found in forests from Northland to Stewart Island/Rakiura, ranging in habitats from coastal to montane. The general morphology is that of a typical pigeon, in that it has a relatively small head, a straight soft-based bill and loosely attached feathers. It also displays typical pigeon behaviour, which includes drinking by suction, a wing-threat display, hitting with the wing when threatened, a diving display flight, a ‘bowing’ display, ritualised preening and ‘billing’ during courtship. New Zealand pigeons build flimsy, shallow, twiggy nests and feed crop milk to hatchlings.

The mainland New Zealand pigeon grows to some 51 centimetres (20 in) in length and 650 grams (23 oz) in weight, compared to 55 centimetres (22 in) and 800 grams (28 oz) for the Chatham Island variant. The head, throat and wings are generally a shiny green-purple colour, but with a bronze tinge to the feathers. The breast is typically white and the bill red with an orange-ish tip. The feet and eyes are red. Juveniles have a similar colouration but are generally paler with dull colours for the beak, eyes and feet and a shorter tail.

The New Zealand pigeons make occasional soft coo sounds (hence the onomatopoeic names), and their wings make a very distinctive “whooshing” sound as they fly. The bird’s flight is also very distinctive. Birds will often ascend slowly before making impressively steep parabolic dives; it is thought that this behaviour is often associated with nesting, or nest failure.


As generally accepted, there are three subspecies of New Zealand pigeon; of these, only two survive: H. n. novaseelandiae of mainland New Zealand and H. n. chathamensis of the Chatham Islands. The other subspecies, Norfolk pigeon (H. n. spadicea) of Norfolk Island, is now extinct. The subspecies differ in their plumage colour and physical morphology.

In 2001, it was proposed that H. n. chathamensis, the Chatham pigeon, was distinct enough to be raised to full species status, H. chathamensis, instead of the traditional subspecies status, H. n. chathamensis. Few authorities outside New Zealand have followed this, with most still considering it a subspecies. 



220px-Kereru_(New_Zealand_Wood_Pigeon)New Zealand pigeons were once the major dispersers of the seeds of cabbage trees. They eat the small white seeds in autumn and winter

The New Zealand pigeons are commonly regarded as frugivorous, primarily eating fruits from native trees. They play an important ecological role, as they are the only birds capable of eating the largest native fruits and drupes (those with smallest diameter greater than 1 cm), such as those of the taraire, and thus spreading the seeds intact. While fruit comprises the major part of their diets, the New Zealand pigeon also browses on leaves and buds, especially nitrogen rich foliage during breeding.

One of their favourite leaves to eat is from an introduced plant, the common plum tree. The diet changes seasonally as the availability of fruit changes, and leaves can comprise the major part of the diet at certain times of the year, such as when there is little fruit around.


Breeding generally depends on the availability of ripe fruit, which varies seasonally, annually (good years and bad years), and by location. New Zealand pigeons, like other frugivorous pigeons, feed on many species with tropical affinities, including the Lauraceae and Arecaceae which abound in the essentially subtropical forests of northern New Zealand. They also feed on podocarp species, thought to be relics of the flora of Gondwana, such as miro (Prumnopitys ferruginea) and kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides). In the warmer northern half of the North Island, pigeons can nest all year round, except when moulting between March and May, provided enough fruit is available. Further south fewer subtropical tree species grow and in these areas breeding usually occurs between October (early spring) and April (late summer/early autumn), again depending on fruit availability.

New Zealand pigeons nest in trees, laying a single egg, in a flimsy nest constructed of a few twigs thrown together. The egg is incubated for 28–29 days and the young bird takes another 30–45 days to fledge. In seasons of plentiful fruit the pigeons can successfully nest up to four times.

Distribution and conservation


The extinct Norfolk pigeon(H. n. spadicea)

The population of the New Zealand pigeon declined considerably after the arrival of humans in New Zealand, and this trend continues, especially in the North Island, but they are still relatively common in the west of the South Island and in coastal Otago. They are commonly found in native laurel forests (lowlands in particular), scrub, rural and city gardens and parks.

The introduced Australian common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and introduced species of rats — mainly the ship or black rat (Rattus rattus) but also the kiore or Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans) and brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) — have significantly reduced the amount of fruit available for pigeons and other native birds and also prey on eggs and nestlings.

Pigeon populations are also under threat from hunting, habitat degradation and poor reproductive success. Pigeons were very numerous until about the 1860s and large flocks used to congregate in fruiting trees to feed. Restrictions on the shooting of pigeons were enacted as early as 1864, with total protection since 1921, although the enforcement against hunting was not consistent. Some Māori protested, claiming a traditional right to hunt the pigeon. 

The bird is protected under the Wildlife Act and there have been prosecutions for shooting it.

October 19, 2015 / by / in

Māori people

The Māori (Māori pronunciation: [ˈmaːɔɾi], /ˈmɑːʊəri/) are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. The Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages at some time between 1250 and 1300 CE. Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture that became known as the “Māori”, with their own language, a rich mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Māori formed tribal groups, based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced, and later a prominent warrior culture emerged.

Prominent Māori, l. to r., top to bottom: Hone Heke and wife • Hinepare of Ngāti Kahungunu • Tukukino • Te Rangi Hīroa • Meri Te Tai Mangakahia • Apirana Ngata • Keisha Castle-Hughes • Winston Peters • Stephen Kearney

The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand starting from the 17th century brought enormous change to the Māori way of life. Māori people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Māori and Europeans were largely amicable, and with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony. Rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll on the Māori population, which went into a dramatic decline. But by the start of the 20th century the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts were made to increase their standing in wider New Zealand society. Traditional Māori culture has enjoyed a revival, and a protest movement emerged in the 1960s advocating Māori issues.

In the 2013 census, there were approximately 600,000 people in New Zealand identifying as Māori, making up roughly 15% of the national population. They are the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand, after European New Zealanders (“Pākehā”). In addition there are over 120,000 Māori living in Australia. The Māori language (known as Te Reo Māori) is spoken to some extent by about a fifth of all Māori, representing 3% of the total population, although many New Zealanders regularly use Māori words and expressions, such as “kia ora“, while speaking English. Māori are active in all spheres of New Zealand culture and society, with independent representation in areas such as media, politics and sport.

Disproportionate numbers of Māori face significant economic and social obstacles, with lower life expectancies and incomes compared with other New Zealand ethnic groups, in addition to higher levels of crime, health problems and educational under-achievement. Socioeconomic initiatives have been implemented aimed at closing the gap between Māori and other New Zealanders. Political redress for historical grievances is also ongoing.


In the Māori language the word māori means “normal”, “natural” or “ordinary”. In legends and oral traditions, the word distinguished ordinary mortal human beings—tāngata māori—from deities and spirits (wairua); likewise wai māori denoted “fresh water” as opposed to salt water. There are cognate words in most Polynesian languages, all deriving from Proto-Polynesian *ma(a)qoli, which has the reconstructed meaning “true, real, genuine”.

Naming and self-naming

Early visitors from Europe to New Zealand generally referred to the inhabitants as “New Zealanders” or as “natives”, but Māori became the term used by Māori to describe themselves in a pan-tribal sense.

Māori people often use the term tangata whenua (literally, “people of the land”) to describe themselves in a way that emphasises their relationship with a particular area of land – a tribe may be the tangata whenua in one area, but not in another. The term can also refer to Māori as a whole in relation to New Zealand (Aotearoa) as a whole.

The Maori Purposes Act of 1947 required the use of the term “Māori” rather than “Native” in official usage, and the Department of Native Affairs became the Department of Māori Affairs. It is now Te Puni Kōkiri, or the Ministry for Māori Development.

Before 1974 ancestry determined the legal definition of “a Māori person”. For example, bloodlines determined whether a person should enrol on the general electoral roll or the separate Māori roll. In 1947 the authorities determined that one man, five-eighths Māori, had improperly voted in the general parliamentary electorate of Raglan. The Māori Affairs Amendment Act 1974 changed the definition to one of cultural self-identification. In matters involving money (for example scholarships or Waitangi Tribunal settlements), authorities generally require some demonstration of ancestry or cultural connection, but no minimum “blood” requirement exists.



350px-Polynesian_Migration.svgThe Māori settlement of New Zealand represents an end-point of a long chain of island hopping voyages in the South Pacific.

The most current reliable evidence strongly indicates that initial settlement of New Zealand occurred around 1280 CE at the end of the medieval warm period. Previous dating of some Kiore (Polynesian rat) bones at 50–150 CE has now been shown to have been unreliable; new samples of bone (and now also of unequivocally rat-gnawed woody seed cases) match the 1280 date of the earliest archaeological sites and the beginning of sustained deforestation by humans.

Māori oral history describes the arrival of ancestors from Hawaiki (the mythical homeland in tropical Polynesia), in large ocean-going waka. Migration accounts vary among tribes (iwi), whose members may identify with several waka in their genealogies (whakapapa). There is limited evidence of return, or attempted return voyages, from archaeological evidence in the Kermadec Islands.

Evidence from archaeology, linguistics, and physical anthropology indicates that the first settlers came from east Polynesia and became the Māori. Language evolution studies and mitochondrial DNA evidence suggest that most Pacific populations originated from Taiwanese aborigines around 5,200 years ago (suggesting before migration from the Asian or Chinese mainland), moving down through Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

Archaic period (1280-1500)

The earliest period of Māori settlement is known as the “Archaic”, “Moahunter” or “Colonisation” period. The eastern Polynesian ancestors of the Māori arrived in a forested land with abundant birdlife, including several now extinct moa species weighing from 20 to 250 kilograms (40 to 550 lb). Other species, also now extinct, included a swan, a goose and the giant Haast’s Eagle, which preyed upon the moa. Marine mammals, in particular seals, thronged the coasts, with coastal colonies much further north than today. At the Waitaki river mouth huge numbers of Moa bones estimated at 29,000 to 90,000 birds have been located. Further South, at the Shag River mouth at least 6,000 moa were slaughtered over a relatively short period.

Archaeology has shown that the Otago Region was the node of Māori cultural development during this time, and the majority of archaic settlements were on or within 10 km (6 mi) of the coast, though it was common to establish small temporary camps far inland. Settlements ranged in size from 40 people (e.g., Palliser Bay in Wellington) to 300–400 people, with 40 buildings (e.g., Shag River (Waihemo)). The best known and most extensively studied Archaic site is at Wairau Bar in the South Island. The site is similar to eastern Polynesian nucleated villages. Radio carbon dating shows it was occupied from about 1288 to 1300. Due to tectonic forces, some of the Wairau Bar site is now underwater. Work on the Wairau Bar skeletons in 2010 showed that life expectancy was very short, the oldest skeleton being 39 and most people dying in their 20s. Most of the adults showed signs of dietary or infection stress. Anaemia and arthritis were common. Infections such as TB may have been present as the symptoms were present in several skeletons. On average the adults were taller than other South Pacific people at 175 cm for males and 161 cm for females.

The Archaic period is remarkable for the lack of weapons and fortifications so typical of the later “Classic” Māori, and for its distinctive “reel necklaces”. From this period onward around 32 species of birds became extinct, either through over-predation by humans and the kiore and kurī they introduced, repeated burning of the grassland, or climate cooling, which appears to have occurred from about 1400–1450. Early Māori enjoyed a rich, varied diet of birds, fish, seals and shellfish. Moa were also an important source of meat, and the various species were probably wiped out within 100 years according to Professor Allan Cooper.

Work by Helen Leach shows that Māori were using about 36 different food plants, though many required detoxification and long periods (12–24 hours) of cooking. D. Sutton’s research on early Māori fertility found that first pregnancy occurred at about 20 years and the mean number of births was low, compared with other neolithic societies. The low number of births may have been due to the very low average life expectancy of 31–32 years. Analysis of skeletons at Wairau bar showed signs of a hard life with many having broken bones that had healed, suggesting a balanced diet and a supportive community that had the resources to support severely injured family members.

Classic period (1500-1642)

250px-Model_Of_Maori_Pa_On_HeadlandModel of a fortified pā, built on a headland. Fortified pā proliferated as competition and warfare increased among a growing population.

The cooling of the climate, confirmed by a detailed tree ring study near Hokitika, shows a significant, sudden and long-lasting cooler period from 1500. This coincided with a series of massive earthquakes in the South Island Alpine fault, a major earthquake in 1460 in the Wellington area, tsunamis that destroyed many coastal settlements, and the extinction of the moa and other food species. These were likely factors that led to sweeping changes to the Māori culture, which developed into the most well-known “Classic” period that was in place when European contact was made.

This period is characterised by finely made pounamu weapons and ornaments, elaborately carved canoes – a tradition that was later extended to and continued in elaborately carved meeting houses (wharenui), and a fierce warrior culture, with fortified hillforts known as , frequent cannibalism and some of the largest war canoes ever built.

Around 1500 CE a group of Māori migrated east to the Chatham Islands, where, by adapting to the local climate and the availability of resources, they developed a culture known as the “Moriori” – related to but distinct from Māori culture in mainland New Zealand. A notable feature of the Moriori culture, an emphasis on pacifism, proved disastrous when a party of invading North Taranaki Māori arrived in 1835. Few of the estimated Moriori population of 2,000 survived.

The largest battle ever fought in New Zealand, the Battle of Hingakaka, occurred around 1780–90, south of Ohaupo on a ridge near Lake Ngaroto. The battle was fought between about 7,000 warriors from a Taranaki-led force and a much smaller Waikato force under the leadership of Te Rauangaanga.

Early European contact (1642-1840)

Gilsemans_1642The first European impression of Māori, at Murderers’ Bay in Abel Tasman’s travel journal (1642).

European settlement of New Zealand occurred in relatively recent historical times. New Zealand historian Michael King in The Penguin History Of New Zealand describes the Māori as “the last major human community on earth untouched and unaffected by the wider world.” Early European explorers, including Abel Tasman (who arrived in 1642) and Captain James Cook (who first visited in 1769), recorded their impressions of Māori. Initial contact between Māori and Europeans proved problematic, sometimes fatal, with several accounts of Europeans being cannibalised.

From the 1780s, Māori encountered European and American sealers and whalers; some Māori crewed on the foreign ships with many crewing on whaling and sealing ships in New Zealand waters. Some of the South Island crews were almost totally Māori. Between 1800 and 1820 there were 65 sealing voyages and 106 whaling voyages to New Zealand, mainly from Britain and Australia. A trickle of escaped convicts from Australia and deserters from visiting ships, as well as early Christian missionaries, also exposed the indigenous population to outside influences. In the Boyd Massacre in 1809, Māori took hostage and killed 66 members of the crew and passengers in apparent revenge for the whipping of the son of a Māori chief by the captain. There were accounts of cannibalism, and this episode caused shipping companies and missionaries to be wary, and significantly reduced contact between Europeans and Māori for several years.


1846: Hone Heke, holding a musket, with his wife Hariata and his uncle Kawiti, holding a taiaha.

By 1830, estimates placed the number of Europeans living among the Māori as high as 2,000. The runaways had varying status-levels within Māori society, ranging from slaves to high-ranking advisors. Some runaways remained little more than prisoners, while others abandoned European culture and identified as Māori. These Europeans “gone native” became known as Pākehā Māori. Many Māori valued them as a means to the acquisition of European knowledge and technology, particularly firearms. When Pomare led a war-party against Titore in 1838, he had 131 Europeans among his warriors. Frederick Edward Maning, an early settler, wrote two lively accounts of life in these times, which have become classics of New Zealand literature: Old New Zealand and History of the War in the North of New Zealand against the Chief Heke.

The Māori language was first written down by Thomas Kendall in 1815 followed 5 years later by A Grammar and Vocabulary of the New Zealand Language, compiled by Professor Samuel Lee helped by Kendall, Waikato and Hongi Hika, on a visit to England in 1820. Māori were quick to adopt literacy, taught by missionaries. Between February 1835 and January 1840 William Colenso printed 74,000 Māori language booklets from his press at Pahia. In 1843 the government distributed free gazettes to Māori called Ko Te Karere O Nui Tireni. It contained information about law, crimes, explanations and remarks about European customs.

During the period from 1805 to 1840 the acquisition of muskets by tribes in close contact with European visitors upset the balance of power among Māori tribes, leading to a period of bloody inter-tribal warfare, known as the Musket Wars, which resulted in the decimation of several tribes and the driving of others from their traditional territory. During the Musket wars the Māori population it has been estimated that the total number dropped from about 100,000 in 1800 to between 50,000 and 80,000 at the end of the wars in 1843. The 1856-57 census of Māori which gives a figure of 56,049 suggests the lower number of around 50,000 is perhaps more accurate, as the 1850s was a decade of relative stability and Māori economic growth. The picture is confused by uncertainty over how or if Pakeha Māori were counted and the severe dislocation of many of the less powerful iwi and hapu during the wars. The smashing of normal society by the four decade wars and the driving of peaceful tribes from their productive turangawaewae, such as the Moriori in the Chatham Islands by invading forces from North Taranaki, had a catastrophic effect on these defeated tribes. European diseases such as influenza and measles killed an unknown number of Māori: estimates vary between ten and fifty percent. Spread of epidemics was caused by a huge influx of European settlers in the 1870s who in many cases did not have rigorous heath checks.

Te Rangi Hīroa documents an epidemic caused by a respiratory disease that Māori called rewharewha. It “decimated” populations in the early 19th Century and “spread with extraordinary virulence throughout the North Island and even to the South… Measles, typhoid, scarlet fever, whooping cough and almost everything, except plague and sleeping sickness, have taken their toll of Maori dead.”

Economic changes also took a toll: migration into unhealthy swamplands to produce and export flax led to further mortality.

British Treaty with the people of New Zealand

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, a member of the Kotahitanga movement in the 1890s, who argued that women should have equal voting rights in the Māori Parliament

With increasing Christian missionary activity and growing European settlement in the 1830s, and with growing lawlessness in New Zealand, the British Crown acceded to repeated requests from missionaries and some chiefs to intervene. Some freewheeling escaped convicts and seamen, as well as gunrunners and Americans actively worked against the British government by spreading rumours amongst Māori that the government would oppress and mistreat them. Tamati Waka Nene a pro government chief was angry that the government had not taken active steps to stop gunrunners selling weapons to rebels in Hokianga. As well, the French were showing imminent interest in acquiring New Zealand for Paris.It was believed that the French catholic missionaries were spreading anti British feeling. All of the chiefs who spoke against the Treaty on 5 February 1840 were catholic.Years after the treaty was signed Pompallier admitted that all the catholic chiefs and especially Rewa, had consulted him for advice. Ultimately, Queen Victoria sent Royal Navy Captain William Hobson with instructions to negotiate a treaty between Britain and the people of New Zealand.

Soon after arrival in New Zealand in February 1840, Hobson negotiated a treaty with North Island chiefs, later to become known as the Treaty of Waitangi. In the end, 500 tribal chiefs and a small number of Europeans signed the Treaty, while some chiefs — such as Te Wherowhero in Waikato, and Te Kani-a-Takirau from the east coast of the North Island — refused to sign. The Treaty gave Māori the rights of British subjects and guaranteed Māori property rights and tribal autonomy, in return for accepting British sovereignty.

Considerable dispute continues over aspects of the Treaty of Waitangi. The original treaty written mainly by Busby and translated into Māori by Henry Williams who was moderately proficient in Māori and his son William who was more skilled. They were handicapped by their imperfect Māori and the lack of exactly similar words in Māori. At Waitangi the chiefs signed the Māori translation.

Despite the different understandings of the treaty, relations between Māori and Europeans during the early colonial period were largely peaceful. Many Māori groups set up substantial businesses, supplying food and other products for domestic and overseas markets. Among the early European settlers who learnt the Māori language and recorded Māori mythology, George Grey, Governor of New Zealand from 1845–1855 and 1861–1868, stands out.


A portrait of Māori man, by Gottfried Lindauer, 1882

However, rising tensions over disputed land purchases and attempts by Māori in the Waikato to establish what some saw as a rival to the British system of royalty led to the New Zealand wars in the 1860s. These conflicts started when rebel Māori attacked isolated settlers in Taranaki but were fought mainly between Crown troops –from both Britain and new regiments raised in Australia, aided by settlers and some allied Māori (known as kupapa) – and numerous Māori groups opposed to the disputed land sales including some Waikato Māori.

While these conflicts resulted in few Māori (compared to the earlier Musket wars) or European deaths, the colonial government confiscated tracts of tribal land as punishment for what were called rebellions, in some cases taking land from tribes that had taken no part in the war, although this was almost immediately returned. Some of the confiscated land was returned to both kupapa and “rebel” Māori. Several minor conflicts also arose after the wars, including the incident at Parihaka in 1881 and the Dog Tax War from 1897–98.

The Native Land Acts of 1862 and 1865 established the Native Land Court, which had the purpose of transferring Māori land from communal ownership into individual title. Māori land under individual title became available to be sold to the colonial government or to settlers in private sales. Between 1840 and 1890 Māori sold 95 percent of their land (63,000,000 of 66,000,000 acres (270,000 km2) in 1890). In total 4% of this was confiscated land, although about a quarter of this was returned. 300,000 acres was also returned to Kupapa Māori mainly in the lower Waikato River Basin area. Individual Māori titleholders received considerable capital from these land sales, with some lower Waikato Chiefs being given a 1000 pounds each. Disputes later arose over whether or not promised compensation in some sales was fully delivered. Some claim that later, the selling off of Māori land and the lack of appropriate skills hampered Māori participation in growing the New Zealand economy, eventually diminishing the capacity of many Māori to sustain themselves. The Māori MP Henare Kaihau, from Waiuku, who was executive head of the King Movement worked alongside King Mahuta to sell land to the government. At that time the king sold 185,000 acres per year. In 1910 the Māori Land Conference at Waihi discussed selling a further 600,000 acres. King Mahuta had been successful in getting restitution for some blocks of land previously confiscated and these were returned to the King in his name. Henare Kaihau invested all the money- 50,000 pounds- in an Auckland land company which collapsed and all 50,000 pounds of the kingitanga money was lost.

In 1884 King Tāwhiao withdrew money from the kingitanga bank, Te Peeke o Aotearoa to travel to London to see Queen Victoria to try and persuade her to honour the Treaty between their peoples. However he did not get beyond the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who said it was a New Zealand problem. Returning to New Zealand the Premier, Robert Stout, insisted that all events happening before 1863 were the responsibility of the Imperial Government.

By 1891 Māori comprised just 10% of the population but still owned 17% of the land, although much of it was of poor quality.

Decline and revival

Sir Apirana Ngata became instrumental in the revival of traditional arts such as kapa haka and carving.

By the late 19th century a widespread belief existed amongst both Pākehā and Māori that the Māori population would cease to exist as a separate race or culture and become assimilated into the European population. In 1840, New Zealand had a Māori population of about 50,000 to 70,000 and only about 2,000 Europeans. By 1860 it was estimated at 50,000. The Māori population had declined to 37,520 in the 1871 census, although Te Rangi Hīroa (Sir Peter Buck) believed this figure was too low. The figure was 42,113 in the 1896 census, by which time Europeans numbered more than 700,000. Professor Ian Poole noticed that as late as 1890 40% of all female children were dead before they were one, a much higher rate than for males.

The decline of the Māori population did not continue, and levels recovered. By 1936 the Māori figure was 82,326, although the sudden rise in the 1930s was probably due to the introduction of the family benefit − only payable when a birth was registered, according to Professor Poole. Despite a substantial level of intermarriage between the Māori and European populations, many Māori retained their cultural identity. A number of discourses developed as to the meaning of “Māori” and to who counted as Māori or not.

The parliament instituted 4 Māori seats in 1867, giving all Māori men universal suffrage 12 years ahead of their European New Zealand counterparts – who until the 1879 general elections needed to be landowners. New Zealand was thus the first neo-European nation in the world to give the vote to its indigenous people, but while the seats did increase Māori participation in politics, the relative size of the Māori population of the time vis à vis Pākehā would have warranted approximately 15 seats, although Māori have the option of voting in either Māori or general electorates giving them a choice.

From the late 19th century, successful Māori politicians such as James Carroll, Apirana Ngata, Te Rangi Hīroa and Maui Pomare, showing skill in the arts of Pākehā politics; at one point Carroll became Acting Prime Minister. The group, known as the Young Māori Party, cut across voting-blocs in Parliament and aimed to revitalise the Māori people after the devastation of the previous century. For them this involved assimilation – Māori adopting European ways of life such as Western medicine and education, especially the learning of English. However, Ngata in particular also wished to preserve traditional Māori culture, especially the arts. Ngata acted as a major force behind the revival of arts such as kapa haka and carving. He also enacted a programme of land development which helped many iwi retain and develop their land. Ngata became very close to Te Puea the Waikato kingite leader who was supported by the government in her attempt to improve living conditions for Waikato. Ngata transferred four blocks of land to Te Puea and her husband and arranged extensive government grants and loans. Ngata sacked the pakeha farm development officer and replaced him with Te Puea. He then arranged for her to have car to travel around the various farms.Te Puea’s husband was also given a large farm at Tikitere near Rotorua. The public, media and parliament became alarmed at the flow of funds from government to Te Puea during the recession. A Royal Commission was held in 1934 that found Ngata guilty of maladministration and misappropriation of funds to the value of 500,000 pounds. Ngata was forced to resign.

During World War One, a Māori pioneer force was taken to Egypt but quickly was turned into a successful combat infantry battalion and in the last years of the war was known as the Māori battalion. The battalion mainly comprised Arawa, Ngati Porou, NgaPuhi and later many Cook Islanders. The Waikato and Taranaki tribes refused to enlist or be conscripted, although the Maniapoto tribe, which had been at the heart of the 1863 Māori rebellion, supplied many soldiers. The leader of the Māori king movement during WW1, Te Puea, still harbouring grievances over their defeat and loss of land in 1863, worked covertly to undermine the government’s attempts to unify Māori behind the war. Her brother was one of many Waikato conscripts arrested and jailed after refusing to serve their country. The actions of Te Puea lead to Waikato tribes being ostracized to some extent by the government after the war. Te Puea’s stand caused huge difficulties for Waikato Māori MP Maui Pomare who was an avid supporter of Māori involvement in WW1.

Māori were badly hit by the 1918 influenza epidemic when the Māori battalion returned from the Western Front. The death rate from influenza for Māori was 4.5 times higher than for Pakeha. Many Māori, especially in the Waikato, were very reluctant to visit a doctor and only went to a hospital when the patient was nearly dead. To cope with isolation, Waikato Māori, under Te Puea’s leadership, increasingly returned to the old Pai Marire (Hau hau) cult of the 1860s.

Until 1893, 53 years after the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori did not pay tax on land holdings. In 1893 a very light tax was payable only on leasehold land and it was not till 1917 that Māori were required to pay a heavier tax equal to half that paid by other New Zealanders.


Whina Cooper leads the Māori Land March through Hamilton in 1975, seeking redress for historical grievances.

During WW2 the government decided to exempt Māori from the conscription that applied to other citizens in World War II, but Māori volunteered in large numbers, forming the 28th or Māori Battalion, which performed creditably, notably in Crete, North Africa and Italy. Altogether 16,000 Māori took part in the war. 3,600 served in the Māori Battalion, the remainder serving in artillery, pioneers, home guard, infantry, airforce, and navy. 204,000 New Zealanders served during WW2. Māori, including Cook Islanders, made up 12% of the total force.

Many Māori migrated to larger rural towns and cities during the Depression and post-WWII periods in search of employment, leaving rural communities depleted and disconnecting many urban Māori from their traditional ways of life. Yet while standards of living improved among Māori during this time, they continued to lag behind Pākehā in areas such as health, income, skilled employment and access to higher levels of education. Māori leaders and government policymakers alike struggled to deal with social issues stemming from increased urban migration, including a shortage of housing and jobs, and a rise in urban crime, poverty and health problems.

Recent history

Since the 1960s, Māoridom has undergone a cultural revival concurrent with a protest movement. Government recognition of the growing political power of Māori and political activism have led to limited redress for confiscation of land and for the violation of other property rights. The Crown set up the Waitangi Tribunal, a body with the powers of a Commission of Enquiry, to investigate and make recommendations on such issues, but it cannot make binding rulings. Indeed, the Government need not accept the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal, and has rejected some of them.

A Māori chief with tattoos (moko) seen by James Cook and his crew.

Since 1976, people of Māori descent choose to enroll on either the general or Māori roll, and vote in either the Māori only or general electorates but not both. After the 1993 introduction of the MMP electoral system the number of electorates floats, meaning that the electoral population of a Māori seat, (there are currently seven), can remain roughly equivalent to that of a general seat.

During the 1990s and 2000s, the government negotiated with Māori to provide redress for breaches by the Crown of the guarantees set out in the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. By 2006 the government had provided over NZ$900 million in settlements, much of it in the form of land deals. The largest settlement, signed on 25 June 2008 with seven Māori iwi, transferred nine large tracts of forested land to Māori control. As a result of the redress paid to many iwi, Māori now have significant interests in the fishing and forestry industries. There is a growing Māori leadership who see the treaty settlements as a platform for economic development.

Despite a growing acceptance of Māori culture in wider New Zealand society, the settlements have courted controversy: some Māori have complained that the settlements occur at a level of between 1 and 2.5 cents on the dollar of the value of the confiscated lands; conversely, some non-Māori denounce the settlements and socioeconomic initiaves as amounting to race-based preferential treatment. Both of these sentiments were expressed during the New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy in 2004.


Traditional culture

The ancestors of the Māori arrived from eastern Polynesia during the 13th century, bringing with them Polynesian cultural customs and beliefs. Early European researchers, such as Julius von Haast, a geologist, incorrectly interpreted archaeological remains as belonging to a pre-Māori Paleolithic people; later researchers, notably Percy Smith, magnified such theories into an elaborate scenario with a series of sharply-defined cultural stages which had Māori arriving in a Great Fleet in 1350 CE and replacing the so-called “moa-hunter” culture with a “classical Māori” culture based on horticulture. The development of Māori material culture has been similarly delineated by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa into “cultural periods”, from the earlier “Ngā Kakano” stage to the later “Te Tipunga” period, before the “Classic” period of Māori history.


Late 20th-century carving depicting the mythological navigator Kupe fighting two sea creatures.

However, the archaeological record indicates a gradual evolution of a neolithic culture that varied in pace and extent according to local resources and conditions. In the course of a few centuries, the growing population led to competition for resources and an increase in warfare. The archaeological record reveals an increased frequency of fortified pā, although debate continues about the amount of conflict. Various systems arose which aimed to conserve resources; most of these, such as tapu and rāhui, used religious or supernatural threats to discourage people from taking species at particular seasons or from specified areas.

Warfare between tribes was common, generally over land conflicts or to restore mana. Fighting was carried out between subtribes (hapū). Although not practised during times of peace, Māori would sometimes eat their conquered enemies. As Māori continued in geographic isolation, performing arts such as the haka developed from their Polynesian roots, as did carving and weaving. Regional dialects arose, with differences in vocabulary and in the pronunciation of some words. In 1819 two young northern chiefs, Tuai and Titere, who had learnt to speak and write English, went to London, where they met the language expert Samuel Lee. They stayed with a school teacher, Hall, who they told that even in Northern New Zealand there were “different languages and dialects”. The language retained enough similarities to other Eastern Polynesian languages, to the point where a Tahitian chief on James Cook’s first voyage in the region acted as an interpreter between Māori and the crew of the Endeavour.

Belief and religion

Main articles: Māori mythology and Māori religion

Traditional Māori beliefs have their origins in Polynesian culture. Many stories from Māori mythology are analogous with stories across the Pacific Ocean. Polynesian concepts such as tapu (sacred), noa (non-sacred), mana (authority/prestige) and wairua (spirit) governed everyday Māori living. These practices remained until the arrival of Europeans, when much of Māori religion and mythology was supplanted by Christianity. Today, Māori “tend to be followers of Presbyterianism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), or Māori Christian groups such as Rātana and Ringatū”, but with Catholic, Anglican and Methodist groupings also prominent. There is also a very small community of Māori Muslims.

Performing arts

Kapa haka (literally “haka team”) is a traditional Māori performance art, encompassing many forms, that is still popular today. It includes haka (posture dance), poi (dance accompanied by song and rhythmic movements of the poi, a light ball on a string), waiata-ā-ringa (action songs) and waiata koroua (traditional chants). From the early 20th century kapa haka concert parties began touring overseas.

Since 1972 there has been a regular competition, the Te Matatini National Festival, organised by the Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Society. Māori from different regions send representative groups to compete in the biannual competition. There are also kapa haka groups in schools, tertiary institutions and workplaces. It is also performed at tourist venues across the country.

Literature and media


A young man performs in a kapa haka group at a Rotorua tourist venue.

Like other cultures, oral folklore was used by Māori to preserve their stories and beliefs across many centuries. In the 19th century, European-style literacy was brought to the Māori, which led to Māori history documentation in books, novels and later television. Māori language use began to decline in the 20th century with English as the language through which Māori literature became widespread.

Notable Māori novelists include Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera and Alan Duff. Once Were Warriors, a 1994 film adapted from a 1990 novel of the same name by Alan Duff, brought the plight of some urban Māori to a wide audience. It was the highest-grossing film in New Zealand until 2006, and received international acclaim, winning several international film prizes. While some Māori feared that viewers would consider the violent male characters an accurate portrayal of Māori men, most critics praised it as exposing the raw side of domestic violence. Some Māori opinion, particularly feminist, welcomed the debate on domestic violence that the film enabled.

Māori actors and actresses are present in many of Hollywood’s productions for being able to portray Asians, Latin Americans and Arabs because of their resemblance. They are in films like Whale Rider, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Matrix, King Kong, The River Queen, The Lord of The Rings, Rapa Nui, and others, and famous television series like Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, The Lost World and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Famous Māori actors and actresses include Temuera Morrison, Cliff Curtis, Lawrence Makoare, Manu Benet and Keisha Castle-Hughes.


Māori participate fully in New Zealand’s sporting culture. The national rugby union, rugby league and netball teams have featured many Māori players. There are also Māori rugby union, rugby league and cricket representative teams that play in international competitions. Ki-o-rahi and tapawai are two sports of Māori origin. Ki-o-rahi got an unexpected boost when McDonalds chose it to represent New Zealand. Waka ama (outrigger canoeing) is also popular with Māori.


Māori language

From about 1890, Māori MPs realised the importance of English literacy to Māori and insisted that all Māori children be taught in English. Missionaries, who still ran many Māori schools, had been teaching exclusively in Māori but the Māori MPs insisted this stop. However attendance at school for many Māori was intermittent.The Māori language, also known as te reo Māori (pronounced [ˈmaːoɾi, te ˈɾeo ˈmaːoɾi]) or simply te reo (“the language”), has the status of an official language. Linguists classify it within the Eastern Polynesian languages as being closely related to Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan and Tahitian; somewhat less closely to Hawaiian and Marquesan; and more distantly to the languages of Western Polynesia, including Samoan, Tokelauan, Niuean and Tongan. Before European contact Māori did not have a written language and “important information such as whakapapa was memorised and passed down verbally through the generations”. Māori were familiar with the concept of maps and when interacting with missionaries in 1815 could draw accurate maps of their rohe, onto paper, that were the equal of European maps. Missionaries surmised that Māori had traditionally drawn maps on sand or other natural material.

In many areas of New Zealand, Māori lost its role as a living community language used by significant numbers of people in the post-war years. In tandem with calls for sovereignty and for the righting of social injustices from the 1970s onwards, New Zealand schools now teach Māori culture and language as an option, and pre-school kohanga reo (“language-nests”) have started, which teach tamariki (young children) exclusively in Māori. These now extend right through secondary schools (kura tuarua). Most preschool centres teach basics such as colours, numerals and greetings in Māori songs and chants.

In 2004 Māori Television, a government-funded channel committed to broadcasting primarily in te reo, began. Māori is an official language de jure, but English is de facto the national language. At the 2006 Census, Māori was the second most widely-spoken language after English, with four percent of New Zealanders able to speak Māori to at least a conversational level. No official data has been gathered on fluency levels.


Historical development


A 19th-century depiction of village life.

Polynesian settlers in New Zealand developed a distinct society over several hundred years. Social groups were tribal, with no unified society or single Māori identity until after the arrival of Europeans. Nevertheless, common elements could be found in all Māori groups in pre-European New Zealand, including a shared Polynesian heritage, a common basic language, familial associations, traditions of warfare, and similar mythologies and religious beliefs.

Most Māori lived in villages, which were inhabited by several whānau (extended families) who collectively formed a hapū (clan or subtribe). Members of a hapū cooperated with food production, gathering resources, raising families and defence. Māori society across New Zealand was broadly stratified into three classes of people: rangatira, chiefs and ruling families; tūtūā, commoners; and mōkai, slaves. Tohunga also held special standing in their communities as specialists of revered arts, skills and esoteric knowledge.

Shared ancestry, intermarriage and trade strengthened relationships between different groups. Many hapū with mutually-recognised shared ancestry formed iwi, or tribes, which were the largest social unit in Māori society. Hapū and iwi often united for expeditions to gather food and resources, or in times of conflict. In contrast, warfare developed as an integral part of traditional life, as different groups competed for food and resources, settled personal disputes, and sought to increase their prestige and authority.

250px-Famille_Maori_1998-1361-139Māori whānau from Rotorua in the 1880s. Many aspects of Western life and culture, including European clothing and architecture, became incorporated into Māori society during the 19th century.

The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand dates back to the 17th century, although it was not until the expeditions of James Cook over a hundred years later that any meaningful interactions occurred between Europeans and Māori. For Māori, the new arrivals brought opportunities for trade, which many groups embraced eagerly. Early European settlers introduced tools, weapons, clothing and foods to Māori across New Zealand, in exchange for resources, land and labour. Māori began selectively adopting elements of Western society during the 19th century, including European clothing and food, and later Western education, religion and architecture.

But as the 19th century wore on, relations between European colonial settlers and different Māori groups became increasingly strained. Tensions led to conflict in the 1860s, and the confiscation of millions of acres of Māori land. Significant amounts of land were also purchased by the colonial government and later through the Native Land Court.

20th century

By the start of the 20th century, a greater awareness had emerged of a unified Māori identity, particularly in comparison to Pākehā, who now overwhelmingly outnumbered the Māori as a whole. Māori and Pākehā societies remained largely separate – socially, culturally, economically and geographically – for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The key reason for this was that Māori remained almost exclusively a rural population, whereas increasingly the European population was urban especially after 1900. Nevertheless, Māori groups continued to engage with the government and in legal processes to increase their standing in – and ultimately further their incorporation into – wider New Zealand society. The main point of contact with the government were the four Māori Members of Parliament.

Many Māori migrated to larger rural towns and cities during the Depression and post-WWII periods in search of employment, leaving rural communities depleted and disconnecting many urban Māori from their traditional social controls and tribal homelands. Yet while standards of living improved among Māori, they continued to lag behind Pākehā in areas such as health, income, skilled employment and access to higher levels of education. Māori leaders and government policymakers alike struggled to deal with social issues stemming from increased urban migration, including a shortage of housing and jobs, and a rise in urban crime, poverty and health problems.

In regards to housing, a 1961 census revealed significant differences in the living conditions of Māori and Europeans. That year, out of all the (unshared) non-Māori private dwellings in New Zealand, 96.8% had a bath or shower, 94.1% a hot water service, 88.7% a flush toilet, 81.6% a refrigerator, and 78.6% an electric washing machine. By contrast, for all (unshared) Māori private dwellings that same year, 76.8% had a bath or shower, 68.9% a hot water service, 55.8% a refrigerator, 54.1% a flush toilet, and 47% an electric washing machine.

While the arrival of Europeans had a profound impact on the Māori way of life, many aspects of traditional society have survived into the 21st century. Māori participate fully in all spheres of New Zealand culture and society, leading largely Western lifestyles while also maintaining their own cultural and social customs. The traditional social strata of rangatira, tūtūā and mōkai have all but disappeared from Māori society, while the roles of tohunga and kaumātua are still present. Traditional kinship ties are also actively maintained, and the whānau in particular remains an integral part of Māori life.

Marae, hapū and iwi

250px-Whenuakura_Marae,_Taranaki,_New_ZealandWhenuakura Marae in Taranaki. Marae continue to function as local community centres in modern Māori society.

Māori society at a local level is particularly visible at the marae. Formerly the central meeting spaces in traditional villages, marae today usually comprise a group of buildings around an open space, that frequently host events such as weddings, funerals, church services and other large gatherings, with traditional protocol and etiquette usually observed. They also serve as the base of one or sometimes several hapū.

Most Māori affiliate with one or more iwi (and hapū), based on genealogical descent (whakapapa). Iwi vary in size, from a few hundred members to over 100,000 in the case of Ngāpuhi. Many people do not live in their traditional tribal regions as a result of urban migration.

Iwi are usually governed by rūnanga – governing councils or trust boards, which represent the iwi in consultations and negotiations with the New Zealand government. Rūnanga also manage tribal assets and spearhead health, education, economic and social initiatives to help iwi members.


In the 2013 Census, 598,605 people identified as being part of the Māori ethnic group, accounting for 14.9% of the New Zealand population, while 668,724 people (17.5%) claimed Māori descent. Most Māori also have at least some Pākehā ancestry, resulting from a high rate of intermarriage between the two cultures. Under the Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974 a Māori is defined as “a person of the Māori race of New Zealand; and includes any descendant of such a Māori.”

According to the 2006 Census, the largest iwi by population is Ngāpuhi (125,601), followed by Ngāti Porou (71,049), Ngāi Tahu (54,819) and Waikato (40,083). However, over 110,000 people of Māori descent in the 2013 Census could not identify their iwi. Outside of New Zealand, a large Māori population exists in Australia, estimated at 126,000 in 2006. The Māori Party has suggested a special seat should be created in the New Zealand parliament representing Māori in Australia. Smaller communities also exist in the United Kingdom (approx. 8,000), the United States (up to 3,500) and Canada (approx. 1,000).

Socioeconomic challenges

Māori on average have fewer assets than the rest of the population, and run greater risks of many negative economic and social outcomes. Over 50% of Māori live in areas in the three highest deprivation deciles, compared with 24% of the rest of the population. Although Māori make up only 14% of the population, they make up almost 50% of the prison population.

Māori have higher unemployment-rates than other cultures resident in New Zealand  Māori have higher numbers of suicides than non-Māori. “Only 47% of Māori school-leavers finish school with qualifications higher than NCEA Level One; compared to 74% European; 87% Asian.” Although New Zealand rates well very globally in the PISA rankings that compare national performance in reading, science and maths “…once you disaggregate the PISA scores, Pakeha students are second in the world and Maori are 34th…” Māori suffer more health problems, including higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse, smoking and obesity. Less frequent use of healthcare services mean that late diagnosis and treatment intervention lead to higher levels of morbidity and mortality in many manageable conditions, such as cervical cancer, diabetes per head of population than non-Māori.  Although Māori life expectancy rates have increased dramatically in the last 50 years, they still have considerably lower life-expectancies compared to New Zealanders of European ancestry: in 2004, Māori males lived 69.0 years vs. non-Māori males 77.2 years; Māori females 73.2 yrs vs. non-Māori females 81.9 years. This gap had narrowed by 2013: 72.8 years for men and 76.5 years for women, compared to 80.2 years for non-Māori men and 83.7 years for non-Māori women. Also, a recent study by the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse showed that Māori women and children are more likely to experience domestic violence than any other ethnic group.

Race relations


Protest hikoi during the Foreshore and seabed controversy in 2004.

The status of Māori as the indigenous people of New Zealand is recognised in New Zealand law by the term tangata whenua (lit. “people of the land”), which identifies the traditional connection between Māori and a given area of land. Māori as a whole can be considered as tangata whenua of New Zealand entirely; individual iwi are recognised as tangata whenua for areas of New Zealand in which they are traditionally based, while hapū are tangata whenua within their marae. New Zealand law periodically requires consultation between the government and tangata whenua – for example, during major land development projects. This usually takes the form of negotiations between local or national government and the rūnanga of one or more relevant iwi, although the government generally decides which (if any) concerns are acted upon.

Māori issues are a prominent feature of race relations in New Zealand. Historically, many Pākehā viewed race relations in their country as being the “best in the world”, a view that prevailed until Māori urban migration in the mid-20th century brought cultural and socioeconomic differences to wider attention.

Māori protest movements grew significantly in the 1960s and 1970s seeking redress for past grievances, particularly in regard to land rights. Successive governments have responded by enacting affirmative action programmes, funding cultural rejuvenation initiatives and negotiating tribal settlements for past breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. Further efforts have focused on cultural preservation and reducing socioeconomic disparity.


New Zealand endorses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in April 2010.

Nevertheless, race relations remains a contentious issue in New Zealand society. Māori advocates continue to push for further redress claiming that their concerns are being marginalised or ignored. Conversely, critics denounce the scale of assistance given to Māori as amounting to preferential treatment for a select group of people based on race. Both sentiments were highlighted during the foreshore and seabed controversy in 2004, in which the New Zealand government claimed sole ownership of the New Zealand foreshore and seabed, over the objections of Māori groups who were seeking customary title.


The New Zealand Law Commission has started a project to develop a legal framework for Māori who want to manage communal resources and responsibilities. The voluntary system proposes an alternative to existing companies, incorporations, and trusts in which tribes and hapū and other groupings can interact with the legal system. The foreshadowed legislation, under the proposed name of the “Waka Umanga (Māori Corporations) Act”, would provide a model adaptable to suit the needs of individual iwi. At the end of 2009, the proposed legislation was awaiting a second hearing.

Wider commercial exposure has increased public awareness of the Māori culture, but has also resulted in several notable legal disputes. Between 1998 and 2006, Ngāti Toa attempted to trademark the haka “Ka Mate” to prevent its use by commercial organisations without their permission. In 2001, Danish toymaker Lego faced legal action by several Māori tribal groups (fronted by lawyer Maui Solomon) and members of the on-line discussion forum Aotearoa Cafe for trademarking Māori words used in naming the Bionicle product range – see Bionicle Māori controversy.

Political representation


The opening of the Māori Parliament at Pāpāwai, Greytown in 1897, with Richard Seddon in attendance.

Māori have been involved in New Zealand politics since the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Māori have had reserved seats in the Parliament of New Zealand since 1868: presently, this accounts for seven of the 122 seats in New Zealand’s unicameral parliament. The contesting of these seats was the first opportunity for many Māori to participate in New Zealand elections, although the elected Māori representatives initially struggled to assert significant influence. Māori received universal suffrage with other New Zealand citizens in 1893.

Being a traditionally tribal people, no one organisation ostensibly speaks for all Māori nationwide. The Māori King Movement originated in the 1860s as an attempt by several iwi to unify under one leader: in modern times, it serves a largely ceremonial role. Another attempt at political unity was the Kotahitanga Movement, which established a separate Māori Parliament that held annual sessions from 1892 until its last sitting in 1902.

There are seven designated Māori seats in the Parliament of New Zealand (and Māori can and do stand in and win general roll seats), and consideration of and consultation with Māori have become routine requirements for councils and government organisations. Debate occurs frequently as to the relevance and legitimacy of the Māori electoral roll, and the National Party announced in 2008 it would abolish the seats when all historic Treaty settlements have been resolved, which it aims to complete by 2014. Several Māori political parties have formed over the years to improve the position of Māori in New Zealand society. The present Māori Party, formed in 2004, secured 1.43% of the party vote at the 2011 general election and holds three seats in the 50th New Zealand Parliament, with two MPs serving as Ministers outside Cabinet.


October 19, 2015 / by / in