New Zealand History and Culture
There are many things in life, which cannot be described but only experienced. New Zealand to me is one such enthralling experience. Her breathtaking landscapes, lush forests, amazing wildlife and pleasant climate make her a haven for many travel adventures. New Zealanders overseas and at home are invariably called 'Kiwis' after their national bird, which has been rendered 'endangered' in the past couple of years.
The kiwi society is diverse, sophisticated, and multicultural, and the honesty, friendliness, and openness of the people only add to the joy of visiting and living in this exquisite country. New Zealanders have a unique and dynamic culture, with European, Maori, Pacific and Asian influences. It's a culture that celebrates the many different lifestyles we live, and the stories we have to tell. Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures), some dating back almost a thousand years, are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating nation it has become.
The country is one of the most recently settled major land masses. Even though she is a relatively young nation, New Zealand has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both Maori and European heritage. Polynesian settlers arrived here in their waka (kayak) some time between 800 and 600 years ago to establish the indigenous Maori culture. Most of the country then was divided into tribal territories called rohe, resources within which were controlled by an iwi ('tribe'). Maori adapted to eating the local marine resources, flora and fauna for food, hunting the giant flightless moa (which soon became extinct), and ate the Polynesian Rat and kumara (sweet potato), which they introduced to the country.
The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were led by Abel Janszoon Tasman, who sailed up the west coast of the South and North islands in 1642. He named it Staten Landt, believing it to be part of the land Jacob Le Maire had discovered in 1616 off the coast of Chile. Staten Landt appeared on Tasman's first maps of New Zealand, but this was changed by Dutch cartographers to Nova Zeelandia, after the Dutch province of Zeeland, some time after Hendrik Brouwer proved the South American land to be an island in 1643. The Latin Nova Zeelandia became Nieuw Zeeland in Dutch. Lieutenant James Cook subsequently called the archipelago New Zealand, although the names he chose for the North and South islands were rejected, and the main three islands became known as North, Middle and South, with the Middle Island being later called the South Island. Cook began extensive surveys of the islands in 1769, leading to European whaling expeditions and eventually significant European colonization. From as early as the 1780s, Maori had encounters with European sealers and whalers. Acquisition of muskets by those iwi in close contact with European visitors destabilized the existing balance of power between Maori tribes and there was a temporary but intense period of bloody inter-tribal warfare, known as the Musket Wars.
Concern about the exploitation of Maori by Europeans, Church Missionary Society lobbying and French interest in the region led the British to annex New Zealand by Royal Proclamation in January 1840. To legitimize the British annexation, Lieutenant Governor William Hobson had been dispatched in 1839; he hurriedly negotiated the Treaty of Waitangi with northern iwi on his arrival. The Treaty was signed in February, and in recent years it has come to be seen as the founding document of New Zealand. The Maori translation of the treaty promised the Maori tribes "tino rangatiratanga" would be preserved in return for ceding kawanatanga, which the English versions translates as "chieftainship" for "sovereignty"; the real meanings are now disputed. Disputes over land sales and sovereignty caused the New Zealand land wars, which took place between 1845 and 1872. In 1975 the Treaty of Waitangi Act established the Waitangi Tribunal, charged with hearing claims of Crown violations of the Treaty of Waitangi dating back to 1840. Some Maori tribes and the Moriori never signed the treaty.
Although New Zealand was initially administered as a part of the Australian colony of New South Wales, it became a colony in its own right in 1841. The first capital of New Zealand was Okiato or Old Russell in the Bay of Islands but shortly afterwards moved to Auckland. European settlement progressed more rapidly than anyone anticipated, and settlers soon outnumbered Maori. Self-government was granted to the settler population in 1852. There were political concerns following the discovery of gold in Central Otago in 1861 that the South Island would form a separate colony. So in 1865 the capital was officially moved to the more central city of Wellington. New Zealand was involved in a Constitutional Convention in March 1891 in Sydney, New South Wales, along with the then-colonies of Australia. This was to consider a potential constitution for the proposed federation between the then-British Colonies of Australasia. New Zealand lost interest in joining Australia in a federation following this convention.
The country became an independent dominion on 26 September 1907 by royal proclamation. The United Kingdom Parliament granted the country Full independence with the Statute of Westminster in 1931; it was taken up upon the Statute's adoption by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947. Since then New Zealand has been a sovereign constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations.
The influx of different cultures makes travelling and living in this country an absolute delight. Its obvious natural beauty has put it on the world travel circuit as a premier eco-tourism and outdoor adventure destination. The thing that delights me the most about the country is that no matter what your idea of adventure or relaxation is, and no matter what your looking for in a holiday, you'll find it here. New Zealand has something to offer everybody.