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Maori of New Zealand. owlcation photo.

British Colonisation of New Zealand

New Zealand is a country in Oceania, to the east of Australia. The Maori were the indigenous settlers of New Zealand.

The Maori settlers got to Polynesia between 1200 and 1300 A.D. Although the British colonial power colonized New Zealand, the region had several early visitors before the British colonisation.

The Dutch

One of the most significant visitors of New Zealand was Abel Tasman, sent by the Dutch East Indian Company. The name New Zealand was from the name first given by the Dutch mapmaker, Nieuw Zeeland. Tasman had contact with the Maori (the indigenous settlers) at the top of the South Island on his way to discover the popular southern continent which was believed to have several natural potentials. Tasman annexed this region for Holland and with continuous conflicts with the Maori who were not ready to accept any intrusion, the mission was abortive. The Dutch company therefore considered Tasman’s mission to the New Zealand a failure.

The British

Captain James Cook, a British naval officer and explorer, in 1769 was tasked with the search for the aspired southern continent, during his mission to make observation of the Venus’ transit. Around the country he circumnavigated and was able to come with a viable map of the country. Cook led two more expeditions to this region before he was killed in 1779.  The British and the French both jostled to settle in New Zealand.

European Settlement

The population of this region began to grow gradually with the migrations of Europeans, some of which were whalers, sealers, traders, as well as missionaries. The Pakeha (Europeans) had contact that was intense with the Maori indigenous settlers, especially in terms of trade, commerce and religion. Prior to the mid-19th century, over 2000 Europeans had settled among the Maori in New Zealand and they continued their commercial activities with their fellow European merchants from the British Empire.

Notably, just as European diseases were rampant in the Americas during their colonial era, the indigenous settlers were affected with European diseases like measles, chickenpox, smallpox and others. It is often stated that majority of the indigenous population (over 90%) had been claimed by diseases, even more than what the British forces had killed. There was also continuous land dispute between the European settlers and the indigenous people, who were not ready to forfeit their historic heritage.

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Maori of New Zealand. owlcation photo.

Official Colonisation Began

In 1840, the official colonisation of the region began with the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty was a body of many agreements signed between the British imperial power and the indigenous chiefs. This was not executed without the consent of the chiefs, and they were not totally put under force. The efforts of William Hobson should be noted here. He was the first governor of New Zealand, who assembled the indigenous chiefs to sign this treaty. In fact, the numbers of the Maori chiefs who later signed the treaty was over 500. 

Perhaps the nature of the treaty was unclear to the Maori chiefs, the northern region was never peaceful for over two decades till their land was taken and brought under the government. By 1860, the rest of the country was at war against their common enemy, the Pakeha (Europeans), who wanted to be selling their lands (and this was against their culture).

Of course, the Maori showed some gallantry as they were able to defend the Ohaewai Pa in the northern part of the country, but soon they were weakened and killed by the European diseases, and afterwards, the colonial power seized significant places in this region. Moreover, the population of this region was drastically reduced to about 40,000 by the early 20th century.

20th-Century New Zealand 

New Zealand became independent dominion in 1907. However, the influence of the British imperial power persisted in New Zealand throughout the 19th century, and much of the twentieth century. Majority of the wars fought by the country were in support of Britain. Its troops fought in support of Britain in the South African War of 1899, and also the two world wars. The landing of country’s troops in 1915 at Gallipoli, Turkey marked the coming of age of the country.

Summarily, elements of independent state later existed during this period till date. New Zealand joined the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), was a member of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States Pact (ANZUS), formed with Australia the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), among others. The country’s troops also fought in support of the United States during the Korean, and the Vietnam Wars.

Economic Development

The sinew of the country’s economy was sheep farming. There were many established sheep farms in the Southern Island. In 1861, gold was discovered in Otago in the Southern Island of the country, and later, on the West Coast. The British government also spent to develop this region interestingly. The imperial power constructed roads and railways, including other development.

In conclusion, there was encouragement for the settlement of different ethnic groups in the country, and till date, New Zealand is a multicultural country. Its citizens include the English, Samoan, Asian, and different groups from the Pacific Island.

Citation: Faforiji Tadese. British Colonisation of New Zealand. October 14, 2021. Tadexprof. Retrieved at


  1. A Brief History of New Zealand. Retrieved at
  2.  A history of New Zealand 1769-1914.
  3. Early European settlement. New Zealand. Britannica. Retrieved at 
  4. British colonists reach New Zealand. 1840, January 22. This Day in History. Retrieved at  
  5. History of New Zealand. Wikipedia. Retrieved at

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.