History & Geography

New Zealand

History
Early New Zealand history suggests the islands were first settled by eastern Polynesians between 1250-1300. Over the years since, these settlers developed their own distinct culture called ‘Maori’.

The first European thought to have landed on New Zealand shores was a Dutch explorer called Abel Tasman in 1642. It was a hostile encounter between his crew and local Maori. The Europeans didn’t come back until 1769 when British explorer James Cook mapped the entire New Zealand coastline. During the early 19th century, conflict between Maori and the British was quite frequent.

In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed making New Zealand a colony. This resulted in many more immigrants making New Zealand their home but also contributed to more conflict resulting in the New Zealand Wars. These wars lasted from 1845 to 1872 and were primarily around land ownership and the settlers who occupied the disputed land. Today historical disputes continue however are fought in the courtroom and by negotiation.

Geography
Mountain ranges and country dominate New Zealand’s landscape; one of the most striking physical features is the Southern Alps. To add to the variety of the South Island scenery, there are fiords, glaciers and lakes, and the coastal plains of Canterbury and Southland.

Mountain ranges and country dominate New Zealand’s landscape; one of the most striking physical features is the Southern Alps. To add to the variety of the South Island scenery, there are fiords, glaciers and lakes, and the coastal plains of Canterbury and Southland. In the North Island is New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo. The country’s most active volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe, Tongariro and Taranaki, are also found in the central North Island. These are usually quiet, although Mount Ruapehu erupted in 1995 and 1996. Hot springs, geysers and mud pools are found in Taupo and Rotorua.

There are spectacular mountainous regions for some of the best skiing in the world, miles of coastlines with incredible beaches for surfing and swimming, and tramping trails throughout the country.