The history of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture centred on kinship links and land.
The first European explorer to sight New Zealand was Abel Janszoon Tasman on 13 December 1642.
Captain James Cook, who reached New Zealand in October 1769 on the first of his three voyages, was the first European explorer to circumnavigate and map New Zealand. From the late 18th century, the country was regularly visited by explorers and other sailors, missionaries, traders and adventurers.
In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori “equal rights” with British citizens. There was extensive British settlement throughout the rest of the century. War and the imposition of a European economic and legal system led to most of New Zealand’s land passing from Māori to Pākehā (European) ownership, and most Māori subsequently became impoverished.
From the 1890s the New Zealand parliament enacted a number of progressive initiatives, including women’s suffrage and old age pensions.
The country remained an enthusiastic member of the British Empire, and 110,000 men fought in World War I (see New Zealand Expeditionary Force). After the war New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles (1919), joined the League of Nations, and pursued an independent foreign policy, while its defense was still controlled by Britain.
When World War II broke out in 1939, New Zealanders saw their proper role as defending their place in the British Empire; the country contributed some 120,000 troops. From the 1930s the economy was highly regulated and an extensive welfare state was developed. Meanwhile, Māori culture underwent a renaissance, and from the 1950s Māori began moving to the cities in large numbers. This led to the development of a Māori protest movement which in turn led to greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in the late 20th century.
The country’s economy suffered in the aftermath of the 1973 global energy crisis, the loss of New Zealand’s biggest export market upon Britain’s entry to the European Economic Community, and rampant inflation. In the 1980s the economy was largely deregulated and a number of socially liberal policies, such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, were put in place. Foreign policy involved support for Britain in the world wars, and close relations after 1940 with the United States and Australia. Foreign policy after 1980 became more independent especially in pushing for a nuclear-free region. Subsequent governments have generally maintained these policies, although tempering the free market ethos somewhat. In 1984, the Fourth Labour government was elected amid a constitutional and economic crisis. The economic reforms were led by finance minister Roger Douglas (finance minister (1984-1988), who enacted fundamental, radically neo-liberal and unexpectedly pro-free market reforms known as Rogernomics.
The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were the crew of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who arrived in his ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen.
Tasman anchored at the northern end of the South Island in Golden Bay (he named it Murderers’ Bay) in December 1642 and sailed northward to Tonga following an attack by local Māori.
Tasman sketched sections of the two main islands’ west coasts. Tasman called them Staten Landt, after the States General of the Netherlands, and that name appeared on his first maps of the country. In 1645 Dutch cartographers changed the name to Nova Zeelandia in Latin, from Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland. It was subsequently Anglicised as New Zealand by British naval captain James Cook of HM Bark Endeavour who visited the islands more than 100 years after Tasman during 1769–1770. Cook returned to New Zealand on both of his subsequent voyages.
Various claims have been made that New Zealand was reached by other non-Polynesian voyagers before Tasman, but these are not widely accepted.
Peter Trickett, for example, argues in Beyond Capricorn that the Portuguese explorer Cristóvão de Mendonça reached New Zealand in the 1520s, and the Tamil bell discovered by missionary William Colenso has given rise to a number of theories, however historians generally believe the bell ‘is not in itself proof of early Tamil contact with New Zealand’.
From the 1790s, the waters around New Zealand were visited by British, French and American whaling, sealing and trading ships. Their crews traded European goods, including guns and metal tools, for Māori food, water, wood, flax and sex.
Māori were reputed to be enthusiastic and canny traders. Although there were some conflicts, such as the killing of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne in 1792 and the destruction of the Boyd in 1809, most contact between Māori and European was peaceful. From the early 19th century missionaries began settling in New Zealand and attempting to convert Māori to Christianity and control the considerably lawless European visitors.
The effect of contact on Māori varied. In some inland areas life went on more or less unchanged, although a European metal tool such as a fish-hook or hand axe might be acquired through trade with other tribes. At the other end of the scale, tribes that frequently encountered Europeans, such as Ngā Puhi in Northland, underwent major changes.
Pre-European Māori had no distance weapons except for tao (spears) and the introduction of the musket had an enormous impact on Māori warfare. Tribes with muskets would attack tribes without them, killing or enslaving many.
As a result, guns became very valuable and Māori would trade huge quantities of goods for a single musket. From 1805 to 1843 the Musket Wars raged until a new balance of power was achieved after most tribes had acquired muskets.
In 1835, the peaceful Moriori of the Chatham Islands were attacked, enslaved, and nearly exterminated by mainland Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama Māori. In the 1901 census, only 35 Moriori were recorded although the numbers subsequently increased.
Around this time, many Māori converted to Christianity. The reasons for this have been hotly debated, and may include social and cultural disruption caused by the Musket Wars and European contact. Other factors may have been the appeal of a religion that promotes peace and forgiveness, a desire to emulate the Europeans and to gain a similar abundance of material goods, and the Māori’s polytheistic culture that easily accepted the new God.
European settlement increased through the early decades of the 19th century, with numerous trading stations established, especially in the North. The first full-blooded European infant in the territory, Thomas King, was born in 1815 at Hohi in the Bay of Islands. Kerikeri, founded in 1822, and Bluff founded in 1823, both claim to be the oldest European settlements in New Zealand after the CMS mission station at Hohi, which was established in December 1814.
Many Europeans bought land from Māori, but misunderstanding and different concepts of land ownership led to conflict and bitterness.
In 1839, the New Zealand Company announced plans to buy large tracts of land and establish colonies in New Zealand. This alarmed the missionaries, who called for British control of European settlers in New Zealand.
In 1788 the colony of New South Wales had been founded. According to the future Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip’s amended Commission, dated 25 April 1787 the colony of New South Wales included all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean within the latitudes of 10°37’S and 43°39’S which included most of New Zealand except for the southern half of the South Island.
In 1825 with Van Diemen’s Land becoming a separate colony, the southern boundary of New South Wales was altered to the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean with a southern boundary of 39°12’S which included only the northern half of the North Island. However, these boundaries had no real impact as the New South Wales administration had little interest in New Zealand.
In response to complaints about lawless sailors and adventurers in New Zealand, the British government appointed James Busby as Official Resident in 1832.
In 1834 he encouraged Māori chiefs to assert their sovereignty with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1835.
This was acknowledged by King William IV. Busby was provided with neither legal authority nor military support and was thus ineffective in controlling the European population.
Treaty of Waitangi
In 1839, the New Zealand Company announced its plans to establish colonies in New Zealand. This, and the continuing lawlessness of many of the established settlers, spurred the British to take stronger action. Captain William Hobson was sent to New Zealand to persuade Māori to cede their sovereignty to the British Crown. In reaction to the New Zealand Company’s moves, on 15 June 1839 a new Letters patent was issued to expand the territory of New South Wales to include all of New Zealand. Governor of New South Wales George Gipps was appointed Governor over New Zealand. This was the first clear expression of British intent to annex New Zealand.
On 6 February 1840, Hobson and about forty Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Copies of the Treaty were subsequently taken around the country to be signed by other chiefs. A significant number refused to sign or were not asked but, in total, more than five hundred Māori eventually signed.
The Treaty gave Māori sovereignty over their lands and possessions and all of the rights of British citizens. What it gave the British in return depends on the language-version of the Treaty that is referred to. The English version can be said to give the British Crown sovereignty over New Zealand but in the Māori version the Crown receives kawanatanga, which, arguably, is a lesser power (see interpretations of the Treaty). Dispute over the true meaning and the intent of either party remains an issue.
Britain was motivated by the desire to forestall other European powers (France established a very small settlement at Akaroa in the South Island later in 1840), to facilitate settlement by British subjects and, possibly, to end the lawlessness of European (predominantly British and American) whalers, sealers and traders. Officials and missionaries had their own positions and reputations to protect.
Māori chiefs were motivated by a desire for protection from foreign powers, the establishment of governorship over European settlers and traders in New Zealand, and to allow for wider settlement that would increase trade and prosperity for Māori.
Hobson died in September 1842. Robert FitzRoy, the new governor, took some legal steps to recognise Māori custom. However, his successor, George Grey, promoted rapid cultural assimilation and reduction of the land ownership, influence and rights of the Māori. The practical effect of the Treaty was, in the beginning, only gradually felt, especially in predominantly Māori regions.
The European population of New Zealand grew explosively from fewer than 1000 in 1831 to 500,000 by 1881. Some 400,000 settlers came from Britain, of whom 300,000 stayed permanently. Most were young people and 250,000 babies were born. The passage of 120,000 was paid by the colonial government. After 1880 immigration reduced, and growth was due chiefly to the excess of births over deaths.
Administered at first as a part of the Australian colony of New South Wales, New Zealand became a colony in its own right on 1 July 1841.
It was divided into three provinces that were reorganised in 1846 and in 1853, when they acquired their own legislatures, and then abolished in 1876.
The country rapidly gained some measure of self-government through the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established central and provincial government.
The Māori tribes at first sold the land to the settlers, though the government voided the sales in 1840. Now only the government was allowed to purchase land from Māori, who received cash.
The government bought practically all the useful land, then resold it to the New Zealand Company, which promoted immigration, or leased it for sheep runs.
The Company resold the best tracts to British settlers; its profits were used to pay the travel of the immigrants from Britain.
Because of the vast distances involved, the first settlers were self-sufficient farmers. By the 1840s, however, large scale sheep ranches were exporting large quantities of wool to the textile mills of England. Most of the first settlers were brought over by a programme operated by the New Zealand Company (inspired by Edward Gibbon Wakefield) and were located in the central region on either side of Cook Strait, and at Wellington, Wanganui, New Plymouth and Nelson.
These settlements had access to some of the richest plains in the country and after refrigerated ships appeared in 1882, they developed into closely settled regions of small-scale farming. Outside these compact settlements were the sheep runs. Pioneer pastoralists, often men with experience as squatters in Australia, leased lands from the government at the annual rate of £5 plus £1 for each 1,000 sheep above the first 5,000. The leases were renewed automatically, which gave the wealthy pastoralists a strong landed interest and made them a powerful political force.
In all between 1856 and 1876, 8.1 million acres were sold for £7.6 million, and 2.2 million acres were given free to soldiers, sailors and settlers.
Gold discoveries in Otago (1861) and Westland (1865), caused a worldwide gold rush that more than doubled the population in a short period, from 71,000 in 1859 to 164,000 in 1863.
The value of trade increased fivefold from £2 million to £10 million. As the gold boom ended Premier Julius Vogel borrowed money from British investors and launched in 1870 an ambitious programme of public works and infrastructure investment, together with a policy of assisted immigration.
Successive governments expanded the program with offices across Britain that enticed settlers and gave them and their families one-way tickets.
British writer Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) exerted a far-reaching influence. His plans for systematic British colonization focused on a free labour system, in contrast to slavery that existed in the United States and convict labour in Australia.
Inspired by evangelical religion and abolitionism, Wakefield’s essays (1829 to 1849), condemned both slavery and indentured and convict labour, as immoral, unjust, and inefficient. Instead, he proposed a government sponsored system in which the price of farm land was set at a high enough level to prevent urban workers from easily purchasing it and thus leaving the labour market.
His colonisation programmes were over-elaborate and operated on a much smaller scale than he hoped for, but his ideas influenced law and culture, especially his vision for the colony as the embodiment of post-Enlightenment ideals, the notion of New Zealand as a model society, and the sense of fairness in employer-employee relations.
Although norms of masculinity were dominant, strong minded women originated a feminist movement starting in the 1860s, well before women gained the right to vote in 1893.
Middle class women employed the media (especially newspapers) to communicate with each other and define their priorities. Prominent feminist writers included Mary Taylor, Mary Colclough (pseud. Polly Plum), and Ellen Ellis. The first signs of a politicised collective female identity came in crusades to pass the Contagious Diseases Prevention Act.
Feminists by the 1880s were using the rhetoric of “white slavery” to reveal men’s sexual and social oppression of women. By demanding that men take responsibility for the right of women to walk the streets in safety, New Zealand feminists deployed the rhetoric of white slavery to argue for women’s sexual and social freedom. Middle class women successfully mobilized to stop prostitution, especially during the First World War.
Māori women developed their own form of feminism, derived from Māori nationalism rather than European sources.
In 1893 Elizabeth Yates was elected mayor of Onehunga, making her the first woman in the British Empire to hold the office. She was an able administrator: she cut the debt, reorganised the fire brigade, and improved the roads and sanitation. Many men were hostile however, and she was defeated for reelection.
Hutching argues that after 1890 women were increasingly well organized through the National Council of Women, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Women’s International League, and the Housewives Union, and others.
By 1910 they were campaigning for peace, and against compulsory military training, and conscription. They demanded arbitration and the peaceful resolution of international disputes.
The women argued that womanhood (thanks to motherhood) was the repository of superior moral values and concerns and from their domestic experience they knew best how to resolve conflicts.
Prior to 1877 schools were operated by the provincial government, churches, or by private subscription. Education was not a requirement and many children did not attend any school, especially farm children whose labour was important to the family economy. The quality of education provided varied substantially depending on the school.
The Education Act of 1877 created New Zealand’s first free national system of primary education, establishing standards that educators should meet, and making education compulsory for children aged 5 to 15.
From 1840 there was considerable European settlement, primarily from England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland; and to a lesser extent the United States, India, China, and various parts of continental Europe, including the province of Dalmatia in what is now Croatia, and Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic. Already a majority of the population by 1859, the number of white settlers (called Pākehā by Māori) increased rapidly to reach a million by 1911.
In the 1870s and 1880s, several thousand Chinese men, mostly from Guangdong province, migrated to New Zealand to work on the South Island goldfields. Although the first Chinese migrants had been invited by the Otago Provincial government they quickly became the target of hostility from white settlers and laws were enacted specifically to discourage them from coming to New Zealand.
Māori Adaptation & Resistance
Māori had welcomed Pākehā for the trading opportunities and guns they brought. However it soon became clear that they had underestimated the number of settlers that would arrive in their lands. Iwi (tribes) whose land was the base of the main settlements quickly lost much of their land and autonomy through government acts. Others prospered – until about 1860 the city of Auckland bought most of its food from Māori who grew and sold it themselves. Many iwi owned flour mills, ships and other items of European technology, some exported food to Australia for a brief period during the 1850s gold rush.
Although race relations were generally peaceful in this period, there were conflicts over who had ultimate power in particular areas – the Governor or the Māori chiefs.
One such conflict was the Northern or Flagstaff War of the 1840s, during which Kororareka was sacked.
As the Pākehā population grew, pressure grew on Māori to sell more land. Land is not only an economic resource, but also one basis of Māori identity and a connection with their ancestor’s bones. Land was used communally,but under the mana of chiefs. In Māori culture there was no such idea as selling land until the arrival of Europeans.
The means of acquiring land was to defeat another hapu or iwi in battle and seize their land. Te Rauparaha seized the land of many lower North Island and upper South Island iwi during the musket wars.
Land was usually not given up without discussion and consultation. When an iwi was divided over the question of selling this could lead to great difficulties as at Waitara.
Pākehā had little understanding of all that and accused Māori of holding onto land they did not use efficiently. Competition for land was one important cause of the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, in which the Taranaki and Waikato regions were invaded by colonial troops and Māori of these regions had some of their land taken from them.
The wars and confiscation left bitterness that remains to this day. After the conclusion of the Land Wars some iwi, especially in the Waikato, such as Ngati Haua sold land freely. However, only the chiefs and their whanau benefited from this income.
The 2013 Ngati Haua treaty settlement recognized that many Ngati Haua had not received any benefit from the large payments in the 1870s hence the government was paying compensation.
Some iwi sided with the government and, later, fought with the government. They were motivated partly by the thought that an alliance with the government would benefit them, and partly by old feuds with the iwi they fought against. One result of their co-operation strategy was the establishment of the four Māori seats in parliament, in 1867.
After the wars, some Māori began a strategy of passive resistance, most famously at Parihaka in Taranaki. Most, such as NgaPuhi and Arawa continued co-operating with Pākehā. For example, tourism ventures were established by Te Arawa around Rotorua. Resisting and co-operating iwi both found that Pākehā desire for land remained. In the last decades of the century, most iwi lost substantial amounts of land through the activities of the Native Land Court. This was set up to give Māori land European-style titles and to establish exactly who owned it. Due to its Eurocentric rules, the high fees, its location remote from the lands in question, and unfair practices by some Pākehā land agents, its main effect was to allow Māori to sell their land without restraint from other tribal members.
The combination of war, confiscations, disease, assimilation and intermarriage, land loss leading to poor housing and alcohol abuse, and general disillusionment, caused a fall in the Māori population from around 86,000 in 1769 to around 70,000 in 1840 and around 48,000 by 1874, hitting a low point of 42,000 in 1896. Subsequently their numbers began to recover.
While the North Island was convulsed by the Land Wars, the South Island, with its low Māori population, was generally peaceful. In 1861 gold was discovered at Gabriel’s Gully in Central Otago, sparking a gold rush.
Dunedin became the wealthiest city in the country and many in the South Island resented financing the North Island’s wars. In 1865 Parliament defeated a proposal to make the South Island independent by 17 to 31.
The South Island contained most of the Pākehā population until around 1900 when the North Island again took the lead and has supported an ever greater majority of the country’s total population through the 20th century and into the 21st.
Scottish immigrants dominated the South Island and evolved ways to bridge the old homeland and the new. Many local Caledonian societies were formed. They organized sports teams to entice the young and preserved an idealized Scottish national myth (based on Robert Burns) for the elderly. They gave Scots a path to assimilation and cultural integration as Scottish New Zealanders.
The prewar era saw the advent of party politics, with the establishment of the Liberal Government. The landed gentry and aristocracy ruled Britain at this time. New Zealand never had an aristocracy though it did have wealthy landowners who largely controlled politics before 1891.
The Liberal Party set out to change that by a policy it called “populism.” Richard Seddon had proclaimed the goal as early as 1884: “It is the rich and the poor; it is the wealthy and the landowners against the middle and labouring classes. That, Sir, shows the real political position of New Zealand.”
The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals. The First Liberal government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.
To obtain land for farmers the Liberal government from 1891 to 1911 purchased 3.1 million acres of Māori land. The government also purchased 1.3 million acres from large estate holders for subdivision and closer settlement by small farmers. The Advances to Settlers Act of 1894 provided low-interest mortgages, while the Agriculture Department disseminated information on the best farming methods.
The 1909 Native Land Act allowed the Māori to sell land to private buyers. Māori still owned five million acres by 1920; they leased three million acres and used one million acres for themselves.
The Liberals proclaimed success in forging an egalitarian, anti monopoly land policy. The policy built up support for the Liberal party in rural North Island electorates. By 1903 the Liberals were so dominant that there was no longer an organized opposition in Parliament.
New Zealand gained international attention for its reforms, especially how the state regulated labour relations.
Of special note were innovations in the areas of maximum hour regulations, minimum wage laws, and compulsory arbitration procedures.
The goal was to encourage unions though discourage strikes and class conflict. The impact was especially strong on the reform movement in the United States.
Coleman argues that the Liberals in 1891 lacked a clear-cut ideology to guide them. Instead they approached the nation’s problems pragmatically, keeping in mind the constraints imposed by democratic public opinion. To deal with the issue of land distribution, they worked out innovative solutions to access, tenure, and a graduated tax on unimproved values.
Major changes occurred during this decade. The economy grew from one based on wool and local trade to the export of wool, cheese, butter and frozen beef and mutton to Britain, a change enabled by the invention of refrigerated steamships in 1882.
Refrigerated shipping remained the basis of New Zealand’s economy until the 1970s. New Zealand’s highly productive agriculture gave it probably the world’s highest standard of living, with fewer at the rich and poor ends of the scale.
In the 1880–1914 era the banking system was weak and there was little foreign investment, so businessmen had to build up their own capital. Historians have debated whether the “long depression” of the late 19th century stifled investment, though the New Zealanders found a way around adverse conditions.
Hunter has studied the experiences of 133 entrepreneurs who started commercial enterprises between 1880 and 1910. The successful strategy was to deploy capital economizing techniques, and reinvesting profits rather than borrowing. The result was slow but stable growth that avoided bubbles and led to long-lived family owned firms.
Dominion & Realm
New Zealand initially expressed interest in joining the proposed Federation of the Australian colonies, attending the 1891 National Australia Convention in Sydney. Interest in the proposed Australian Federation faded and New Zealand decided against joining the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, and instead changed from being a colony to a separate “dominion” in 1907, equal in status to Australia and Canada.
The independence of New Zealand is a matter of continued academic and social debate. New Zealand has no fixed date of independence, instead independence came about as a result of New Zealand’s evolving constitutional status. New Zealand evolved as one of the British Dominions, colonies within the British Empire which gradually established progressively greater degrees of self-rule.
They were always anomalous in international terms, and the attempt to define a “date of independence” in the sense that one can be given for most ex-colonies is not really meaningful. However, a consideration of possible dates can help understanding of the processes of change.
On 28 October 1835, the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand was signed by the United Tribes of New Zealand, a loose confederation of Māori tribes from the far north of New Zealand organised by British resident James Busby. This document recognised Māori independence, and most academics agree this declaration was abrogated five years later by the Treaty of Waitangi, which ceded the independence (recognised by King William IV of the United Kingdom) of Māori to the British Crown.
First World War
The country remained an enthusiastic member of the British Empire, and 110,000 men fought in World War I, 16,688 died.
Conscription had been in force since 1909, and while it was opposed in peacetime there was less opposition during the war. The labour movement was pacifistic, opposed the war, and alleged that the rich were benefitting at the expense of the workers.
It formed the Labour Party in 1916. Māori tribes that had been close to the government sent their young men to volunteer. Unlike in Britain, relatively few women became involved. Women did serve as nurses; 640 joined the services and 500 went overseas.[
New Zealand forces captured Western Samoa from Germany in the early stages of the war, and New Zealand administered the country until Samoan Independence in 1962.
However Samoans greatly resented the imperialism, and blamed inflation and the catastrophic 1918 flu epidemic on New Zealand rule.
The heroism of the soldiers in the failed Gallipoli campaign made their sacrifices iconic in New Zealand memory, and secured the psychological independence of the nation.
After the war New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles (1919) joined the League of Nations and pursued an independent foreign policy, while its defense was still controlled by Britain.
New Zealand depended on Britain’s Royal Navy for its military security during the 1920s and 1930s. Officials in Wellington trusted Conservative Party governments in London, though not Labour. When the British Labour Party took power in 1924 and 1929, the New Zealand government felt threatened by Labour’s foreign policy because of its reliance upon the League of Nations.
The League was distrusted and Wellington did not expect to see the coming of a peaceful world order under League auspices. What had been the Empire’s most loyal dominion became a dissenter as it opposed efforts the first and second British Labour governments to trust the League’s framework of arbitration and collective security agreements.
The governments of the Reform and United parties between 1912 and 1935 followed a “realistic” foreign policy. They made national security a high priority, were skeptical of international institutions, and showed no interest on the questions of self-determination, democracy, and human rights. However the opposition Labour Party was more idealistic and proposed a liberal internationalist outlook on international affairs.
The Labour Party emerged as a force in 1919 with a Socialist platform. It won about 25% of the vote. However its appeals to working class solidarity were not effective because a large fraction of the working class voted for conservative candidates of the Liberal and Reform parties. (They merged in 1936 to form the National Party.)
As a consequence the Labour party was able to jettison its support for socialism in 1927 (a policy made official in 1951), as it expanded its reach into middle class constituencies. The result was a jump in strength to 35% in 1931, 47% in 1935, and peaking at 56% in 1938.
From 1935 the First Labour Government showed a limited degree of idealism in foreign policy, for example opposing the appeasement of Germany and Japan.
Like most other countries, New Zealand was hard hit by the Great Depression of the 1930s, which affected the country via its international trade, with farming export drops then going on to affect the money supply and in turn consumption, investment and imports.
The country was most affected around 1930-1932, when average farm incomes for a short time dipped below zero, and the unemployment rates peaked. Though actual unemployment numbers were not officially counted, the country was affected especially strongly in the North Island.
Unlike later years, there were no public benefit payments — the unemployed were given ‘relief work’, much of which was however not very productive, partly because the size of the problem was unprecedented.
Women also increasingly registered as unemployed, while Māori received government help through other channels such as the land development schemes organised by Apirana Ngata.
In 1933, 8.5% of the unemployed were organised in work camps, while the rest received work close to their homes. Typical occupations in relief work were road work (undertaken by 45% of all part-time and 19% of all full-time relief workers in 1934, with park improvement works (17%) and farm work (31%) being the other two most common types of work for part-time and full-time relief workers respectively).
Labour Government 1935
Attempts by the conservative Liberal-Reform coalition to deal with the situation with spending cuts and relief work were ineffective and unpopular. In 1935, the First Labour Government was elected, and the post-depression decade showed that average Labour support in New Zealand had roughly doubled comparable to pre-depression times.
By 1935 economic conditions had improved somewhat, and the new government had more positive financial conditions. Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage proclaimed that: “Social Justice must be the guiding principle and economic organization must adapt itself to social needs.”
The new government quickly set about implementing a number of significant reforms, including a reorganisation of the social welfare system and the creation of the state housing scheme.
Labour also gained Māori votes by working closely with the Rātana movement. Savage was idolized by the working classes, and his portrait hung on the walls of many houses around the country.
The newly created welfare state promised government support to individuals “from the cradle to the grave”, according to the Labour slogan.
It included free health care and education, and state assistance for the elderly, infirm, and unemployed.
The opposition attacked the Labour Party’s more left-wing policies, and accused it of undermining free enterprise and hard work.
The Reform Party and the United Party merged to become the National Party, and would be Labour’s main rival in future years.
However the welfare state system was retained and expanded by successive National and Labour governments until the 1980s.
Second World War
When World War II broke out in 1939, New Zealanders saw their proper role as defending their proud place in the British Empire, it contributed some 120,000 troops.
They mostly fought in North Africa, Greece/Crete, and Italy, relying on the Royal Navy and later the United States to protect New Zealand from the Japanese forces.
Japan had no interest in New Zealand in the first place; it had already overreached when it invaded New Guinea in 1942. (There were a few highly publicized but ineffective Japanese scouting incursions.)
The 3rd New Zealand Division fought in the Solomons in 1943-44, though New Zealand’s limited manpower meant 2 Divisions could not be maintained, and it was disbanded and its men returned to civilian life or used to reinforce the 2nd Division in Italy.
The armed forces peaked at 157,000 in September 1942; 135,000 served abroad, and 10,100 died.
Cooperation with the United States set a direction of policy which resulted in the ANZUS Treaty between New Zealand, America and Australia in 1951, as well as participation in the Korean War.
Fedorowich and Bridge argue that the demands of War produced long-term consequences for New Zealand’s relationship with the government in London. The key component was the office of the high commissioner. By 1950 it was the main line of communications between the British and New Zealand governments.
New Zealand, with a population of 1.7 million, including 99,000 Māori, was highly mobilized during the war. The Labour party was in power and promoted unionization and the welfare state. Agriculture expanded, sending record supplies of meat, butter and wool to Britain. When American forces arrived, they were fed as well.
The nation spent £574 million on the war, of which 43% came from taxes, 41% from loans and 16% from American Lend Lease. It was an era of prosperity as the national income soared from £158 million in 1937 to £292 million in 1944. Rationing and price controls kept inflation to only 14% during 1939-45.
Montgomerie shows that the war dramatically increased the roles of women, especially married women, in the labour force. Most of them took traditional female jobs. Some replaced men but the changes here were temporary and reversed in 1945. After the war, women left traditional male occupations and many women gave up paid employment to return home. There was no radical change in gender roles though the war intensified occupational trends under way since the 1920s.
Post-war New Zealand
Mainstream New Zealand culture was deeply British and conservative, with the concept of “fairness” holding a central role.
From the 1890s, the economy had been based almost entirely on the export of frozen meat and dairy products to Britain, and in 1961, the share of New Zealand exports going to the United Kingdom was still at slightly over 51%, with approximately 15% more going to other European countries.
This system was irreparably damaged by Britain joining the European Economic Community in 1973, at a time of global economic upheaval regarding energy prices. Britain’s accession to the European Community forced New Zealand to not only find new markets, but also re-examine its national identity and place in the world.
Most New Zealanders are of British and Irish ancestry, with smaller percentages of other European ancestries such as French, Dutch, Scandinavian and German.
In the 2006 census, 67.6 percent identified ethnically as European and 14.6 percent as Māori. Other major ethnic groups include Asian (9.2 percent) and Pacific peoples (6.9 percent), while 11.1 percent identified themselves simply as a “New Zealander” (or similar) and 1 percent identified with other ethnicities.
English is the predominant language in New Zealand, spoken by 98 percent of the population, Māori was declared an official language in 1987, and is spoken by 4.1 percent of the population.
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’s prerogative 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 the Royal 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.
The New Zealand public are generally in favour of the retention of the monarchy, with polls showing it to have between 50 and 70% support.
Polls indicate that many New Zealanders see the monarchy as being of little day-to-day relevance; a One News Colmar Brunton poll in 2002 found that 58% of the population believed the monarchy has little or no relevance to their lives.
National Business Review poll in 2004 found 57% of respondents believed New Zealand would become a republic “in the future”.
However, the institution still enjoys the support of New Zealanders, particularly those born before World War II. Some show a majority of younger New Zealanders support a republic.
The flag of New Zealand
The flag of New Zealand is a defaced Blue Ensign with the Union Flag in the canton, and four red stars with white borders to the right. The stars pattern represent the asterism within the constellation of Crux, the Southern Cross.
New Zealand’s first flag, the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, was adopted in 1834, six years before New Zealand became a British colony following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Chosen by an assembly of Māori chiefs at Waitangi in 1834, the flag was of a St George’s Cross with another cross in the canton containing four stars on a blue field. After the formation of the colony in 1840, British ensigns began to be used.
The current flag was designed and adopted for use on Colonial ships in 1869 following an Imperial statute and became New Zealand’s national flag in 1902.
New Zealand has a history of debate about whether the national flag should be changed. For several decades, alternative designs have been proposed with varying degrees of support. There is no consensus among proponents of changing the flag as to which design should replace the flag.
Unlike in Australia, the flag debate in New Zealand is independent of any debate on a republic.
A two-stage binding referendum on a flag change is planned to take place in 2015 and 2016, with alternative flag options to be determined.
There is little appetite for change, with most New Zealanders opposed to changing the current flag.