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Initial Settlement

The ancient Maori people were the first to inhabit New Zealand, or Aotearoa, meaning
the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud'. According to Maori legend, the first explorer and
Polynesian to reach New Zealand was named Kupe. He ventured across the Pacific on his
voyaging canoe from his ancestral homeland of Southern Polynesia. Kupe supposedly made
landfall at the Hokianga Harbor in Northland, around 1000 years ago though this date is highly
contested (Early Settlement, 2015). The islands of the Pacific, including New Zealand, were
among the last places to be reached by the first human settlers (Te Ara Encyclopedia, 2015).
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Their population reached 100,000
before European settlers were first aware of the islands (Te Ara Encyclopedia, 2015). The Maori
were expert hunters and fishermen, they wove fishing nets and carved fishhooks from bone and
stone (Early Settlement, 2015).The early settlers lived in small hunting groups. Seals and the
largest bird, the flightless moa were their main prey, until moa were hunted to extinction. In the
South Island, hunting and gathering remained the main mode of survival (Te Ara Encyclopedia,
2015). Maori cultivated land and grew vegetables introduced from Polynesia while also eating
native vegetables such as roots and berries (Early Settlement, 2015).
On January 22nd, 1840 the first European settlers to arrive in Wellington came on The
New Zealand Company's first settler ship, the Aurora. In typical fashion with the New Zealand
Company, there was a major difference between theory and reality. The theory was the original
land purchased could be lived on and prospered in, settlers would want to invest in the land and
further it. In reality, the original land proved unlivable because the flood waters from the swollen
Hutt River wiped out the makeshift town during flood season and would continue to do so. The
original surveyor from the New Zealand Company, Samuel Cobham, and his design had been
developed primarily to encourage investment. Neither he nor any of the Company’s primary
shareholder’s had ever been to New Zealand prior to this trip. The geography that the settlers had
to work with was very different to that imagined in Britain when the original plans were prepared
(First European settlers, 2015).
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, New Zealand was seen by Europeans as the most
remote country on earth. Fifty years after first being discovered by Europeans, still fewer than
200 Western travelers had ended up settling there, in strong contrast to the 100,000 Māori. For
most Europeans, the country was a strange and lonely land reached after 100 days on dangerous
seas. Many of New Zealand’s early immigrants were convicts that were first forced to spent time
in Australia, and then temporarily visit in search of items to trade (Te Ara Encyclopedia, 2015).
In the book Germs, Guns, & Steel by Jared Diamond, he argues that Eurasian civilization
is not so much a product of ingenuity, but of opportunity and necessity. The Maori people who
settled in New Zealand saw it as a place to live, fish, hunt, and gather. The Europeans who came
later saw it as an opportunity to buy up land after it was discovered to be so green and lush with
unique animals like seals and moa. Europeans would not have come across New Zealand for a
much longer time if Europe’s convicts were not being sent to nearby Australia. All of the settlers

took advantage of the great weather and fertile landscape which ultimately led to it being such a
prosperous country.

Works Cited

Early settlement - The arrival of Maori | New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved
February 2, 2015, from http://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/earlysettlement/

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2015,
from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/when-was-new-zealand-first-settled

First European settlers arrive in Wellington. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2,
2015, from http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/wellington-anniversary-day