New Zealand can claim to lead the world as a remarkable democratic country. 

February 22, 2007
New Zealand can claim to lead the world as a remarkable democratic country.

In 1893 New Zealand was the first nation in the world to give women the vote. Maori men had the vote from 1867. Senior citizens got a pension in 1898.

New Zealand was also the first sovereign state to introduce free public health services, minimum wage and independent industrial arbitration between employee and employers.

These democratic milestones are driven by New Zealand's achievement of limited self-government from Britain in the 1850's and effectively full Self-government by the late 19th century.

New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and a fully independent nation in 1931.

After sighting the north-west coast of the South Island Dutch explorer Abel Janzoon Tasman lost four crew members to Maori warriors at Golden Bay in 1642 as he rolled his easting down after calling on Tasmania via its west coast with his caravels the Heemskerck and Zeehaen.

He is thought to be the first European to see Aotearoa (usually translated as Land of the Long White Cloud). But this beautiful corner of the Polynesian Triangle has a formidable warrior heritage and this may be a reason, along with its oceanic isolation, why the next European did not call until 1769 a 127 years later.

Auckland City  GoSeeNZ pic
Auckland City GoSeeNZ pic

This time it was the peerless British navigator James Cook and his 368 ton, 105ft bark Endeavour. Cook landed on the east coast of the North Island on the first of three visits in a series of voyages. He called the archipelago New Zealand and demonstrated his genius as he precisely charted the three main islands.

New Zealand is young in terms of human settlement. The first New Zealanders were Eastern Polynesians voyagers sailing in the triangle in which Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island are the markers. It is thought they came in several migrations between 800 and 1300AD. They found a virgin Eden ripe with animals, fish, rich soil, plants and water.

But as large land animals like the moa were hunted to extinction and hapu (sub tribes) competed for reduced resources conflict forged a new culture, the Maori. About 1500 AD one hapu sub tribe migrated to the Chatham Islands and became the distinctive Moriori who shunned war and developed a peaceful culture.

As too often happens with pacifism in history their culture was all but wiped out by invading Maori in 1835.

A geyser blast off at  Rotorua GoSeeNZ pic
A geyser blast off at Rotorua GoSeeNZ pic

But despite strong belief that the invading Maori wiped out the Moriori several thousand mixed ancestry Moriori are alive today.

Cook in his brilliant, driven, meticulous way mapped and explored New Zealand. European and North American whalers and sealers followed in his wake trading with the Maori. They brought the wonder of metal tools, potatoes and the musket. They also brought unrest, disease, war and death.

The musket decimated some tribes in the 1800's, mostly in the New Zealand's North Island. Then musket trading brought an armed balance among tribes and the Musket Wars reached a stalemate. But tribal boundaries were shifted dramatically and they became fixed when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in the Bay of Islands on Feb. 6, 1840.

Since 1880, and more recently since 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established to address outstanding issues and claims under the Treaty. Waitangi is one of New Zealand's most historic sites and the anniversary of the Treaty, Waitangi Day (6 February), is a national holiday.

A Te Puia wood carving student  GoSeeNZ pic
A Te Puia wood carving student GoSeeNZ pic

Traditional Maori religion enshrines belief in Gods and Goddesses. Among them are land, sea and fish, trees, peace, agriculture and war.

In the early 19th century missionaries, mostly British, began their work which led to most of the Maori embracing Christianity. Pressure on the British Government from missionaries concerned at the lawless behaviour of European visitors and settlers brought William Hobson to New Zealand under Royal Command.

He claimed sovereignty for Britain and negotiated the Treaty of Waitangi.

This guarantee of Maori rights continues and is New Zealand's foundation as a nation. European settlers, the Pakeha, streamed in after 1840. Pressures over land ownership guaranteed to the Maori iwi (tribes) under the treaty built and exploded in the New Zealand Land Wars from 1845 to 1872. In the first three conflicts Maori fought thePakeha to a standstill.

Big snow Rakaia River  Holiday Park
Big snow Rakaia River Holiday Park

But by 1859 the Pakeha equaled the number of Maori. Pakeha tried military force to drive an illegal land sale through. Again in battle the Maori more than held their own. But the settlers would not allow Maori control of most of the North Island.

This led to the Waikato war in 1863. This included the Tauranga Campaign, biggest of the New Zealand Wars. The result was the major confiscation of Maori lands. The last two conflicts in the North Island were Te Kooti's War and Titokowaru's War. After years of conflict and running battles as a guerilla leader

Te Kooti was granted asylum in 1872 by the Maori King Tawhiao. Pakeha and Maori have no fought since.

Despite declaring a year of peace and reconciliation Titokowaru, chief of the Ngati Ruanui hapu a sub-tribe of several whanua (extended families) found Government confiscation of tribal land in the Taranaki Region of the North Island threatened the tribes survival. In June 1868 Ngati Ruani warriors killed three settlers who had moved onto the confiscated Maori land. Forced into war Titokowaru took up a defensive position in his formidable Pa (fortress).

At the Battle of Te Ngutu of Te Manu, despite overwhelming odds, he and his small group of about 80 warriors routed their Colonist attackers inflicting a shattering defeat and the flight of the Colonial Government forces.

Buried Village  The carving is original  GoSeeNZ pic
Buried Village The carving is original GoSeeNZ pic

Titokowaru's abilities as a general had been serious underestimated by McDonnell the government commander. Titokowaru's success brought Maori support and at Moturoa with 200 warriors he did it again as he out-generalled McDonnell's replacement as the commander of the Government forces Colonel Whitmore.

Using clever placement of his warriors and a fortress Pa disguised as half built Titokowaru's force repeated Te Ngutu of Te Manu. With news of a raid by Te Kooti on Poverty Bay current at the same time the New Zealand Government appealed to London for troops. London refused. Aggressive Colonial confiscation of

Maori lands had caused the problem and there was a feeling in London that left the solution up to those who had caused it.

Strangely the last war ended without a battle. While the Government forces succeeded in suppressing the threat from Te Kooti at Ngatapa, Tokowaru built a very strong Pa at Tauranga-Ika, about 30km from Wanganui in early 1869.

On Feb 3, 1869 the Government forces, who were poised for a desperate battle, found Titokowaru Pa abandoned. He left, for no explainable reason, with his warriors during the night. Titokowaru retreated to a safe area where the government, in what some see as their best military decision, left him alone.

Dinner is served aboard our NZ motorhome  GoSeeNZ pic
Dinner is served aboard our NZ motorhome GoSeeNZ pic

Between 1840 and 1900 English and Scots emigrants were the majority of European settlers in New Zealand, with a number of Irish and some Welsh.

There was also strong immigration by the Dutch from Holland. European countries are well represented in New Zealand. Many refugees left Europe after the Second World War to settle. Conflicts also brought immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.

At about 15 per cent, more than 500,000, of the total population of about 4 million Maori are New Zealand's biggest minority.

Polynesian immigration from South Pacific Islands such as Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands is significant; Auckland has the world's biggest Polynesian population.

In recent years, Asian immigration has increased, mainly from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. Indians, both from Gujarat in India itself and from the big Indian population in Fiji, have also imigrated to New Zealand.

Heritage Maori carving  GoSeeNZ pic
Heritage Maori carving GoSeeNZ pic

New Zealand like its neighbour Australia, about 2000km away across the Tasman Sea, share the ANZAC tradition.

In the Boer War and World War One and Two and the Suez Crisis New Zealand stood beside Britain. New Zealand has also fought in the Second Boer War, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency and committed troops, fighters and bombers to the subsequent confrontation with Indonesia), the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the Afghanistan War, and sent a unit of army engineers to help rebuild Iraqi infrastructure for one year during the Iraq War.

New Zealand has contributed forces to recent regional and global peacekeeping missions, including those in Cyprus, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sinai, Angola, Cambodia, the Iran/Iraq border, Bougainville and East Timor.

The Great Depression of the 1930's produced New Zealand's first Labour Government. After the Second World War New Zealand found new wealth a resurgence in Maori culture and a re-inforced status for the Treat of Waitangi.

But by the 1970's European Economic Community ties cost New Zealand dearly coupled to high inflation. A fourth labour Government came to power and from 1984 to 1990. It abolished protectionism and enabled the Waitangi Tribunal to look at old grievances.

Laid back Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Laid back Courtesy Latitude Nelson

Again New Zealand leads the world in its leaders. Its highest offices have all been held at the same time by women. Queen Elizabeth 11 is Queen of New Zealand, the Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives Margaret Wilson and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias all held office between March 2005 and August 2006.

For a century New Zealand followed the United Kingdom's lead. But since 1945 the influence of the United States has grown to replace the UK in foreign policy.

New Zealand's provinces were abolished in 1876.

Now its regions are - Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Chatham Islands.

New Zealand comprises two main islands (called the North and South Islands in English, Te-Ika-a-Maui and Te Wai Pounamu in Maori) and a number of smaller islands.

Mapua Estuary  Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Mapua Estuary Courtesy Latitude Nelson

The total land area at 268,680 square kilometres (103,738 sq miles) is a little bigger than the United Kingdom It is 1600 kilometres (1000 miles) along its main, north-north-east axis, with about 15,134 km of coastline.

The most significant of the smaller inhabited islands include Stewart Island/Rakiura; Waiheke Island, in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf; Great Barrier Island, east of the Hauraki Gulf; and the Chatham Islands, named Rekohu by Moriori.

The country has extensive marine resources, with the seventh-largest Exclusive

Economic Zone in the world, covering over four million square kilometres (1.5 million sq mi), more than 15 times its land area.

The South Island is the largest land mass, and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Aoraki/Mount Cook at 3754 metres (12,316 ft). There are 18 peaks over 3000 metres (9800 ft) in the South Island.

Market time  Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Market time Courtesy Latitude Nelson

The North Island is less mountainous than the South, but is marked by volcanism. The tallest North Island mountain, Mount Ruapehu (2797 m / 9176 ft), is an active cone volcano.

New Zealand's climate is mild, mostly cool temperate to warm temperate, with temperatures rarely falling below 0C (32F) or rising above 30C (86F).

Conditions vary from wet and cold on the West Coast of the South Island to dry and continental in the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury and almost subtropical in Northland.

Of the main cities, Christchurch is the driest, receiving only about 640 mm (25 in) of rain per year. Auckland, the wettest, receives almost twice that amount.

GoSeeNewZealand acknowledges with thanks the assistance with researching this feature which has come from many sources both online and in print.

Wikipedia and its resource are among these. Authors Percival Serle, J.W. Forsyth, James Belich, Judith Binney, J. Cowan and P.D. Hasselberg Peter Maxwell, Tony Simpson Keith Sinclair, Richard Stowers Dom Felici Vaggioli, The people of many peaks: The Maori biographies. (1990). From The dictionary of New Zealand biographies, Vol. 1, 1769-1869. Bridget Williams Books and Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand. the State Library of NSW, Captain Cook Society, National Library of Australia, Cook's Voyages of Discovery, State Library of NSW. Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, New Zealand Government Portal, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding New Zealand, New Zealand weather, NZHistory.net.nz New Zealand history website, Statistics New Zealand - Official statistics. Tourism New Zealand. Australian War Memorial.

Nice fish Jo Kidd  Rakaia River Holiday Park
Nice fish Jo Kidd Rakaia River Holiday Park
Bound  for Auckland  Courtesy iStock
Bound for Auckland Courtesy iStock
Walkers are draw to fantastic ferns  Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Walkers are draw to fantastic ferns Courtesy Latitude Nelson
NZ country charm  Courtesy Latitude Nelson
NZ country charm Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Paddling partners  Awaroa  Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Paddling partners Awaroa Courtesy Latitude Nelson
Te Puia war canoe  GoSeeNZ pic
Te Puia war canoe GoSeeNZ pic
Waiwera - a perfectly secluded and beautiful beach
Waiwera - a perfectly secluded and beautiful beach