The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were the crew of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who arrived in his ships Heemskerck andZeehaen. Tasman anchored at the northern end of the South Island in Golden 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.

abel tasman

abel tasman

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. 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.

Pre-European Māori had no distance weapons except for tao 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. Around this time, many Māori converted to Christianity.

heemskerck and zeehaen

heemskerck and zeehaen

The Mission House at Kerikeri is New Zealand’s oldest surviving building, having been completed in 1822

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.