Exploration & Settlement


The early voyages of discovery.

by Anthony G. Flude. © 2001.

Polynesian explorers are known to have made the long sea voyage from the Marquesas islands to the Hawaiian islands, some 5000 kilometres to the northwest, in the year 400 A.D. Far away into the southwest, lay the two islands of New Zealand, empty and isolated, occupied only by birds and coastal mammals and as yet, unsettled and un-peopled.
Hawaii lies within the zone of the trade winds, which blow steadily for six months of the year in the southern pacific ocean, beyond which lies the Tasman Sea, with its unpredictable weather and storms.

It is difficult to get a balance of the historical events as far back as these early times in New Zealand, since there is no documentary evidence. Some Maori  lay claim that their people are the 'indigenous' people of New Zealand, yet there is now sufficient scientific carbon dating evidence, to show that there were other human races here, on these islands,  many years before their arrival.
Other explorers of the Pacific Ocean, of Melanesian background from the Society or Marquesas Islands, had, many years before, been swept into the Australian currents and stormy Tasman Seas where after weeks they had been finally been cast ashore onto the Taranaki coast some time before AD 750.polynesian catamaran These people had the name Mai-oriori, often shortened to Moriori and were referred to as the "tangata-whenua," in Maori legend, suggesting that these people were here before the arrival of The Fleet.
The Moriori people were known to be the inhabitants of the coastal lands north of Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty and none had settled the South Island. They were peaceful tribes and their menfolk unskilled as fighting warriors.

Under the command of the Maori explorer Kupe, a well provisioned  polynesian catamaran, (foulua) from the Cook Islands or Uvea,  made landfall on the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand, around AD 950,  nearly a thousand years ago.
The women aboard this giant catarmaran brought with them plants to sow in their new found land. New seedlings of coconuts, gourd, taro, yam, and sweet potatoes had been carefully stored aboard away from the salt sea air. The temperate New Zealand climate did not support the first two, but they found that the clams and sweet potatoes flourished well in the rich soil in the northern summer climate.
Exploration revealed numerous land and sea birds, including a very large flightless bird, twice as high as man. Fish were plentiful in the seas around the coast, there were seals and sometimes whales, as well as high mountains with white fluffy tops (snow), lakes into which flowed rivers, all which they had never seen in their lives before .

These new settlers had to make major changes to their lives. The cool open sided dwellings of their tropical  islands had to be replaced with more substantial dwellings with walls and roof to keep out the cold winds and rain. Their bark cloth garments were not warm or weatherproof and became quickly replaced with hand-woven flax fibre.
As their numbers increased over the next thirty years with the arrival of two more fleets of canoes, they began to explore further afield. The third fleet of Maori, brought to New Zealand by Kupe, carried a warlike band of fierce fighting warriors. These new arrivals brought cannibalism to New Zealand and the Moriori, easily beaten in warfare by the Maori as they advanced southwards, were slaughtered, enslaved or eaten.
Those Moriori who survived these attacks, fled to the South Island of New Zealand where they were finally pushed down into Southland and the Chatham Islands. Their ancestors survive there today.
Tattoo'd Maori warrior

The Maori began to settle other parts of New Zealand, building their fortified pa's on strategic high ground overlooking wide tracts of land and ocean, so they could gain early warning of attack. Separate tribal groups began to be formed under their own chiefs and feuding and war began between the tribes seeking to extend their lands and assets.
Estimates place the Maori population to have reached some 100,000 several generations later, occupying the coasts and shores, inland to the rivers and lakes, but more sparsely in the forest and thickly covered bush areas.
The main food protein sources for the settlers was the giant bird called Moa (manu-nui) big bird, which had inhabited New Zealand for many hundreds of years, together with the seals and fish. Gradually the supply of meat from the Moa began to be depleted as it was hunted mercilessly for its feathers and meat as a food source. The seal rookeries gradually depleted also, leaving the Maori with nothing but fish from the sea, corn, kumera and vegetables from the bush as their main food. Fires had destroyed many of the areas of forests in the South Island.

The arrival of the first Europeans were to bring about dramatic changes to their environment. Stone impliments, greenstone  adze and similar tools became quickly cast aside when the advantages of metal, steel and iron, became known to them.

Abel Tasman
The Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, 'found' New Zealand on the 13th December, 1642.  Sailing aboard the war-yacht Zeehaven accompanied by the Dutch flute Heemskerck he wrote:
 "Towards noon we saw a large, high lying land bearing southeastward to us at about 20 leagues distance; (the Hokitika area) we saw no human beings; no smoke; nor can the people here have any boats, since we did not see any sign of them."
Sailing on to Golden Bay, Tasman saw smoke from fires along the coast lit by the maori. He anchored in the bay and in the evening two canoes came out to the ship. They made no attempt to come aboard. Early next morning another canoe came out with thirteen people aboard. They were double canoes, two prows side by side. Eleven more canoes followed, completely surrounding his ship. Suddenly and without warning there was trouble.

 Tasman sent a small boat out to greet the local canoes. One of the maori canoes deliberately rammed the boat and swung alongside, when three of his crew members were cut down by the maori and killed, another mortally wounded. Seeing the cannon aboard Zeehaven being run out through the portals, the Maori canoes made for the shore, while the guns hit and killed the Maori warriors in the rear canoe. Tasman now considered the Maori as hostile and his enemy and set sail northwards towards the Three Kings Islands to replenish his fresh water supplies.
Heavy seas were running in the area and he could not get ashore through the surf with the boats and casks. He decided to weigh anchor and set sail from New Zealand February, 1643. His journal and charts of the southern oceans made a note to warn all mariners to regard the natives of this land as 'hostile'.

James Cook It was nearly a hundred years until the first expedition led by Captain James Cook, aboard the Endeavour arrived off the east coast at Poverty Bay on the 6th October, 1769. He spent almost six months around the coast and landed many times seeking supplies and therefore made close contact with the many Maori tribes living there. He was forced to resort to arms on one occasion, but the incident settled down and most of the trading was done on a friendly basis.
He sailed northwards and remained in the area which he called the Bay of Island's, from November to December, 1769, the first European to enter the area and record details of life. He noted in his journal: "The inhabitants of this bay were far more numerous than at any other place visited and that they seemed to live on friendly terms although they did not seem to be united under one head."
Cook anchored his ship in a sandy bay near Motuarohia Island when over thirty-seven canoes came out to them. The Maori traded with the ships crew and officers in an amicable way, he recorded. Cook dispatched a party to go ashore from the Endeavour when, after landing, they were surrounded by about five hundred armed warriors. They became more alarmed when they began a war dance and were seen to draw the ships long boats from the waters edge further up the beach.
The ships crew were ordered to fire their muskets over the heads of the gathered crowd. The startled Maori warriors and people turned and ran away quickly, leaving the European crew standing alone on the shore.
Maori war canoe Cook decided to make another attempt to land next day. He put ashore near a large fortified village or 'pa', which he called an ''Indian fort." He and his crew, including the botanist aboard, Joseph Banks, were greeted by the occupant's and offered fish for sale or barter, yams and sweet potatoes. While there, they witnessed and recorded the arrival of a giant war canoe, which contained over eighty armed maori warriors.
The Endeavour left the Bay of Islands, but became be-calmed near the Cavalli Islands and managed to gain enough wind to anchor in Doubtless Bay, which has a very deep water anchorage. Six canoes came alongside with the maori occupants offering fish for sale.
Finally, a strong breeze came up and Cook weighed anchor, setting sail northeast from the coast of New Zealand, heading into the Pacific Ocean and beyond.

The French explorer, Jean de Surville, sailed from Calcutta, India, aboard the St. Jean Baptiste in 1769. He arrived at the Hokianga where he noted that the area  "seemed to be thickly  populated with natives." He continued to sail down the coast to Doubtless Bay, just three days after the departure of Captain Cook's Endeavour. The French were totally unaware of Cook's visit, the captain recording in his journal that "nobody before us has ever set foot on this land."
He wrote that they found the Maori people to be friendly at first and willing to trade supplies of fish and sweet potatoes and he and his crew were received in a friendly way by the chief onto the pa. The next day they were in for a surprise. Large numbers of armed Maori warriors were gathered in groups and they were no longer acting in a hospitable way.

An incident that provoked trouble occurred the following day after an overnight storm had set one of the ship's dinghy adrift and cast it undamaged into a small sandy bay.  The crew set off to recover it, but on arrival it had disappeared. Convinced it had been stolen by the local Maori, de Surville burned down some nearby huts and captured a young chief named Ranginui and took him aboard the St. Jean Baptiste as a prisoner. He immediately weighed anchor and put on all sail out of Doubtless Bay.
De Surville's journal of the voyage, records that Ranginui refused both food and water and died three months later, while the ship was making way to South America.

It was some three years later that the French were to mount another expedition of discovery to New Zealand under the command of Marion du Fresne. The ships Mascarin and Castries arrived off the coast on the 25th March, 1772. They saw a tall snow capped mountain which du Fresne decided to name  after his ship Mascarin Peak, totally unaware that Captain Cook had sailed past some three years before and named it Mount Egmont.
They sailed northwards towards the Three King's Islands but encountered heavy storms and could not make a landing. Finally contact was made with the local Maori who seemed at first to be alarmed but then found their visitors friendly.
An officer, Roux, was placed in charge of a search party ashore and received a warm welcome from the old chief who exchanged fish for trinkets and a coloured hankerchief. Both ships set sail for the Bay of Islands seeking fresh water. The water on Three Kings had been brackish and undrinkable.
Another search was made ashore, Roux reporting that there were many fires from villages to the west, indicating that they were heavily populated and could have contained more than a thousand small huts. Next day several canoes approached the two vessels offering fish and kumera to trade. Du Fresne was anxious to get a camp set up ashore to find suitable timber for two masts for the Castries. His party were shown some fine kauri trees and the crew set to work to fell these. Four small huts were set up as a base camp. Several maori were seen slipping into one of their tents one night. When fired upon by the crew members, they fled, when it was found they had taken a musket, some greatcoats and a small anchor. Two maori, one a chief, were later taken as hostages by Roux's party ashore.

Du Fresne, hearing of the incident and needing the masts that they had cut for his ships, went ashore with a party of men to speak to the old chief. He ordered the two maori hostages to be released. It was too late. A large party of armed Maori warriors attacked and struck him and his men down as they stood on the shore. Despite the death of du Fresne, the ships were permitted to remain for another month to complete the remasting of the Castries. The Europeans had obtained food and timber for their masts, the Maori, in exchange,  had iron nails and hoops to fashion tools and weapons and cloth to keep out the winter cold.

Many Maori were now beginning to sign on as crew members of the small number of ships plying between Sydney and the coast of New Zealand during the whaling season each year. Maori chief Te Pahi
Hearing that the maori were received in a hospitable way in Sydney and also on Norfolk island where the inmates had been taught the art of maori weaving, the great chief Te Pahi, from the Bay of Islands, decided to make a visit there aboard the Buffalo in the year 1805, where he was made welcome by Lt. Governor King.
Returning to New Zealand, with a house in frames aboard, they made a landing on the very small island of Te Puna, near Turtle island, Te Pahi's stronghold, where the house was erected. Te Pahi considered this a safe place for a European residence in the event of a visit of any missionary or dignitary arriving from Sydney.
Rev.Samuel Marsden
On the 1st of September, 1810 came the first news of the massacre of the captain and crew of the Boyd in the Bay of Islands. Samuel Marsden wrote an account in the Sydney Gazette. [The entire story of this tragic event can be read in a separate article on these pages called "The Boyd Massacre."]
Te Pahi was shot in the neck during an attack by whalers on his pa, out for revenge after this incident and he was subsequently pursued by members of the tribe responsible for the massacre and slaughtered.
The Rev. Samuel Marsden was determined to go to New Zealand, where he wished to establish peace and to set up a missionary post. Sailing aboard the Brig Active, Marsden reached Te Puna on the 19 December, 1814.
The chief Ruatara, who accompanied him from Sydney, went ashore to talk about the visit with the local maori. Finally convinced that the visit was a friendly one and that all parties would be treated with dignity, Marsden was greeted by the chiefs and allowed to establish himself ashore among the maori living there where he soon gained their respect.
By Christmas day, 1814, a missionary post had been established and Marsden came ashore to preach the gospel for the first time in New Zealand. The maori chiefs stood quietly dressed in British military uniforms provided by the Governor of New South Wales while he conducted his first Christian service on these shores.

First settlement
Established at Rangihoua, the sketch shows the fortified Maori Pa on the side
of the hill to the left; the European settlement and farm are on the right.

There was still much to be done in subsequent visits by Marsden to the Bay of Islands and in later years by the Reverend Henry Williams and James Busby, the first British resident in New Zealand, who were to establish good working relationships between the Maori and the Pakeha before the coming of the first white immigrant ships to New Zealand in 1840.
The Reverend Williams was involved in the early sale and purchase of the first land on behalf of the New Zealand Company at Petone, and other negotiations after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori Chiefs of New Zealand in the year 1840.
New Zealand had been placed on the map of the world. It no longer carried a notation on shipping charts as a place of 'hostile natives'', but a land offering opportunity and hope for the many migrants that were to come to its peaceful shores in the years to come.