New Zealand

 (In Maori language ... A-o-te-a-roa ..."The Land of the Long White Cloud")

 Where is New Zealand?
New Zealand is located approximately 1,200 Miles due east of Australia - about the same distance that London (England) is from Moscow (Russia) and is about 8,000 miles diagonally opposite the USA on the south-western rim of the South Pacific Ocean.

New Zealand today is a homonogeous culture of 12% Maori and 80% of descendants of 18th century European Settlers. The country was originally colonised by Maori around the year 1140AD - when 12 large ocean-going sailing canoes from "Hawaiki" arrived on the northern beaches, bringing several hundred hardy Polysesian settlers from the Pacific Islands. The names of the canoes became the name for the tribe - ie "Arawa" and "Tainui" - both tribes still exist today. The newly arrived immigrants discovered a bush-clad but otherwise empty land of both beauty and mystery. (Some Legends say there was an earlier polonesian race already here - the "Maori-oris" but that has never been definitley proven).

The twelve tribes dispersed throughout the rugged northern and southern islands, and within a few generations became strangers to each other. In order to dilute the gene pool, it became common for one tribe to force march many miles overland to raid another village (Pa) - using stone clubs and spears in killing the men, and capturing the women for subjugation and slavery as forced wives.

In order to capture the "Mana" (Status, Pride, Respect) of the enemy warrior it was common for the victorious to eat the slain enemy. As there was little other protein "on the hoof" in New Zealand, these meals became a standard dietary supplement, until the arrival of the Pakeha (Pale skin Gods with eyes in the back of their heads - a comment on the way the British row their longboats, facing backwards!) who brought with them Pigs and Cattle - as well as the unfortunate event of becoming a meal themselves occasionally! ("White man's meat" was referred to as "Long Pork" by the Maori).

The Maori were ferocious warriors who used psychology and intimidation in warfare - the peruperu (War dance, a.k.a. Ha-ka ) was intended to give the opposing force a preview of things to come - sometimes in the hope that they would give up and go home - and fierce facial tattoos were a sign of manhood and accomplishment amongst the fiercest of warriors.


New Zealand Maori tattoos
Extensive Facial Tattoos were a sign of "Mana" or respect


Apart from a brief visit by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman (who in the 17th century called the place "Van Dieman's Land), the Maori were left pretty much to themselves, and consequently they developed a highly organised system of defended fortifications and root vegetable gardens which were tended by the women as the "Warriors" lay about in their "Whares" (pronounced "Forrys" - a type of thatched hut).

Top Class Accommodation - c.1820

Warrior relaxing in his Whare before battle!

Other than the odd raid for new blood (in all senses of the word) the Maori lived a fairly idylic and quite organised lifestyle, with the women doing most of the work - a far better lifestyle in fact than their ancestor's decendants who remained in the Pacific Islands, and who continued in a far more primitive existence.

Perhaps it's true after all! The "Pioneers - whoever they are" who go off in search of new lands are better equipped to evolve than those who simply "stay at home" and do nothing.

Unfortunately for the Maori - who "had it made" - the late 18th Century brought the expansionist British (Capt. James Cook in the barquentine ship "Endeavour") who were looking for expanded "growing space" and New Zealand looked a winner! (In fact it became known as the "Garden of England" as more and more farmers settled here and exported their crops "back home" to England). This caused dissention between the settlers and the Maori, and terrorist actions began against the English immigrant farmers who were (sometimes unfairly) given "Maori" land. The British "set in the troops" to try to sort things out. The Maori retaliated with a series of Raids on the newly arrived British troops - many of whom were just inexperienced teenagers.


Maori attack on British troop encampment


Maori raid on troop encampment from cover of native Bush


In 1840 the British Government signed a Treaty with as many Maori Chiefs as they could find at the time - giving Maori the protection of British Citizenship and bestowing "unrestrained access to their land and traditional fishing". Obviously the British Government of the time recognised the Maori as the "Original Inhabitants" of the land, and bestowed "ownership" of New Zealand on them without question - otherwise they would have done what the contemporary settlers in the United States were doing to the Indians in the 1800's - kill them off!


Treaty signing at Waitangi

Ceremonies at the Signing of the Treaty

Introducing the treaty could have been a major mistake on the part of the British Government of the day, as 150 years on there is endless wrangling over what the particular wording of the "Treaty of Waitangi" actually means! (Obviously a 15,000 ton Trawler was NOT what the British had in mind when they "gave away" the New Zealand fishing rights, however some Maori argue today that that's tough luck!) Some radicals even argue that the treaty has no validity as those Maori Chiefs that signed did not have the authority of ALL the tribe members! As the terms of the treaty are endlessly argued by both Government and Maoris Lawyers, a sense of division grows between Maori and Pakeha as the "white settlers" see their fellow men - those with a Maori heritage - gaining much advantage over non-Maori society. There will remain the risk of racial uneasiness until the matter of the Treaty is settled for once and for all.

Between 1830 & 1880 the British tried their hand at subjugating a few "renegade" Maori tribes with skirmishes and a few all-out battles, but in the long run, they had no chance at defeating the Maori on their home turf.

Massive Earthworks were hard to Attack!
Maori Earthworks - bravery was needed by both sides!

The ensuing battles took place between the forces of Her Majesty's Government (Queen Victoria) and the relatively poorly equipped native militia. By any measure, the maori was "out classed and out gunned" - yet they managed to thwart the British at every turn. Local knowledge and sheer cunning often took the day against British "Military Stratagies" and the firepower of the British was often directed against grounds that the Maori had evacuated hours - or days - previously! It was England's Vietnam! There was no way they were going to win. Here are photo's of the sides engaged in the battle - the well equipped British soldier, against the "aboriginal".


Maori Warrior
The Maori warrior - .577 cal Percussion Carbine at the ready!


British Soldier
The well equipped (Police Constable Forage Uniform) British.


The Maori's high sense of Dignity, Courage, and Fair Play baffled the British - who were just used to wholesale massacre as a Battle Stratgey (ie Zululand in Africa) and in the end the British had to call off the "Maori Wars" and sue for peace, even though they had superior weapons - such as the 4 inch Mortar.

4 inch Artillery Mortar



This weapon - firing 4 inch fused Bombs - made little impact on the Maori positions and were largely ineffective.


Fierce fighting took place - often hand-to-hand and to the end!


Hand to hand fighting.
Extreme bravery was needed - on both sides - to fight in these conditions!

The British could never comprehend the Maori's lack of "possessions" - espcially of material things - like Land. To the Maori, if a pakeha "purchased" a plot of land from the tribe (Iwi), then they could use it for as long as they needed it - but after that, the land "reverted" to the seller. They had no sense of a "permanent sale" - as the land "cannot belong to just one person - it belongs to all people". Often "Land Sales" were forged by unscrupulous Real Estate Salesmen who simply obtained ONE signature on behalf of the tribe (Iwi) which, of course was hotly disputed by other Iwi members when they discovered a settler building a homestead on "their" land! This need to consult ALL the Iwi members before any decision is made is a continuing stumbling block in negotiating the Treaty terms even today.

This difference in perception between the Maori & Pakeha continues to cause much grief between the races, and until things get finally sorted out (and in many cases they are still being disputed after 150 years), racial harmony between Maori & Pakeha will continue to be strained! Nevertheless, the respective sides conduct the negotiations with mutual respect, and with due deference to the elected New Zealand Government and the Law, with only a few militants demanding unrealistic interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) which conferred British Citizenship on Maori in return for their loyalty to the Crown - and in return guaranteed the Maori's undisturbed rights to their traditional way of life and unrestricted access to traditional fishing grounds.


Today, the Maori and Pakeha have more to worry about!

The influx of Asian and other ethnic minority immigrants has pressured employment and the Social Welfare and Medicare systems into near bankruptcy, and there are now more than eight distinct racial groups living side-by-side in New Zealand making it a truly multicultural society.



E &OE (All Rights Reserved) Without Prejudice
"Larry's opinion of New Zealand History"

Hope I got it right!