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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Missionary Journeys

After d'Urville, the epic journeys are undertaken by inland explorers, and the work of charting the coast, substantially completed by the Acheron and the Pandora by 1855, became a mere routine matter. Marsden's great journey in 1820 was the precursor to a long series of missionary journeys which, with Maori guidance, made known a great part of the North Island. Here a few examples must stand for the total achievement. Henry Williams in 1831 went to Rotorua from Maketu in the Bay of Plenty, and the following year to Matamata. In 1839, after establishing Octavius Hadfield at Otaki, Williams returned overland to Tauranga, a 300-mile journey along the west coast to the Rangitikei, up this river, across to the Wanganui River, to the Taupo-Rotorua plateau, from Lake Taupo to Lake Rotorua and the Mokoia Island station, and thence to Tauranga. A. N. Brown and James Hamlin, in 1834, went from the Kaipara Harbour overland to the Waikato River, to Raglan and along the coast to Kawhia. They sighted Tongariro and Ruapehu, went down the Waipa River to Ngaruawahia, thence down the Waikato and up the Maramarua River to the Firth of Thames. William Williams covered much the same region later the same year. A year later John Whitely, a Wesleyan, travelled from Kawhia to the Mokau River. In 1834 W. G. Puckey went north to Spirits Bay. Another Wesleyan, James Buller, was at Lake Taupo at the same time as Henry Williams, on a journey south from Kaipara to Port Nicholson, which took him to the Manukau Harbour, by the coast to Kawhia, by native track to Taupo, and thence by the same route as Williams to Port Nicholson.

The chief missionary expeditions of the 1840s were those of William Colenso on the east coast, and these have a great scientific interest, for Colenso was an indefatigable botanical collector. In 1841 he entered the Urewera country and met, quite without feelings of pleasure, at Lake Waikaremoana, a Catholic missionary, Father Baty, who was travelling from Mahia Peninsula to the lake and back to Hawke's Bay. Colenso continued to Lake Tarawera (but was too weary to note its marvels) and on to the Bay of Islands. After he was posted to the Waitangi station, near present-day Napier, he became responsible for an area which included the region south of Lake Taupo. In 1845 he unsuccessfully attempted to cross the Ruahines, which separated him from these parts. Two years later he succeeded; a journey of great difficulty took him from his station to Taupo, to Lake Rotoaira, to the mountain village of Inland Patea, to the upper Rangitikei River, and across the Ruahines to Waipukurau. In 1846 he had travelled from Wellington to the western entrance of the Manawatu Gorge (which had already been penetrated by New Zealand Company explorers), and pushed through the Seventy Mile Bush between the Manawatu and Ruamahanga Rivers.

After 1840, settlement and the quest for land became a major impulse behind exploration. Wellington settlers needed land; Company agents were prospecting for sites for future settlements. In 1840 E. J. Wakefield crossed from Wanganui to Patea; a party led by R. Park and including the artist Charles Heaphy surveyed the Porirua-Taranaki coastal region; and W. Deans went around Palliser Bay to south Wairarapa. A year later R. Stokes was sent by Mein Smith, the Company surveyor, over the Rimutakas to Lake Wairarapa, and heard from the Maoris of the Manawatu Gorge access to the Hawke's Bay region. Charles Kettle and Alfred Wills, in 1842, went through this gorge, and returned to the Hutt along the eastern slopes of the Tararuas. In the following year sheepmen were taking flocks into the Wairarapa; in 1844 a party travelled from Lake Wairarapa to the east coast, and thence along the coastal whaling stations to Table Cape.

Such whaling stations are a reminder that men other than missionaries and survey parties must be reckoned among the explorers. Missionaries frequently met traders on their journeys; P. Tapsell, for instance, certainly preceded Henry Williams to Maketu, and J. S. Polack, who untypically published an account of his activities, spent the early 1830s around Hokianga and Kaipara. In the South Island, traders and bay whalers knew the Canterbury plains, the Taieri plains and river, and the Clutha River. Nor must the scientists be excluded from this early phase. Dr E. Dieffenbach's exploration of North Auckland and the Taupo-Rotorua district in 1841 opened no new country, but was scientifically significant. By about 1850, thanks to these and other journeys, and to the fact that the Maoris could indicate routes and provide guides, the chief features of the North Island interior were well known. Men could move there, if not with ease, at least with confidence.