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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
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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1769–1840 Trade and Settlement

Initially both evangelical and commercial interest in New Zealand came from New South Wales rather than from Great Britain. Colonies frequently establish further colonies; such was the case with New South Wales, created as a convict settlement in 1788 but soon becoming a centre for South Pacific commerce, both European and American. Whalers, sealers, timber and flax traders, farmers, pastoralists and land speculators, and (in many instances) missionaries and officials, came to New Zealand through or from Port Jackson. Whaling off the New Zealand coasts is first recorded in 1791, sealing in Dusky Sound in 1792, timber and flax trading in the Firth of Thames in 1794–95; through the later 1790s occasional shiploads of timber were sent to India and China. In 1793 Lieutenant-Governor King had two Maoris brought to Norfolk Island to instruct convicts in flax-dressing, and sent presents of pigs, potatoes, and seeds to the Bay of Island tribes. Early in the nineteenth century the Maoris of this area were able to provision the occasional visiting ships. Significant as these beginnings are, for the first quarter of the nineteenth century trading in New Zealand was, with an isolated exception, slight and irregular. The exception is sealing on the south-west coasts of the South Island, a growing enterprise after the entry of American sealers around 1803, with a market in China and later in London. By 1816 the herds were so reduced that the trade died out. The deep-sea whaling industry grew over the same years, especially after the weakening of the East India Company monopoly in 1802, but shore contacts were limited to refreshment and refitting. Flax and timber also brought only irregular contact between European and Maori. Not infrequently these were violent; in 1806 the Venus and in 1809 the Boyd were destroyed by Maoris and their crews killed and eaten.

Nevertheless, contact increased. The ferocious reputation of the Maoris dismayed many, but not, in 1814, either a Sydney syndicate planning (without success) the large-scale exploitation of flax, or Samuel Marsden and his artisan-evangelists who established the first mission station. Marsden pushed through the first recorded transaction in New Zealand land: 200 acres were conveyed to the Church Missionary Society in return for 12 axes. This Anglican mission was unsuccessful for many years; Marsden directed it with more energy than discrimination from Sydney, making occasional visits; the men on the spot, William Hall, a carpenter, John King, a flax-dresser, Thomas Kendall, a schoolmaster, were ill-equipped and (perhaps of necessity) more concerned with commerce than conversion. The arrival of the Williams brothers, Henry and William (both ordained clergymen) in 1823 injected resolve and purpose into the establishment. Converts remained few and tardy; the Maoris valued the mission as a source of goods, muskets, and prestige, not of spiritual guidance; for a long time the mission existed under the protection of the notably bellicose chief Hongi, the first to be well equipped with muskets. The first baptism occurred in 1825 after nine years of effort, and the second not until 1827. By this time the Wesleyans, opening their first station at Whangaroa in 1822, had joined the Anglicans.

The initial importance of the missionaries was more secular than religious. Until the 1830s they were the only permanent white population of any size in the Bay of Islands; over 60 including their many children by 1830, according to one count. In 1833 it was reported that only between 20 and 30 whites other than missionaries lived at the Bay, apart from perhaps 40 “Pakeha-Maoris” (q.v.) living in nearby pas. (The first report of a European's “going native” comes as early as 1802.) At times the population of the Bay would be swelled by visiting whaling and trading ships, American as well as British, but they did not stay. Although the Maoris declined for some time to learn religion from the missionaries, they learned much else: a desultory sort of farming, based on pigs and potatoes, and the use of blankets in place of their traditional clothing, for instance. And, in spite of their pacific intentions, these missionaries, with the crews of visiting ships, were a channel through which the tribes acquired the musket, a weapon which was to turn their rather formalised if sufficiently deadly traditional warfare into a technique of mass slaughter.

By the later 1820s a new sort of European was becoming a settler, but not in the Bay of Islands. To the deep-sea hunting of the sperm whale was added the quest for the “right” or black whale, especially when it was calving in the sheltered inlets of Tasmania and New Zealand. Shore bases were established for this purpose; the first in New Zealand by a Sydney whaler in Tory Channel in 1827. In the course of the 1830s 22 shore stations, mostly in the South Island, were established by Sydney firms. The oil and bone so obtained was exported to England via Sydney. The search for the black whale boosted the infant industry, as did an increase of the British demand in the 1820s and a reduction of duties on oil and bone. Though New Zealand was not a British colony, whale products caught in her waters and sent to England via Australian ports were treated, for customs purposes, as British – otherwise crippling duties would have been incurred. In the later 1830s the whaling trade, thus encouraged, grew considerably; perhaps half of the oil sent to the United Kingdom from New South Wales was in fact a New Zealand product. The timber and flax trades continued, less spectacularly; in 1827 a Hokianga trading post was established from Sydney to export flax and timber, and in 1832 over 800 tons of New Zealand flax were sent to Sydney. The Otago stations of the Weller brothers and of Johnny Jones (both Sydney enterprises), set up in the 1830s, dealt in potatoes and flax as well as oil. By the later 1830s these stations were becoming permanent settlements; in 1839 Jones claimed that 280 men were living on his seven stations. He, and other Sydney principals, were sending cattle and settlers, and buying land (see also Whaling).

By that time these infant settlements were threatened with extinction. United Kingdom whaling interests had become alarmed at the quantity of American produce from New Zealand reaching the United Kingdom market as “colonial”; and the New South Wales government was forced to consider whether this convenient fiction could be maintained. It necessarily concluded that New Zealand was in fact “foreign” – this decision threatened New Zealand trade with duties sufficient to cause its extinction. But Australian commercial interests, and the sharply increasing settler (mainly British) population, were such that they could not be ignored. These were important factors in leading the British Government to take an interest in New Zealand, and in the end to annex it.