If the Australians are regarded as a separate race and not a group of English, Scots, and Irish, then they, too, have played quite an important part in the New Zealand story. Australia is New Zealand's nearest neighbour and for years New Zealand has provided another frontier where the Australian with experience could profit from his skills. At first Australia was the civilised outpost and New Zealand the home of cannibals. Ships from Australia came to the islands whaling and sealing and to obtain timber, masts and spars. When settlement seemed likely, Australians obtained large tracts of land in anticipation. When sovereignty was established in 1840 they brought their skills and demonstrated them successfully before settlers who often knew only English ways, which were not always best suited to the New Zealand climate. In time gold proved an attraction and brought thousands from Australia to these shores. In addition New Zealand has, from convict days, provided a refuge, often temporary, for those wanted by the police in Australia.
When in the late years of last century and the early years of the twentieth the North Island was being opened up, Australians vied with South Islanders for the land. Even now, when New Zealand has insufficient land to satisfy its own land hunger, it still has an attraction for Australians. Today, however, they come as representatives of Australian firms extending their interests in New Zealand. Australia has also provided New Zealand with many of its political leaders. In the early days some of our legislators had had experience in Australian Parliaments, but two Prime Ministers, Sir Joseph Ward and M. J. Savage, were Australian born. Early in this century the Labour movement received much of its strength from Australia, and this was reflected in the large number of Australians in the first Labour Cabinet.
In 1861, 9,533, or 2·6 per cent of the European population, were Australian by birth. In the 1878 census the number reached 16,091 and continued to increase to a maximum in 1911, when 5·03 per cent of the European population were Australian by birth. In 1961 there were still 35,412 Australian born living in New Zealand.