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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.




After the British elements, the Germans provided the largest increment to New Zealand's population in the nineteenth century, larger than that of any other European country. They took little part in discovery and exploration, but in 1839 George Hempleman bought a large area in Banks Peninsula and took his wife there to live. He was joined by a small party who had arrived with the French settlers at Akaroa and settled at what became known as German Bay, now Takamatua.

When the New Zealand Company met difficulty in obtaining sufficient emigrants, they turned to Germany, in particular to Hamburg. The Chatham Islands were suggested as a suitable spot, but the British Government decided that the company had no right to purchase land there. Eventually the interest of the North German (Lutheran) Mission Society was gained and some 340, mainly from Hamburg and Mecklenberg, and including six missionaries, were sent in two ships to Nelson. Maori troubles and the general conditions of settlement caused the majority to go to South Australia, but about a hundred settled in the Moutere Valley, where their descendants still farm.

Immediately prior to the Maori Wars a scheme of military settlements was suggested and two German villages were planned. War broke out, however, and as the German State Government objected to recruitment nothing came of the project. There were some difficulties again in the seventies, but, despite this, 3,000 came to New Zealand as assisted immigrants under Vogel's scheme, nearly as many as the total of all Scandinavians. Some were sent to the unhappy Jackson Bay settlement, but later they spread throughout the colony.

At the 1861 census the Germans by birth were 1,999. By 1878 they had grown to 4,649 but in 1901 were 4,217. It is probable that a few of the Austro-Hungarians were German in speech, as were some of the Poles and Russians. The Bohemians, for example, who during the early sixties settled at Puhoi, north of Auckland, were German in speech and probably race. When war broke out in 1914 there were about 4,000 Germans in New Zealand. Many were interned and, in 1919, several hundred were deported, so that in 1921 the number had fallen to 2,188. It was 1928 before they were again allowed to come to New Zealand, and in the years immediately preceding the last war about 900 German-speaking refugees arrived here. Today the Germans are a submerged group and absorbed into the British stock. Often the only sign of their ancestry is the surname. Indeed, during the Second World War many served in the New Zealand Forces and they have a far better record here than others who were, at least on paper, allies.

It is probable that the Germans introduced hop growing to New Zealand, but their greatest contribution has been in the scientific field. Dieffenbach, the naturalist in the Tory; von Tunzelmann, pioneer in Otago's back country; and Weber, civil engineer in Hawke's Bay, were all German. The two greatest were Ferdinand von Hochstetter, who arrived in New Zealand in 1858 with the Austrian scientific expedition in the Novara, and Julius von Haast, Canterbury provincial geologist. Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky, of the Forest Rangers, a Prussian, was one of the more colourful fighters during the Maori Wars.

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