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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.




According to Maori tradition, the discoverer of Wellington Harbour was the voyager Kupe who entered it and camped at what is now Seatoun. The names of Matiu and Makaro (Somes and Ward Islands) commemorate the occasion. There is no record that Kupe named the harbour itself. The traditional Maori name for the harbour is Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara, the Great Harbour of Tara. The elder son of Whatonga, Tara became the eponymous ancestor of the Ngati Tara tribe which was the first to settle permanently in the Wellington Harbour area. The first European to discover the harbour was Captain Cook in the course of his second voyage, on 2 November 1773, but he did not enter it on account of unfavourable winds. Again, in 1827, d'Urville mentioned the existence of the harbour but he, too, found conditions unfavourable for an entry. But in the previous year Captain Herd, who was in command of a preliminary expedition for the First New Zealand Company, with the ship Rosanna and the cutter Lambton (Captain T. Barnett), entered the harbour which he charted. He named it Port Nicholson after Captain John Nicholson, the then harbourmaster at Sydney, New South Wales.

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