The Pioneering Era
As a group of islands in the South Pacific, at the farthest distance from its principal markets, New Zealand has always been vitally dependent upon shipping for its economic life and progress. As far back as the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries the coasts of New Zealand were the constant resort of marauding sealers who slaughtered the seals almost to extinction. In those years, also, came the British, American, and French whalers who reaped rich harvests in and about New Zealand waters, with the Bay of Islands soon becoming the principal refitting resort, and Whaling).
A number of ships traded from Sydney to New Zealand during the 1790s and onwards for the purpose of loading ships' spars and other timber. Early imports were sheep and cattle and stores of many kinds from New South Wales, and exports were whale oil, kauri gum, wool, and potatoes, as well as flax. In 1830–31 the total amount of flax shipped to Sydney from New Zealand was valued at more than £45,000 and most of it was paid for in guns and gunpowder. In 1826 a shipyard was established at Hokianga by a Sydney firm and during the next few years some half a dozen vessels were built there, the largest being one of 400 tons.
The first planned European settlement in New Zealand was founded in 1840, shortly before British sovereignty was proclaimed following the negotiation by Captain Hobson of the Treaty of Waitangi. The first settlers sent out by the New Zealand Company arrived in Port Nicholson early in 1840; their first settlement, known as Britannia, at the head of the harbour, was abandoned shortly afterwards in favour of that named Wellington on its western shore. Auckland and Wanganui were founded in the same year and New Plymouth and Nelson in 1841. Otago was settled by the Otago Association in conjunction with the Free Church of Scotland, and two ships carrying 343 settlers arrived at Port Chalmers in early 1848. The first four ships of the Canterbury Association arrived at Lyttelton in December 1850 to found the Canterbury settlement. The operations of the New Zealand Company in the purchase of land brought the settlers, notably in the New Plymouth and Wanganui districts, into collision with the native owners. An uneasy peace followed, and in 1850 the New Zealand Company surrendered its charter and ceased its colonising activities. Nevertheless, the flow of emigrants continued in the small wooden ships of those days. For a time the business was largely in the hands of Willis, Gann, and Co., a firm of London shipbrokers, originally established in 1842, whose ships included the Zealandia, Maori, Egmont, Chapman, Clontarf, and Victory. Then came the Albion Line of P. Henderson and Co., of Glasgow - long known to seafarers as “Paddy Henderson's” - who traded mainly to Otago Harbour. Henderson's, which was founded in 1834 by four brothers, has been associated with continuous service to Burma and the East for more than a century.