Story: Australians

Page 2. Early arrivals

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New Zealand: Australia’s new frontier

Systematic European settlement of Australia began in 1788, half a century earlier than in New Zealand. Many of New Zealand’s earliest Europeans brought important skills and knowledge acquired in Australia.

Initially, most economic activity in New Zealand was controlled from Sydney. Sydneysiders manned early sealing and sawmilling camps and shore whaling stations, but relatively few were Australian. One of the first to settle in New Zealand was Jacky Marmon, son of an Irish convict, in 1823. Another 1820s arrival, the sealer Thomas Chaseland, had an English father and Aboriginal mother.

Named after Australians

Sealers and whalers from Australia were among New Zealand’s earliest European visitors. Some left their names on the New Zealand coast.

Chaslands Mistake is named after the legendary whaler Thomas Chaseland whose mother was an Aborigine. His ‘mistake’ was to delay slaughtering a herd of seals he came upon one evening: by morning they had disappeared.

Other early place names which commemorate Australians are Port Underwood, Lords River, Port Levy and an old name for Lyttelton Harbour, Port Cooper.


Escaped or freed convicts came to New Zealand from Australia in sufficient numbers to ‘render somewhat false the commonly held New Zealand conceit about purer origins’. 1 The Sydney Herald estimated in 1837 that there were between 200 and 300 former convicts in New Zealand. Deserting sailors and ruffians also arrived, eager to escape the law. As late as 1849, the labouring population in Lyttelton was said to include escaped prisoners and convicts.

Two of the first women to arrive from Australia were Charlotte Badger and Catharine Hagerty, English ex-convicts who lived at the Bay of Islands for a number of months in 1806. They had reached New Zealand after mutineers seized a vessel they were on on the Tasmanian coast. Thomas Birch, an English labourer transported to Sydney in 1819, settled in New Zealand in 1827 after being freed.


New Zealand’s first Christian mission was established by Samuel Marsden, a Sydney chaplain. But the mission settlers Marsden sent to New Zealand were recruited in England.

‘A better class of settler’

Organised settlement of New Zealand began in 1840. The New Zealand Company, driven by the colonial vision of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, wished to exclude Australian convicts and pastoral squatters alike and brought its settlers from the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, in the 1840s and 1850s settlers for Wellington were recruited in Australia, and Otago and Canterbury gained Australian migrants as their farming industries expanded. Auckland, freer of Wakefield’s prejudices, drew more Australians than other regions did. In the early 1850s the city was ‘a mere section of the town of Sydney transplanted’. 2 But overall most arrivals from Australia had originally come from Britain. A relatively small number were Australian-born.

  1. Keith Sinclair, ed., Tasman relations: New Zealand and Australia, 1788–1988. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987, p. 54. › Back
  2. Keith Sinclair. A history of New Zealand. Auckland: Penguin, 1959, p. 98. › Back
How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Australians - Early arrivals', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 February 2024)

Story by John Wilson, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 10 Mar 2015