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A Not So Brief NZ History

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A Not So Brief New Zealand History Time Line



1300-1800 From their settlement of New Zealand until the arrival of Europeans, Maori developed a distinctive and sophisticated culture which has had a profound influence on New Zealand identity.

1792 Building begins on the first European dwelling in NZ, a 12 X 5.5m bunkhouse for a sealing party left at Dusky Sound.

1831 Missionaries, afraid of possible French intervention, induce Bay of Islands chiefs to petition Britain for protection. In 1833 James Busby is sent to act as Britain's representative. Busby persuades 35 northern Maori chiefs to sign a Declaration of Independence in 1935. Britain signs too, formally recognising NZ as an independent country.

1840 The first shipload of settlers arrives at the NZ Company's first planned 'settlement' at Port Nicholson (Wellington). The first Plymouth Company ship arrives at New Plymouth with its first settlers. By January 1843 six ships and 900 immigrants had arrived.


1870 First rugby game is played at Nelson College, following rules diverging from soccer. The game spread rapidly, and in 1888 the 'Natives' toured Britain and in 1892 the New Zealand Rugby Union was formed.

1885 Nine branches of the Women's Christian Temperance Union are established, with the aim of advocating for the prohibition of alcohol. This develops into a campaign to have women granted the vote, and in 1892 the NZ Women's Franchise League was formed. A year later Elizabeth Yates was appointed Mayor of Onehunga, the first woman in NZ (and the whole British Empire) to hold this office.

1887 Te Heuheu gifts the peaks of Tongariro to the Crown. In 1894 the Tongariro summits are constituted as New Zealand's first National Park. The National Park was gazetted in 1907 with an area of 25,213 hectares. The Tongariro National Park Act was passed in 1922

1899 NZ is the first country in the world to introduce the eight-hour working day. Labour Day commemorates this achievement.

1899 Over 200 men and their horses embark for an overseas war for the first time in NZ's history - the South African Boer War. In the three-year conflict 6500 NZers served and 228 died.

1912 A miners' strike at Waihi led to violence which resulted in the death by gunshot of a police constable, and a striker who was seriously beaten. In 1913 a further waterfront dispute provoked violence between striking watersiders and 'special police' drawn from farmers. NZ endured a period of great bitterness and civil unrest.

1914 NZ joins Britain in declaring war on Germany in what would come to be called the Great War (1914-1918). The war came to an end at 11am on the 11th of November, with the signing of an armistice. New Zealand's casualty rate of 58% included nearly 17,000 killed and over 41,000 wounded.

1915 On April 25th, NZ and Australian troops land at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, aiming to secure the Dardanelles (with British and French troops). An armistice is declared at Gallipoli one month later, allowing troops five hours to bury the enormous number of decaying corpses. In August, Chunuk Bair Hill is taken by the Wellington Brigade, giving them a view of the objective (the Dardanelles). In December the evacuation from Gallipoli begins, ending a disastrous campaign where 87% of the NZers who served were either killed or wounded.

1918 An influenza pandemic begins as troops returning from the war bring the infection back. It claims the lives of about 10,000 New Zealanders, many of them Maori.

1919 Resident NZers vote for prohibition of alcohol, but serviceman returning from WWI narrowly swing the balance against prohibition.

1930 By 1930 the government had either directly or indirectly financed nearly half of all the houses built in NZ in the 1920s. This was a further sign that NZers expected the State to intervene to assist with social issues. The first Labour government began a massive house-building campaign in the early 1940s to help low income people into houses.

1932 The worldwide economic Depression hit hard in NZ this year. Between 1000 and 2000 people participated in protests in Queen St against unemployment conditions. Hundreds were injured in the riot that followed when police batoned JH Edwards as he addressed the crowd.

1933 Highest level of registered unemployed (80,000) in Setember of this year.

1937 Free milk is introduced into schools in an effort to improve children's health. The scheme ended in 1967.

1938 The first Labour government passed the Social Security Act, bringing into being the 'welfare state' with its free health care, means-tested pension at 60, and universal superannuation at 65. Free maternity care and subsidised doctors' visits, as well as unemployment, sickness and other benefits were introduced. In 1973 the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was introduced for solo parents over 16 years of age. The following year Accident Compensation was introduced, replacing the right to sue employers for injuries with government-provided compensation. The whole basis of the welfare system was not challenged until the Fourth Labour government began cutting it back from 1984.

1939 NZ joins Britain in declaring war on Germany. NZ and Japan entered a state of war after the Japanese military attacked British forces in Malaya in 1941. When the German forces in Western Europe surrendered in May 1945, the war in Europe was over. The war with Japan ended in August 1945 after the dropping of the two atomic bombs. Of the nearly 105,000 NZers who served in WWII (including 10,000 women in various non-combat roles), 6839 died, 15,324 were injured and 8395 had been captured. Most of the casualties occurred in North Africa or the Mediterranean area.

1947 A huge post-war population increase begins, dubbed a 'baby-boom'.

1951 The 151 day waterfront dispute begins, with unions pitted against their employers and the National government. The government brought in laws which curbed free speech, suspended parliament, and made it illegal to help the strikers. That year the "Bloody Friday" riots occurred when a procession of 1000 striking waterside workers and their wives was ordered to disband by 100 police.

1956 Moves towards equal pay for women for doing the same job as men begin when Joan Parker wins a case taken against her employer when a newly appointed male staffer was promoted over her. In 1963 the government introduced Equal Pay bill. It did not become law until 1972.

1966 France becomes explodes its first atomic bomb in the Pacific at Mururoa Atoll, in an atmospheric test.

1967 NZ votes for 10pm hotel closing, ending the infamous "6 o'clock swill" where men would finish work and then guzzle as much alcohol as rapidly as they could before the bars shut at 6pm - a reform introduced during World War 1.

1970 The issue of abortion prompts the formation of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. In 1971 the Abortion Law Reform Society was formed to put the case for liberalisation.

1973 HMNZS Otago is sent from Auckland by the government to protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa. In the same year the NZ government, along with Australia, took France to the World Court to try to have nuclear testing in the Pacific ended.

1976 NZ experiences significant unemployment for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

1982 In a symbolic gesture, Christchurch becomes the first NZ city to declare itself nuclear free. In 1987 the whole of NZ legally became nuclear free.

1985 Pacific nations, including New Zealand and Australia, draft a Treaty in Rarotonga declaring the South Pacific to be nuclear free.

1985 The Greenpeace protest vessel the Rainbow Warrior is bombed, killing photographer Fernando Pereira. French agents Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur were arrested, tried and sentenced to 10 years' jail (but served only eight months). The French government, after denying any involvement and threatening NZ with economic reprisals, finally admitted its role and agreed to pay compensation, on the condition that its agents were released into French custody.

1981 The South African rugby team, the Springboks, arrive in Auckland at the start of the most divisive and violent Tour in NZ's history. The first Springbok game at Gisborne is marred by protesting. The game at Waikato was cancelled after a pitch invasion by protesters, as well as concerns about the intentions of the pilot of a light aircraft circling the grounds. Power was cut to a TV transmitter, violent protests occurred and many arrests were made, and another light aircraft was in action, at the Auckland Springbok test match.

1995 France announces abandonment of a 1992 moratorium (halt) and plans for eight new nuclear tests in the Pacific. France seizes and holds two Greenpeace protest vessels that attempt to sail into the test zone. In 1996, with the tests complete, Britain, France and America finally join New Zealand and other nations in signing a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ending nuclear testing.


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