The first settlers to new Zealand were the Polynesian Maori,
over 1,000 years ago. These were a well ordered tribal society led
by hereditary chiefs and a powerful priesthood.
Abel Tasman was the first European to arrive in 1642. The islands
were charted and explored on the arrival of Captain James Cook,
in 1769 and 1779.
British sovereignty was established
in 1840, and Wellington was founded soon afterwards. In 1852
New Zealand was granted internal self government. The later years
of the century saw a rapid growth in agricultural production, investment,
In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to extend the vote
to women. In 1907, New Zealand became a Dominion and its armed
forces took part in both World War 1 and 2.
New Zealand is a member of the Commonwealth. It is also a
member of several other international organisations, including:
Power Defence Agreement
When Labour Prime Minister David Lange, elected in 1984,
membership of Western alliances were suspended as New Zealand was
declared nuclear free. This prevented US and British ships that
may be nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons from entering
New Zealand’s ports. These policies put the country on the
international stage, whilst Lange’s government was engaged
in radical economic reform at home.
Lange resigned in
August 1989, to be replaced by one of his Cabinet members, Geoffrey
Palmer. Palmer resigned in September 1990, just before the
general election in October 1990. The opposition National Party
won this, they had previously been out of office for a decade.
This new Government quickly reversed Labour’s policy on visiting
warships. They continued to express strong opposition to French
nuclear tests in the South Pacific which was politically essential
after the Rainbow Warrior affair, where French military personnel
bombed the Greenpeace vessel of the same name, killing a person.
In 1995 the tests ended and New Zealand resumed diplomatic relations
with France in 2 years later.
A sharp recession occurred in the early 1990s. The economy
had recovered sufficiently by October 1993 and the National Party
was returned to office with a narrow majority. The party held on
in October 1996, the first poll under the country’s new electoral
system, but only with the support of New Zealand First (NZF), a
newly formed party with a nationalist agenda.
continued as Prime Minister, with NZF’s Winston Peters
as his deputy and treasurer. Winston Peters was of Maori descent,
the 1996 election was notable for the increase in the number of
Maori MP’s, from 6 to 15. This came close to giving the Maori’s
a representation proportional to their presence in the community
as a whole.
In a number of respects, relations between the Maori and the mostly
British descended majority of the population are still sensitive.
In November 1997 Jenny Shipley, one of his cabinet ministers,
replaced Bolger. She then became New Zealand’s first woman
Prime Minister. Shipley faced elections two years later, with
another woman, academic Helen Clark, leading the Labour Party. The
campaign was narrowly won by Labour, although, without an overall
majority, Labour relied on the support of the environmentalist Alliance
Party to sustain the government. In July 2002, the result of the
elections was repeated although Labour is now reliant on the two
representatives of the Progressive Coalition to maintain its power.
Jenny Shipley has since been replaced by Don Brash as opposition
leader, who now has the task of preparing his party for the next
general election planned for July 2005.