New Zealand consists of North Island, South Island and various neighbouring coastal islands. The Queen is the head of state, represented by the Governor-General, who is appointed on the advice of the New Zealand Government. There is no written constitution. Until 1841 New Zealand was administered as a colony of New South Wales, but at that point, it became a colony in its own right. It was given Dominion status in 1907, and in 1931 Westminster tacitly acknowledged its independence. This was formally confirmed in 1947.
From about the 10th century, the country was settled by Polynesian tribes who are the ancestors of the Maoris. The chief Maori migration came in five large canoes in about 1350, a courageous voyage. Most Maoris in New Zealand trace their lineage to that or earlier such trips.
In 1642 the west coast of South Island was sighted by Abel Tasman, the Dutch navigator, though he did not set foot on the shore. Captain James Cook found the east coast of North Island, near Gisborne in 1769, and surveyed the coastline, claiming the islands for the British. The Maori accepted British sovereignty in 1840 under the Treaty of Waitangi in exchange for land rights and to enjoy the rights accorded to British subjects. Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) created the New Zealand Company and his brother arrived there in 1839, followed by Captain William Hobson (1792-1842), who became first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi. An Anglican mission arrived in. Self-government was granted in 1852. There was a large-scale encroachment by Europeans in the 1860s, during the gold rush which followed the discovery of gold at Otago in 1861. There were clashes with the Maoris in 1860 and 1872. Only much later were the Europeans and the Maoris reconciled, with the Maoris now playing a full part in New Zealand’s national life. They were granted parliamentary representation, and in 1975 a tribunal examined grievances caused by breaches to the Waitangi Treaty and compensation was given them in the 1990s for the loss of their land to the European settlers.
There have been numerous royal visits, the first being by Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in 1868. The future King George V and Queen Mary visited in 1901, the Prince of Wales in 1920, and the Duke and Duchess of York (George VI and Queen Elizabeth) in 1927.
The Queen is the first British reigning monarch to visit and has been ten times. The first visit was at the outset of her Commonwealth tour from 23 December 1953 until 30 January 1954. At the end of her visit, the Queen said: ‘The impression that we have received is of a great and united people. We know that in the 113 years which have passed since the Treaty of Waitangi the European and Maori peoples have drawn together, and that to your united strength is constantly being added the vitality and skill of settlers from many countries of the Old World.’
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh returned in 1963, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1986, 1995 and 2002. Whenever she arrives she puts on a ceremonial Korowai cloak made for kiwi feathers. Many other members of the Royal Family have visited over the years, a notable visit being by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1983, with Prince William, as an infant, taking early steps on Commonwealth soil.
A list of all our walks in New Zealand.
Auckland Commonwealth Walkway
AUCKLAND Auckland sits in a magnificent position on North Island, astride an isthmus and between two harbours, the largest of which is the Waitemata, rather ... View Details
Wellington Commonwealth Walkway
WELLINGTON Wellington became the capital of New Zealand by convention in 1865. It is located at the south-western tip of North Island and is ... View Details