NEW ZEALAND'S HISTORY - COLONIAL PERIOD (1840-1893)

Colonial Period (1840-1893)
New Zealand became a colony in its own right in 1841. It was divided into provinces. The country rapidly gained some measure of self-government through the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established central and provincial government.

Immigration
From 1840 there was considerable European settlement, and to a lesser extent the United States, India, and various parts of continental Europe. Already a majority of the population by 1859, the number of white settlers increased rapidly to reach a million by 1911.

In the 1870s and 1880s, several thousand Chinese men migrated to New Zealand to work on the South Island goldfields. Although the first Chinese migrants had been invited by the Otago Provincial government they quickly became the target of hostility from white settlers and laws were enacted specifically to discourage them from coming to New Zealand.

Māori adaptation and resistance
Māori had welcomed white settlers for the trading opportunities and guns they brought. However it soon became clear that they had underestimated the number of settlers that would arrive in their lands. Tribes quickly lost much of their land and autonomy through government acts. Others who grew and sold food to the explorers prospered. Although race relations were generally peaceful in this period, there were conflicts over who had ultimate power in particular areas - the Governor or the Māori chiefs.

As the white population grew, pressure grew on Māori to sell more land. A few tribes had become nearly landless and others feared losing their lands. Land is not only an economic resource, but also the basis of Māori identity and a connection with their ancestors.

White men had little understanding of all that and accused Māori of holding onto land they did not use efficiently. Competition for land was a primary cause of the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, in which Māori had much of their land taken from them. The wars and confiscation left bitterness that remains to this day.

Some tribes sided with the government and, later, fought with the government. They were motivated partly by the thought that an alliance with the government would benefit them, and partly by old feuds with other tribes they fought against.

After the wars, some Māori began a strategy of passive resistance. Others continued co-operating with the government. In the last decades of the century, most tribes lost substantial amounts of land through the activities of the Native Land Court. This was set up to give Māori land European-style titles and to establish exactly who owned it. Its main effect was to directly or indirectly separate Māori from their land.

The combination of war, confiscations, disease, assimilation and intermarriage, land loss leading to poor housing and alcohol abuse, and general disillusionment, caused a fall in the Māori population from around 86,000 in 1769 to around 42,000 in 1896.

South Island
While the North Island was convulsed by the Land Wars, the South Island, with its low Māori population, was generally peaceful. In 1861 gold was discovered, sparking a gold rush. In 1865 Parliament voted on a Bill to make the South Island, which contained most of the white population until around 1900, independent, however it was defeated.

1890s
Major changes occurred during this decade. The economy - based on wool and local trade -changed to the export of frozen meat and dairy products to Britain. It remained the basis of New Zealand’s economy until the 1970s.

The decade also saw the advent of party politics, with the establishment of the First Liberal government. This government established the basis of the welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and unions, and in 1893 extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.