New Zealand was the last large and livable place in the world to be discovered. The first people to arrive in New Zealand were ancestors of the Māori, arriving from from Polynesia between 1200 and 1300 AD. They discovered New Zealand as they explored the Pacific, navigating by the ocean currents, winds and stars.
The first European to arrive in New Zealand was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. A long time passed — 127 years — before New Zealand was visited by Captain James Cook in 1769 on the first of 3 voyages.
European whalers and sealers then started visiting regularly, followed by traders.
By the 1830s, the British government was being pressured to reduce lawlessness in the country and to settle here before the French, who were considering New Zealand as a potential colony.
On 6 February 1840 at Waitangi, William Hobson — New Zealand’s first Governor — invited assembled Māori chiefs to sign a treaty with the British Crown.
The treaty was taken all around the country, for signing by local chiefs. More than 500 chiefs signed the treaty that is now known as the Treaty of Waitangi.
Māori came under increasing pressure from European settlers to sell their land for settlement. This led to conflict and, in the 1860s, war broke out in the North Island.
A lot of Māori land was taken or bought by the government during or after 20 years of war.
In the 1870s, the government helped thousands of British people start a new life in New Zealand. Railways were built and towns sprang up or expanded.
New Zealand became increasingly conscious of our own nationalism. In the late 1890s, we turned down the chance to join the Australian Federation. Instead, New Zealand became an independent Dominion in 1907.