New Zealand History/European Colonisation of New Zealand

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European Colonisation of New Zealand[edit]

Not long after New Zealand had been widely publicised about in Britain, attempts were made to colonise New Zealand.

The first attempt was in 1825, when the New Zealand Company was formed in England. The New Zealand Company believed that large profits could be made from New Zealand flax, kauri timber, whaling, sealing and the colonisation of New Zealand. The company unsuccessfully petitioned the British Government for a 31-year term of exclusive trade as well as command over a military force. Nevertheless, the company sent out two ships the next year, the Lambton and the Isabella, under the command of Captain James Herd, to look at trade prospects and potential settlements. The ships docked at present-day Wellington Harbour in September or October 1826, and Herd named it Lambton Harbour. Herd later explored the area, and identified a suitable point for a European settlement at the south-west end of the harbour. The ships then sailed north to look at trading prospects and supposedly purchased one million acres of land from Maori. However, the New Zealand Company decided not to pursue any ventures in New Zealand, as it had already spent ₤20,000 on it.

The first major passage to New Zealand was made available when a new New Zealand Company was set up in England. The company was not approved by the Colonial Office or the British Government, but the first ship, The Tory, departed England in May 1839. The New Zealand Company bought land cheaply off Maori in dishonest deals to gain as much land as possible before the British Government annexed New Zealand.

The New Zealand Company initially set up a settlement at Wellington, but soon set up settlements at Wanganui in 1840, at New Plymouth in 1841 and at Nelson in 1842. The company also sent surveyors down the South Island to look at further sites for settlement.

However, the Company soon got into financial difficulties. It had planned to buy land cheaply and sell it at high prices. It anticipated that a colony based on a higher land price would attract rich colonists. The profits from the sale of land were to be used to pay for free passage of the working-class colonists and for public works, churches and schools. For this scheme to work it was important to get the right proportion of labouring to propertied immigrants. In part, the failure of New Zealand Company plans was because this proportion was never achieved; there were always more labourers than employers.

The income from the sale of land to intending settlers never met expectations and came nowhere near meeting expenses. In 1844 the Company ceased active trading. It surrendered its charter in 1850. The British Government initially assumed responsibility for the New Zealand Company's debts, but gave them to the New Zealand government in 1854.

Over the next few years over 8,600 colonists arrived in New Zealand in over 57 ships. Europeans were a majority by 1859. By 1860, over 100,000 English, Scottish and Welsh immigrants had settled in New Zealand.


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