New Zealand History/Polynesian Settlement
Polynesian Settlement of New Zealand
Around 950 AD, it is believed Polynesian settlers used subtropical weather systems, star constelations, water currents and animal migration to find their way from their native islands, in central Polynesia to New Zealand. As the settlers colonized the country, they developed their distinctive Maori culture.
According to Maori, the first Polynesian explorer to reach New Zealand was Kupe, who traveled across the Pacific in a Polynesian-style voyaging canoe. It is thought Kupe reached New Zealand at Hokianga Harbour, in Northland, about 1070 years ago.
Although there has been much debate about when and how Polynesians actually started settling New Zealand, the current understanding is that they migrated from East and central Polynesia, the Southern Cook and Society islands region. They migrated deliberately, at different times, in different canoes, first arriving in New Zealand in the late 10th Century.
For a long time during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was believed the first inhabitants of New Zealand were the Maori people, who hunted giant birds called moas. The theory then established the idea that the Maori people migrated from Polynesia in a Great Fleet and took New Zealand from the Moriori, establishing an agricultural society. However, new evidence suggests that the Moriori were a group of mainland Maori who migrated from New Zealand to the Chatham Islands, developing their own distinctive, peaceful culture.