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Bay of Islands, New ZealandBay of Islands History

Bay of Islands | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Discovered by legendary Maori navigator Kupe, visited by Captain Cook in 1769, home to the Nga Puhi tribe (iwi) of Maori, the Bay of Islands is a truly remarkable area.

Bay of Islands History Overview

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphins, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Bay of Islands Bottlenose Dolphins
Northland
Photographer: Rob Suisted
(www.naturespic.com)

Not so long ago the Bay of Islands saw the throng and bustle, blood and tears of ship deserters, whalers, sealers and sailors. The Bay of Islands, birthplace of New Zealand as we know it today, was once a bustling seafaring and political base fusing Maori and European culture. Now it is a place of holiday fun and water adventures, refined food and wine pleasures and quiet contemplation of the past.

Several towns are scattered like shells around the coast, each with its own individual feel. There's the main holiday town Paihia—a vibrant, uptempo place and a few minutes away elegant Russell, once a whaling town, now a tranquil oasis.

It's a sweet irony that the town described in the lawless late 1800's as 'the hellhole of the Pacific' is now one of the country's most refined places to visit. In Russell, our colonial past is honoured in our present with carefully restored historic buildings such as Christ Church with its bullet holes from the Maori Wars.

Early History

The famous British explorer, Captain James Cook, discovered New Zealand in 1769.

In 1772 the arrival of French navigator Marion de Fresne created a conflict between the Maori and European settlers, resulting in much bloodshed.

Later came religious leaders like Australian Anglican missionary Samuel Marsden in 1814 and the first Roman Catholic Bishop of the south-west Pacific, John Baptist Francis Pompallier. Bishop Pompallier was respected by Maori chiefs and European leaders alike and was present at Waitangi.

Waitangi - Birthplace of a Nation

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Maori carving at the Marae in Waitangi, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Maori Marae, Waitangi
Bay of Islands, Northland
Photographer: Ben Crawford
(www.bencrawford.co.nz)

On what is a nation based but the agreements of its peoples? In the case of New Zealand, a bi-cultural country of Maori tribes (iwi) and British settlers this is the agreement between Maori chiefs and the British Crown known as the Treaty of Waitangi.

At the same time as establishing British law in New Zealand, the Treaty guaranteed Maori authority over their land and culture. The British Government sent Captain William Hobson to New Zealand with the mission of acquiring sovereignty of the country by way of a treaty.

This was duly drawn up, translated and signed by 43 Northland chiefs followed by over 500 other Maori chiefs in 1840. The Treaty of Waitangi remains central to New Zealand law and society.

With two language versions; Maori and English, written and translated by people with little or no legal know-how, these versions differ to such an extent that there have been problems of interpretation.

For example, in regard to sovereignty the English version states that Maori surrender their 'kawanatanga' (sovereignty) and transfer power to the British Crown while the Maori version implies a sharing of power.

Some may ask which version of the Treaty is the correct one. The answer is both. Since two versions were signed, both are taken into account and regard is given to each document when decisions are being made.

» More Information about Waitangi

» Waitangi Travel Directory

A Toilet in History

It's extraordinary that amid all the colonial history of this area in the Kawakawa township you'll find the only building in the Southern hemisphere designed by Austrian artist, Frederick Hundertwasser and the last of his buildings before he died in 1999. Even more curious, it's the public toilet.

Useful Bay of Islands Links

To help plan your Bay of Islands holiday choose from the main categories below:

Bay of Islands Region Information

Bay of Islands Tourism Operators

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ASB Foreign Exchange

ASB Bank

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New Zealand Coach Tours

New Zealand Coach Tours

The largest range of escorted & small group tours

Boutique touring itineraries designed for you

Specialist NZ Tours

Boutique touring itineraries - designed for you

New Zealand self-drive tours

NZ Self-Drive Tours

Explore NZ on a custom self-drive package holiday

Bluebridge Ferry

Bluebridge Ferry

Cross Cook Strait and enjoy Kiwi hospitality.

World Nomads Travel Insurance

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