Bay of Islands 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
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.
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
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.
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 Accommodation
- Bay of Islands Tours
- Bay of Islands Attractions and Activities
- Bay of Islands Transport
- Bay of Islands Cuisine and Dining
- Bay of Islands Shopping
- Bay of Islands Visitor Information
Bay of Islands Region Information
Key information and facts about the Bay of Islands region.
Major activities and attractions in the Bay of Islands region.