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Bay of Islands, New ZealandRussell History

Russell | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

The oldest permanent European settlement in New Zealand, Russell enjoys a rich cultural and natural history. Discover the chaotic past of this sleepy, holiday town.

Russell History Overview

Russell is the oldest permanent European settlement in New Zealand. Formally known as Kororareka, Russell was developed in response to trade with the local Maori who had a relatively high presence there.

The Maori traded timber and food in exchange for muskets, alcohol and other European goods.

Early History

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 30 June 1840 Governor Hobson read is proclamations which were the beginnings of the Treaty of Waitangi, it gained 40 signatures, one of which was Maori in Russell, before the proceedings where moved around the bay to Waitangi. Here the Treaty gained most of the rest of its signatories.

Five years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1945 the Flagstaff Wars erupted between Maori lead by the Maori chief Hone Heke and the British. The Maori and Hone Heke had become disillusioned about the Treaty of Waitangi and so cut the Union Jack from its pole several times. The Flagstaff War is so named because the Maori cut down the Union Jack four times before and during the conflict.

During the war the Maori created a diversion that drew the British soldiers out of the settlement so that the Maori could then raid it. The settlers fled to the British naval ships in the harbor, who then proceeded to pound Russell, destroying most of the houses in the process.

The British then marched after the Maori and attempted to take some Maori pas (forts), it was only after some setbacks that the British won the war, but even then the outcome was not overly decisive.

Russell Heritage Sites

Pompallier

Pompallier is the sole surviving building of the French Catholic mission to the Western Pacific. This is a must see during your stay at Russell, not only did it witness the "The Birth of the Nation" but it also stands as a testament to the wider French influences in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Here visitors see firsthand the experiences of the working mission factory and hear stories of the Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent war.

Pompallier is also home to a pre-industrial printing press designed to print religious material in the Maori language.

Christ Church

Christ Church is a remarkable church; it is the oldest surviving church in New Zealand. The building still remains scarred with musket holes, a testament and memory of the Flagstaff Wars of 1845 between the Maori and British. During the conflict settlers sought shelter in the church.

Russell Accommodation

Russell is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of accommodation options:

View more Russell Accommodation options.

Useful Russell Links

To help plan your Russell holiday choose from the main categories below:

Russell Region Information

Russell Tourism Operators

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Featured

 
ASB Foreign Exchange

ASB Bank

Check out what your money is worth.

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

Get Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for independent travellers.