North Island History
The North Island has a traumatic and interesting history. From the Maori Land Wars of the 1860s to the volcanic eruptions of the great volcanoes.
North Island History Overview
New Zealand was first settled by the Maori settlers who traversed the Southern Ocean to New Zealand in their waka (canoes).
European settlement came in the 1800s, causing strife and warfare between the Maori and the Europeans. Some resentment continues to this day with disputes over land claims.
The North Island has also been rocked by earthquakes and volcanic activity.
New Zealand was discovered by Kupe, the legendary Maori explorer. He came to New Zealand approximately a thousand years ago and settled much of the land. Tribes built pa (villages) throughout the North Island.
In the early 1800s Captain Cook, the famed British explorer, sighted New Zealand. News travelled fast, and soon traders, and whalers came to New Zealand. In the 1830s European settlers began to arrive. Much of the land was purchased or taken from the local tribes causing anger and strife throughout the country.
The Land Wars of the 1860s came about over the dispute over land. In 1863 the New Zealand Settlements Act was established and 500,000 hectares of land in the Waikato region was confiscated from the Maori people. Peace was later established, and the European settlers cleared the land, and began building towns and cities.
1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake
On Tuesday 3rd February 1931, most of the Hawke's Bay district suffered a disastrous earthquake 2.5 minutes in length.
The earthquake rocked Napier almost totally leveling all buildings in the inner city. Some areas of land were raised by as much as eight feet, and approximately 4,000 hectares of sea bed became dry land. The current site today is the Napier airport and also residential and industrial property developments.
162 people in Napier and a total of 258 people in the Hawke's Bay area lost their lives.
The extensive rebuilding of Napier in the 1930s was in the popular Art Deco flavour of the time. Some of the Art Deco buildings were subsequently replaced with contemporary structures during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including the Art Gallery. However, most of the centre remained intact for long enough to become recognized as architecturally unique. Since the 1990s the architecture has been protected and restored.
Mount Ruapehu Eruptions
Mount Ruapehu is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Recent major eruptions occurred in 1895, 1945, 1995, 1996 and 2006.
The 1945 eruption had far reaching effects, resulting in the loss of 151 lives on December 24th, 1953. When the eruption occurred the crater lake was emptied, and the outlet dammed. Over time the crater refilled and the dam collapsed causing a lahar (mudflow and water) in the Whangaehu River. The lahar undermined the Tangiwai railway bridge piers, and the bridge collapsed when an express train crossed it.
Information cited from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Ruapehu)
Mount Tarawera 1886 Eruption
On the morning of June 10th, 1886 a series of small earthquakes were felt in the Rotorua area. At 1:30 am a larger earthquake was felt and followed by the sound of an explosion. By 2:30 am Mount Tarawera's three peaks had erupted blasting three distinct columns of smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky. At 3:30 am the bed of Lake Rotomahana blew out.
The eruption of Mt Tarawera was heard as far way as Blenheim, in the South Island of New Zealand, and the effects of the ash in the air were observed as far south as Christchurch, located over 800 kilometres south of Rotorua.
The sound of the eruption and the flashing sky, heard as far away as Auckland, was thought by some to be an attack by Russian warships.
The eruption is believed to have killed over 120 people, although it is possible that more people died. The eruption also destroyed the Pink and White Terraces and buried the Maori village of Te Wairoa.
Many of the lakes surrounding Mt Tarawera had their shapes and areas dramatically altered because of the explosion.
Useful North Island Links
To help plan your North Island holiday choose from the main categories below:
- North Island Accommodation
- North Island Tours
- North Island Attractions and Activities
- North Island Transport
- North Island Shopping
- North Island Visitor Information
North Island Wide Information
Key information and facts about the north-island region.
Major activities and attractions in the north-island region.