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Wanganui, New ZealandWanganui History

Wanganui | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Discover the history and heritage of the Wanganui region. Visit the Maori pas along the Whanganui River, and learn of their resentment towards European land claims.

Wanganui History Overview

The European settlement of the Wanganui region is a focal point in New Zealand's history. The resident Maori population held great resentment over the European purchase and settlement of the land from the local tribes.

After the European settlement in the Wellington region began to grow too much for the land's capacity, the New Zealand Company turned to the Wanganui region, and in 1840 began purchasing the land from the local tribes.

Maori resentment continues today.

Early History

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Traditional Maori carving, New Zealand
Traditional Maori Carving
New Zealand
Photographer: Ben Crawford
(www.bencrawford.co.nz)

The Wanganui region is the third oldest settlement in New Zealand. Its original discovery is attributed to Kupe, New Zealand's legendary discover. Tamatea, Captain of the Takitimu Canoe, fully explored the region, and soon after, attracted by the Whanganui River, Maori settlers came to the region.

The Whanganui River became an important trade and travel route for settled Maori tribes. They built fishing villages on the banks of the Whanganui tidal estuary and permanent pa sites further up the river.

European involvement did not occur until 1831 when the first Europeans landed at the mouth of the river.

European Settlement

As Wellington grew in size and numbers, the New Zealand Company was forced to start negotiating for land from the resident Maori population. They turned to Wanganui and began purchasing the land from the local tribes. The Maori were angered by the influx of European settlers to the land they still claimed their own. It took about eight years before agreements were finally reached.

The town continued to grow and reached a population of about 2000 by 1860. When the Land Wars of the 1860's began, Wanganui became a major military centre. The local Maori at Putiki Pa remained friendly to the town's inhabitants though.

The Wanganui region is to this day seen as a focal point for any resentment the Maori have over European settlement and land ownership. In 1995 the Wanganui iwi (pre-European Maori residents of Wanganui) occupied the Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui for 79 days as a protest against land claims.

Useful Wanganui Links

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Wanganui Region Information


Wanganui Tourism Operators

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Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.