The First Europeans

The first European to sight New Zealand was Dutch Captain Abel Tasman, who in 1642 sighted the point that is now Cape Foulwind near Westport in the South Island. Although he put New Zealand on the map he never actually set foot in the country, wary of Maori warriors after his ship's boat was attacked in Golden Bay.

The country was briefly known to Europeans as Staten land, as it was believed to be part of South America. Then it was given the Latin name Zeelandia Nova, but was changed to the Dutch version, Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

Captain James CookIt was nearly 130 years later before the next European ship, under the command of Captain James Cook, 'rediscovered' New Zealand in 1769. In his ship, the Endeavour,Cook spent six months accurately charting the New Zealand coastline. He did make one or two mistakes - marking Stewart Island as a peninsula and Banks Peninsula as an island. Cook's landing at Gisborne preceded Frenchman Jean Franeois Marie de Surville's landing in Northland by just two months.

In the 1790s sealers and whalers arrived in New Zealand, but within a few short decades the once plentiful whales and seals had virtually been wiped out. During this period, interaction between Europeans and Maori had resulted in a marked decline in the Maori population. Europeans brought diseases to which the Maori had no immunity, and they also brought firearms which warring tribes used to decimate each other.

Missionaries arrived in the early 1800s and with them came domestic farm stock, and new farming methods which many Maori quickly adopted, although they were significantly slower to take up Christianity. In 1815 Thomas King became the first European child to be born in New Zealand, and by the 1830s European colonisation was in full swing.

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