New Zealand: History + Stats + Key Dates

New Zealand Aotearoa - The Story So Far. .

Created by the awesome combination of sedimentation, tectonic plate movement and volcanism, the South West of the Pacific Ocean is where you will find the South Sea Islands of New Zealand Aotearoa.


As well as the North, South and Stewart Islands, New Zealand also encompasses the Antipodes, Auckland, Bounty, Campbell, Chatham, Kermadec and Snares Islands.

Offshore islands considered part of the 'mainland' are; Three Kings, Cavalli, Poor Knights, Mokohinau, Hen and Chickens, Kawau, Little Barrier, Great Barrier, Rakitu, Tiri Tiri Matangi, Rakino, Mototapu, Browns, Pakatoa, Rotoroa, Ponui, Pakihi, Motuihe, Rangitoto, Waiheke, Cuvier, Mercury, Alderman, Motiti, White (volcanic), Mayor, Portland, Mana, Kapiti, Rabbit, D'Urville, Stephens, Arapawa, Ruapuke, Resolution, Secretary and Codfish Islands.

The Pacific Island of Tokelau, 3000km northwest of NZ is officially New Zealand territory. Ross Dependency is New Zealands territorial claim in Antartica.

Vital Statistics


  • Our 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone covers 4,030,300 km2 of ocean

  • It is the 7th largest on the Planet

  • Depths to over 10,000 meters

  • Temperatures ranging from sub-tropical to sub-Antarctic. 

  • Around 1,200 fish species identified to date

  • 100+ fishes are commercially fished

  • Co-ordinates: 41.00.S, 174.00.E

  • Coastline: 15,811km or 9,824 miles of BLUE EDGE

  • Land Area: 270,534 km2 or 104,454 sq.miles

  • Highest point: 3,754 m or 12,313 ft: Mount Cook

  • Deepest lake: 462 m or 1,515 ft: Lake Hauroko

  • Largest lake: 606 km2 or 234 sq.miles: Lake Taupo

  • Longest river: 425 km or 264 miles long: Waikato River

  • Largest glacier: 29 km or 18 miles long: Tasman Glacier

  • Deepest cave: 889 m or 2,916 ft:Nettlebed, Mt. Arthur 

New Zealand History in Brief

500 million years is the oldest rock material found in New Zealand and is located on the West Coast of the South Island. It dates from when New Zealand was close to the coast from Gondwana.

35 million years ago New Zealand for the most part is still under water.

5 million years to date, the two main islands of New Zealand begin to take on a form we may begin to recognise.

150,000 years is approximately how long the volcanically active White Island 48km off the east coast of the North Island has been forming.

65,000 years is at least how long (Lake) Taupo volcano has been in existence.

26,500 years ago the largest eruption from (Lake) Taupo volcano produced at least 800 cubic kilometers of material.

18,000 years ago the first eruptions that formed Mt Tarawera begin. See also AD 1886

AD205 or thereabouts was the last eruption of Lake Taupo in the central North Island and devastated an estimated 20,000 square kilometers of land.
AD925-1130 the first Polynesian seafarers, now known as the Maori people, made landfall led by the legendary navigator Kupe. It is thought that they had left from the mythical homeland known as Hawaiki. Eventually the new country was known to the Maori as 'Aotearoa ' which means 'land of the long white cloud'.
AD1400 or thereabouts volcanic activity formed Rangitoto Island in Auckland Harbour.
AD1500 the giant flightless Moa bird became extinct around this time. There were 14 species growing up to 2.5m and 250kg. If some unconfirmed accounts are true, Moa birds may have survived to perhaps as late as AD1800, but this is unlikely. (but you never know)
AD1642 on the 13th of December of this year Abel Tasman, became the first known European seafaring explorer

to sight what is now known as New Zealand Aotearoa. Tasman named the land Staten Land.
AD1644 Around this date, or perhaps a few years later, the name New Zealand (translated from Dutch) started to

appear on cartographical maps
AD1653 The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton (b.9 Aug 1593 – d.19 Dec 1683) was first published in this year.

No book apart from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer has been re-printed as often. It remains in print.
AD1728 James Cook was born on October 27 of this year in Marton, Yorkshire, Britain. Cook joined the navy

in 1755 aged 27.
AD1769 on the 6th of October of this year Nicholas Young, the surgeon's boy of HMB Endeavour under the

command of Captain James Cook, sighted New Zealand for the first time.
AD1770 On the 31st of March of this year the Endeavour departed New Zealand having made the first friendly

contact with the Maori.
AD1773 74 & 77 James Cook made further visits to New Zealand in these years respectively in command of the

ship Resolution.
AD1779 On February 14th of this year Captain James Cook dies at Kealakekua Bay on the Sandwich Islands

(Hawaii) during his third voyage.
AD1791 Whaling commenced based out of Dusky Sound in the South Island.
AD1840 on February 6th of this year what was to become known as The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by

The Crown and around 500 Maori Chiefs at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands.
AD1840 Auckland was founded on the September 18th of this year
AD1840 the first settlers that for the most part stayed arrived at Wellington aboard the Aurora and Oriental.
AD1841 New Zealand is proclaimed independent of New South Wales Australia and declared a Crown Colony. Captain William Hobson becomes Governor.
AD1855 on the 13th of January of this year a catastrophic earthquake hit Wellington and raised areas of land in the region by up to 3 meters.
AD1861 the Canterbury Museum is founded in this year and first opened to the public in 1865
AD1863 on February 7th of this year HMS Orpheus in transit from Australia was wrecked on the Manukau Bar at Auckland with the loss of 189 lives.
AD1865 The Colonial Museum in Wellington (later the 'Dominion' then 'National' Museum) now, Te Papa, was set up.
AD1868 in August of this year an 8m high Tsunami reached New Zealand some 15 hours after an earthquake in Chile.
AD1869 the first university in New Zealand, Otago, holds the first meeting of the university council.
AD1874 The oceanographic research vessel H.M.S. Challenger visited New Zealand in June and July of this year as part of its global circumnavigational voyage of discovery. As a result, 220 new marine species were discovered in our waters, the full results not been published until some years later.
AD1875 the number of species of fish species known to inhabit New Zealand waters at this time was 163, molluscs 502, and whales 21.
AD1886 on the 10th of June of this year Mt Tarawera erupted and killed an estimated 150 people.
AD1887 the first B.Sc. degree granted in New Zealand was given to a marine biologist, Charles Chilton, by Otago University.
AD1887 in this year J. Macandrew, M.P. from Dunedin, sought legislation to provide protection for flounder and sole during their spawning season. As a result, the Fish Protection Act of 1877 was passed, the first legal regulation of fishing in New Zealand waters.
AD1893 in this year New Zealand becomes the first democratic country to give woman the right to vote.
AD1904 on January 13 of this year the first fishery research facility is opened at Portobello, Dunedin.
AD1907 26th of September of this year New Zealand is granted Dominion Status by the United Kingdom.
AD1910 the population of New Zealand reaches the milestone of one million people.
AD1915 the first Striped Marlin (233lb) caught in New Zealand on rod and line was landed off Cape Brett at the Bay of Islands by Mr A.D. Campbell (Scot.) in February of this year. Maori had caught Marlin by traditional methods for many years beforehand.
AD1914-18  18,042 New Zealanders lose their lives and over 40,000 are injured fighting in World War 1.
AD1925 in this year the first radio broadcast in New Zealand was made from 1YA in Auckland.
AD1923 Eric Walmsley Heath, cartoonist, artist and illustrator is born in Wellington. Currently Eric's work is been exhibited on Fish Art Gallery.
AD1926 Zane Grey made his first trip to New Zealand and arrived at Russell in the Bay of Islands on January 20th of this year. The Angler's Eldorado was written shortly after.
AD1928 Kingsford-Smith flies the Tasman Sea from Australia to NZLA for the first time.
AD1939 the first Government fishery research vessel F.V. Ikatere (19.3m & meaning, fast fish), is launched in this year just days before the outbreak of the Second World War. It immediately went into service as a navy auxiliary, then at wars end, returned to its original role. Believed to still operate as a privately owned long-liner fishing boat.
AD1939-45 11,925 New Zealanders loose their lives in the Second World War.
AD1947 the Parliament of New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster.
AD1952 the population of New Zealand reaches two million people.
AD1953 the number of people in New Zealand working in the field of marine taxonomy and marine research numbered around 40 person's.
AD1966 the working population of New Zealand reaches one million people.
AD1968 on the 10th of April of this year tragedy struck when the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand ship Wahine hit rocks and some time later capsized at the entrance to Wellington harbour during a severe storm. The final death toll was 53 people from the 734 passengers and crew aboard.
AD1980 Saturday trading is Legalised.
AD1980 the population of New Zealand reaches three million people around this year.
AD1984 New Zealand adopts Anti-nuclear legislation banning nuclear powered ships.
AD1985 the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior is sunk by explosives planted by French government agents while tied up at Auckland wharves. One crewman dies as a result.
AD1991 the ice strengthened New Zealand fisheries research vessel F.V. Tangaroa, 70m and 2282 tonnes, is launched. It is owned by NIWA Vessel Managment Ltd. NIWA also manage the R.V. Pelorus, 10.5m, 8.5 tonnes, 1977; and the R.V. Kaharoa, 28m, 300 tonnes, 1981.
AD1992  N.I.W.A. Taihoro Nukurangi is established. The National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd is a stand-alone company, with its shares held (owned) by the Crown. Staff around 680, annual revenue around $114 million, assets around $74 million.
AD2002 the population of New Zealand is estimated to have reached four million people around this year and is growing at a rate of 1 person every 30 minutes. 
AD2008 the population of New Zealand is estimated to have reached 4.27 million people.


James Cook painted by N. Dance c.1776

(photoshopped background)​

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