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The Maori population, of Polynesian origin, settled in New Zealand around 800 A.D., and named it Aotearoa, “the land of the long white cloud”.

The first European traveller ever approaching the North Island was Dutch seafarer and explorer Abel Tasman in 1642; however, the fierce and hostile reaction of the Maori population persuaded him not to go ashore. Tasman called the land “Staten Landt”, but in 1645 it was re-named “Nova Zeelandia”, as a tribute to a province of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The first European to ever set foot on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand was British captain James Cook: on October 17th, 1769, he claimed the island a property of King George III. The British crown was quite uninterested in this new conquest, especially because of the scarcity of resources detected in the new territory. The British started to colonize New Zealand in 1830, just to prevent France from doing the same.  The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6th, 1840, by British Governor William Hobson and 50 Maori chiefs of New Zealand, and it gave Britain sovereignty over the Maori population. However, since the Maori and English versions of the text differ substantially, it is still unclear what was agreed upon by the signatories. For this reason, in 1995 the British Crown paid considerable reparations to Maoris for the confiscated lands. Nonetheless, the Treaty is considered the founding document of modern New Zealand.

New Zealand was a colony until 1852, when the British Parliament passed an Act granting New Zealand self-government. In 1860 the Gold Rush attracted hundreds of European miners to New Zealand. New Zealand became an independent state in 1947; it is still part of the Commonwealth.


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