F lax Timber W

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Contact Period

  • F


  • Timber

  • Whales

  • S
    You could also mention:
    Problems’ – James Busby (British Resident) and William Hobson (first Governor)
    Settlers – the first NZ Company settlement was established at Port Nicholson (Wellington)

  • Sex

  • Souls

Contact Period: “FTW, SSS”
Note: for an AS3.4 “Decision” essay the focus is on why Europeans came. For an AS3.5 “Situation” essay the focus will likely be on the nature of interaction between Maori and Pakeha.
Flax and Timber - Captain Cook had reported plentiful supplies of flax and timber during his three visits (1769-77), particularly in the north. However, it was not until the establishment of Sydney as a penal (convict) colony in 1788 that the British Empire came a significant step closer to New Zealand. (Prior to this, India was the main outpost of Empire.) This made it easier for traders to come to New Zealand. Flax and timber were valuable because there was a ready market for them, especially in the shipping industry or British Navy, where both were used extensively (timber for ship-building and masts, flax for rope and sails). Soon there was a regular trade across the Tasman, thus encouraging even more Europeans to come to NZ. AS3.5 - Traders quickly established what Orange calls a ‘workable accord’ with Maori, as their labour and permission were vital to the harvesting of both resources. For example, in Horeke in the Hokianga a large ship-building industry developed using locally felled trees. Maori worked alongside Europeans in this venture. Maori in return received trade items such as clothing, iron tools and, later, muskets. European goods were thus much sought after, and became what Belich has called the “changing currency of mana” in the ongoing inter-tribal “pursuit of mana”.
Whales and Seals- Whale blubber was boiled down into oil, which was in demand to light the lamps of Britain and lubricate its industrial machinery. Whalebone pre-dated the use of steel. Deep-sea whaling crews from America, Britain, Australia and France pursued the migratory animals from the north Pacific down to New Zealand. The whaling ships called into Kororareka for a few months at most, for reprovisioning, rest and ‘recreation’ (sex). AS3.5 - In addition, European crew members who had jumped ship or died could also be replaced with Maori willing for adventure and new experiences. Contact with Maori at Kororareka was thus intense, but of a short duration. In contrast, other whalers operated from shore-based whaling stations (around Otago and Southland coast, as well as Cook Strait), which also operated as trading posts in the off-season. Inter-marriage with Maori women was common, as chiefs sought to secure ‘their’ Pakeha nearby. Maori also often worked alongside Pakeha in shore-based operations. Thus contact here was of a longer-term, more stable nature.
The first sealers visited Dusky Sound (Fiordland) in 1792. Most sealing stations were located around the Otago and Southland coasts (eg Dusky Sound, Port William) from the early 19th century. Sealskins were sold via Sydney traders to, especially, China. AS3.5 - Conflict with local Maori could occur (and did on occasion) when the seal supply became depleted due to the large numbers sealers often took. For example, one American ship ‘harvested’ and sold to China 87,000 skins in 1804. Two attacks on sealing ships occurred in 1813 (with three crew ending up as dinner) and another attack in 1817.
Souls – The momentum for the spread of missionaries came from the rise in Britain in the late 18th century of the evangelical movement. The prominent Church Missionary Society (CMS) was active in sending out suitable Christian men (and their wives) to places like New Zealand in order to bring the Word of God and ‘save’ Maori. Samuel Marsden, the parson at the penal colony of Sydney, had visited New Zealand and had met Ruatara, a Nga Puhi chief. It was this contact, and Ruatara’s willingness to host a mission station, that led to the establishment of mission stations in the Bay of Islands. Missionaries from the Wesleyan [Methodist] Mission Society (WMS) and the Catholic church followed those of the CMS. AS3.5 - According to Orange, unlike the sealers, whalers and traders the missionaries came to change Maori by, according to the CMS, “civilising and then Christianising” them. However, Maori were interested primarily in trade and the missionaries soon realised that they were expected to supply what Maori wanted most: muskets. For much of the Contact Period missionaries operated their stations because Maori chiefs allowed them to. Nonetheless, missionary influence and mana increased and some, such as Henry Williams, was able to intervene successfully in inter-tribal disputes. By 1840, mission stations had spread as far south as Otaki (north of modern-day Wellington).

These points could be briefly covered.

Problems – in 1831 Maori chiefs in the north were encouraged by missionaries to ask Britain to provide protection from European trouble-makers. This led to the appointment of the first British official, James Busby as Resident in 1833. Busby was instrumental in encouraging 35 northern chiefs to sign the 1835 Declaration of Independence (in which Britain recognised the chiefs’ independence). Busby’s inability to control Europeans in New Zealand ultimately led to the sending of Captain Hobson to negotiate a Treaty with the Maori people.
Settlers – the Port Nicholson (Wellington) settlers were the first group that came with the specific goal of settling in the new country. Conditions in Britain, and the hope of ‘getting ahead’, were the factors behind their decision. A New Zealand Company was established in Britain to organise the purchase, surveying and selling of land to potential settlers in Britain. The Company then transported them out to the new land.

Consequences of Contact

  • Death – disease and muskets

  • Economy

  • Literacy/Christianity

  • Lifestyles’


Consequences of Contact

  • NOTE: textbook page references are included. O=Ofner; Long=Longmans; S+O=Stenson and Olssen

Opening statement (essay ‘argument’):

The factors noted below took place most intensively where there were Pakeha settlements (usually in coastal areas). Tribes in the interior were less exposed. Thus, New Zealand in 1840, with around 90,000 Maori and 2000 Pakeha, was still overwhelmingly a Maori country. Despite the changes that did occur with the arrival of Europeans, Maori still dominated “numerically, politically, economically, culturally and militarily.” Thus acculturation, rather than “Fatal Impact”, best describes the interaction between Maori and Pakeha.

Death – disease and muskets

Diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, influenza, measles and venereal diseases had a major impact. Venereal disease also lowered fertility (birth) rates. Ian Pool notes that the Maori population was ‘immunologically virgin’ and unable to cope with diseases for which they had no resistance (O, p.23; Long p.13; S+O pp.13-14). The first ‘flu epidemic occurred in the South Island in 1790 and two-thirds of the local population are thought to have died. Traditional remedies did little to cope with the onslaught. Some estimates put the total death rate from disease as high as 50% (others such as Pool give lower figures). While on the face of it this seems to support Harrison Wright’s ‘Fatal Impact’ theory, Belich points out that countries in Europe suffered - and recovered from - severe epidemics and no one has suggested ‘Fatal Impact’ to explain those death rates.

Muskets also took a significant toll on the Maori population. Ballara estimates that there were up to 20,000 deaths from inter-hapu warfare in the 1820s-30s (O, p.16; S+O p.13). Nga Puhi caused the most devastation, with its taua (war parties) the first to be musket-armed. As other tribes armed, Nga Puhi’s casualties also increased; possibly up to as much 19% of the tribe’s population as at 1800 were killed by 1840 (Long p.13). This situation did not end until what Binney has called a ‘balance of terror’ was established, with all tribes having the weapons. (O, p.16)

  • From about 1815, using muskets to settle disputes was a new development that peaked in the decade from 1825-1835, but the rivalries themselves were traditional and part of the ever-present ‘competition for mana.’

    • The high death-rate from disease and muskets disrupted the usual patterns of life, such as crop planting, either because fighting was occurring, or through lack of manpower due to high casualties.

    • The normal hierarchy of authority was often disrupted as senior chiefs died off. For example, within Nga Puhi there were so many deaths that the relatively minor chief Hone Heke rose quickly to be one of the paramount chiefs.


The traditional Maori economy was essentially a subsistence economy (producing only enough to meet the tribe’s immediate needs), although there was some inter-iwi trading. Many Maori soon actively entered into a market economy with Europeans, producing a surplus of goods for trade (O, p.14; S+O pp.115-117). This led to the establishment of what Orange calls a ‘workable accord’ (O, p.14), or peaceful relations based on trade. Belich supports the idea of a ‘workable accord’ by pointing out that with thousands of cases of contact there were only 40 or so major incidents of conflict. One instance of a breakdown of this ‘workable accord’ was when local Maori attacked and killed the crew of the Boyd in the Whangaroa Harbour; trade to the area stopped. Some Bay of Islands’ tribes spent so much energy on producing pigs and potatoes for trade in the 1810s that, according to Simmons, their own health suffered. He noted a similar pattern for flax production, where some hapu moved into low-lying and unhealthy flax-growing areas. Muskets in particular were in demand from the mid-1810s as the ‘currency of mana’ of that time. Hongi Hika’s taua (war parties) south during the Musket Wars were inspired in part by the desire to capture slaves to increase his agricultural production, and thus increase Nga Puhi’s economic power. Some tribes (Tuhoe, Arawa) moved from inland areas to coastal regions to take advantage of the opportunities that trade offered (O, p.14). Wakefield wrote of meeting a tribe bringing pigs all the way across the rugged central North Island to trade for guns at Wanganui. Frequently, chiefs were keen to marry Pakeha into their tribes (Dicky Barrett, William Webster) for greater access to trade. However, despite this engagement in the market economy, Maori still operated communally rather than individualistically like the Pakeha.


From the early 1820s some aspects of Christianity had been acculturated by groups of northern Maori. The cult Papahurihia is an example of a case where Christian beliefs were blended with traditional Maori beliefs. However, by 1830 there were still only some 3000 conversions, as most Maori were interested in the trade that missionaries attracted, rather than the message of God. (The language barrier, early dependence of the missionaries on the protection of chiefs, and non-warlike nature of the Christian religion initially meant it held little interest for Maori.) By 1840 a significant number of Maori (around 30,000) had accepted (at least outwardly) the Christian religion. (O, p.22; Long pp.14-15; S+O p.12) Wright argues from a Eurocentric view that crises (disease, war) caused conversion. Owens similarly claims that conversion was due to the impact of literacy and increasing missionary effectiveness, especially the work of Henry Williams. Binney, while acknowledging all of these factors, says that conversion was ultimately an active choice by Maori.

  • The influences/consequences for those who converted included the gaining of literacy, while practices such as war, infanticide, cannibalism, tattooing and even carving “obscene” images diminished. The decrease in warfare allowed tribes to resume more productive activities, such as farming. (S+O, p.19) Early conversions occurred in the North and were initially spread south by converted captives freed by Nga Puhi. Rival tribes often adopted what were soon recognised as being intensely rival denominations (Anglican, Wesleyan, Catholic).


In terms of clothing, Maori adopted (and adapted) many European items, including footwear, hats, shirts and jackets. Often Maori would adapt European items, such as using blankets as cloaks. Foodstuffs such as potatoes (which incidentally allowed longer-range taua/war parties), pigs and Indian corn rapidly became part of the Maori diet, supplanting taro and yam. Even kumara was neglected as a foodstuff in favour of the more durable potato (O, p.16). Tobacco was in heavy demand; alcohol much less so outside Kororareka. European technology was also adopted and adapted. Iron tools saw agricultural production increase, and more intricate carving and tattooing flourish (O, p.16). Belich, Salmond and Binney point to this as evidence of acculturation. Maori were quick to see the advantages of the stable whaling boats and began to use them rather than their own waka. Maori also used the new technology of muskets to enhance their long-standing rivalries with other hapu. Hongi Hika from Nga Puhi is the best example of a leader using these Pakeha weapons to settle Maori grievances.

Interesting note…
Exchange of Values and Ideas by 1840: Maori to Pakeha.

Pakeha, for their part, recognised Maori to be ‘noble savages’, capable of spiritual redemption. They even accepted, at first, that they relied on the patronage of chiefs for their safety (for example, missionaries, who felt obliged against their wills to trade in muskets). Some – intermediaries – adopted more Maori ways, but these Pakeha were relatively few in number.

Pakeha were also challenged by the more equal role of women in Maori society, as contrasted to the role of women in English society. Twelve women signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of their hapu. Ironically, the monarch they were signing the Treaty with was also a woman (Queen Victoria) but this was an exception rather than the rule.

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