According to Maori legend the history of New Zealand starts with demi-god Maui travelling far out to sea from his homeland. Hawaiki, and catching a huge fish on his magic book. The huge fish was the North Island and Maui's canoe was the South Island, with Steward Island as an anchor.

According to scholars, New Zealand history starts with the arrival of the Moa-hunters, possibly around the ninth century. It was previously though that the Moa-hunters were a totally separate race of people to the Maori, but now it is believed that they also came from east Polynesia, and may have been early Maori or, at least, related to them.

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First Europeans, Internal Wars, Nation Birth, Prosperous Moments

The majority of the people of New Zealand are descended from European settlers, mostly British, although more that 10 percent are Maori people. The Maoris originally came from the eastern Pacific. A large part of the population is also a mixture of Maori and European.

No one knows exactly when the first Maoris settled in New Zealand -- it may have been during or even before the A.D. 800s. The first European to discover the islands was the Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman, in 1642. The next European visitor, Captain James Cook, did not arrive until 1769. British settlers founded Wellington, on North Island, in 1840, and New Zealand became a British colony.

After gold was discovered on South Island in 1861, a rush of settlers arrived to try and make their fortunes. During the 1860s, the settlers and Maoris quarrelled over land, and a number of fierce wars occurred. As a result, the Maoris lost many of their ancestral lands and rights.

New Zealand became an independent nation in 1907 but kept its strong political and economic links with Britain. More recently, the country has developed closer ties with Australia and other South Pacific nations. Following a period of Maori unrest in the 1970s, there is now a new interest in Maori culture and traditions.

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