Internal Wars

By 1840 there was a need for a formal agreement between the British and the Maori to stop the often violent disagreements over land. Another problem the British faced was the general lawlessness of many settlers, as well as the threat of settlement by the French, who landed at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula in 1840, on a piece of land they had bought two years previously.

Maori chief Hone HekeOn 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, guaranteeing Maori land rights in exchange for British sovereignty. This treaty is arguably still the country's most important, and controversial, document. In 1840 the capital was also moved from Russell in the Bay of Islands (the site of the first European settlement), to Auckland, which remained the capital for 25 years.

Hone Heke, the first chief to sign the treaty, was not happy about the moving of the capital and the resulting economic downturn. He also resented the expansionism of the British. In a show of defiance he cut down the flag pole at Kororareka (Russell) four times during the period 1844 to 1845.

The Treaty of Waitangi did not stop Maori losing their lands to settlers and the government, and this led to a build-up of tension and occasional violence in the two decades following its signing.

Over this period there was also an influx of settlers into the new colony, which by 1858 had a population of 115,000, with more settlers than Maori. This put further pressure on land and led to the establishment of the Maori King movement.

Several Maori tribes, unable to stop settlers encroaching onto their lands, banded together, with the idea that a unified front would make their position stronger, and chose an elderly Waikato chief, Te Wherowhero, as their first king.

During the 1860s there were land wars in various places in the North Island, with the most brutal battles being fought in Taranaki and Waikato.

In 1861 large deposits of gold were discovered in Otago in the South Island. Hopeful prospectors came from other parts of the country, but also from Australia and the rest of the world. The coastal city of Dunedin flourished with the inland gold rush, and the country's first university was founded there in 1869.

Although the initial gold rush died down, and despite a depression in the 1880s, the region was the country's most prosperous for half a century.

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