Nation Birth

I n 1865 the capital was moved again, this time from Auckland to Wellington, and two years later the Maori were given their own representation in parliament. In the 1870s the country embarked on ambitious public work schemes, borrowing £10 million to do so, and by the end of the decade there were nearly 2000km of railway, and free public schooling had been established. The major centres on the North and South islands were linked by telegraph and a line stretched all the way to Australia, which connected New Zealand to Britain.

Cobb's Coach, outside the Empire HotelBy 1880 the population had reached half a million, and development continued through the decade with electricity and street lights being supplied to many towns, and the first refrigerated shipments of meat to Europe. However, the decade also saw difficult times, and the workers' unions gained power.

In Dunedin, The Tailoresses Union was formed to improve the terrible working conditions of seamstresses. Previously, in 1878, New Zealand had been the first country to legalise unions, though some professions and trades had been working an eight-hour day since 1840.

The Christian Women's Temperance Union, led by Kate Sheppard, eventually won women the right to vote after several attempts at petitioning parliament. This was passed into law in 893, making New Zealand the first country in the world to do so, 25 years ahead of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Five years later New Zealand also had the world's first old age pension.

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