Month Calendar View

Historic NZ events in December

Dec

1

First movie shot in New Zealand

1898 First movie shot in New Zealand

The first motion pictures known to have been taken in New Zealand were made by photographer W.H. Bartlett for the entrepreneur Alfred Whitehouse, who in 1895 had imported the colony’s first ‘kinetoscope’, a Thomas Edison invention that showed moving images to one viewer at a time. Read more...

First flight from North Cape to Bluff

1933 First flight from North Cape to Bluff

Twenty-two-year-old pilot E.F. ('Teddy') Harvie and his passenger, 18-year-old Miss Trevor Hunter, set a record for the longest flight within New Zealand in a single day. They completed the 1880-km journey in 16 hours 10 minutes. Read more...

Dec

2

'Six o'clock swill' begins

1917 'Six o'clock swill' begins

Six p.m. closing of pubs was introduced as a 'temporary' wartime measure. It ushered in what became known as the 'six o'clock swill', in which patrons drank their fill before closing time. The practice was to last for 50 years. Read more...

First Bishop of Aotearoa consecrated

1928 First Bishop of Aotearoa consecrated

Frederick Bennett, who had a Ngāti Whakaue mother and an Irish father, was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1897. He spent 13 years as superintendent of the Māori mission in Rotorua before moving to Hastings for mission work in Hawke’s Bay. Read more...

Dec

3

Land confiscation law passed

1863 Land confiscation law passed

Parliament passed legislation for the confiscation (raupatu) of Māori land to punish tribes deemed to have ‘engaged in open rebellion against Her Majesty’s authority’ in the early 1860s. Pākehā settlers would occupy the confiscated land. Read more...

Bluff Island Harbour opened

1960 Bluff Island Harbour opened

The 40-ha man-made Island Harbour, eight years in the making, is the centrepiece of the modern port facilities at Bluff, New Zealand's southernmost commercial deepwater port. Read more...

Dec

4

Radio Hauraki rules the waves

1966 Radio Hauraki rules the waves

Pirate station Radio Hauraki broadcast its first scheduled transmission from the vessel Tiri in the Colville Channel between Great Barrier Island and Coromandel Peninsula. Read more...

Dec

5

First 'one man one vote' election

1890 First 'one man one vote' election

New Zealand’s electoral law had been changed so that no one could vote in more than one general electoral district. This ended the long-standing practice of ‘plural voting’ by those who owned property in more than one electorate. Read more...

Dec

6

Special votes cast in general election

1905 Special votes cast in general election

For the first time in New Zealand’s electoral history, registered voters who were away from their electorate on polling day were able to cast a ‘special’ absentee vote at any polling booth in the country. Read more...

First Labour government takes office

1935 First Labour government takes office

The first Labour government assumed office following the party's landslide victory in November's general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, this government is best remembered for its significant social welfare reforms. Read more...

Dec

7

Bassett Road machine-gun murders

1963 Bassett Road machine-gun murders

The bullet-ridden bodies of Frederick George Walker and Kevin James Speight were found in a house on Bassett Rd in Remuera, Auckland. A team of 32 detectives began an immediate search that led to the arrest of Ron Jorgensen and John Gillies. Read more...

Queen Street concert ends in riot

1984 Queen Street concert ends in riot

‘Tears, terror at the concert that made history’ was one of the newspaper headlines the day after the Queen St riot of December 1984. Read more...

Dec

8

New Zealand declares war on Japan

1941 New Zealand declares war on Japan

New Zealand's declaration followed the surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan also attacked Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaya. Read more...

Deadly fire at Seacliff Mental Hospital

1942 Deadly fire at Seacliff Mental Hospital

The fire that swept through a locked ward of the Seacliff Mental Hospital, north of Dunedin, killed 37 female patients. Read more...

Dec

9

First passengers traverse Lyttelton rail tunnel

1867 First passengers traverse Lyttelton rail tunnel

After 6½ years of construction, it took just 6½ minutes for the first trainload of passengers to speed through the 2.6- km tunnel linking the Canterbury plains to the port of Lyttelton. Read more...

NZ troops fire first shots during South African War

1899 NZ troops fire first shots during South African War

Having answered the Empire's call to arms against the breakaway Boer states in South Africa, New Zealand troops fired their first shots in anger in northern Cape Colony. Read more...

Dec

10

Rutherford wins Nobel Prize

1908 Rutherford wins Nobel Prize

Ernest Rutherford’s discoveries about the nature of atoms shaped modern science and paved the way for nuclear physics. Albert Einstein called him a ‘second Newton’ who had ‘tunnelled into the very material of God’. Read more...

Maurice Wilkins wins Nobel Prize

1962 Maurice Wilkins wins Nobel Prize

New Zealand-born Maurice Wilkins and his colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick shared the prize for their studies on the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the genetic molecule found in all organisms. Read more...

Dec

11

Parliament library escapes fire

1907 Parliament library escapes fire

The country narrowly avoided a great library bonfire in 1907, when fire swept through Parliament Buildings in Wellington. Read more...

Statute of Westminster passed

1931 Statute of Westminster passed

The British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, confirming the complete autonomy of its six Dominions. Australia and New Zealand held back from adopting this status, but in 1947 New Zealand became the last of the Dominions to do so. Read more...

Dec

12

De Surville first sights NZ near Hokianga

1769 De Surville first sights NZ near Hokianga

As James Cook rounded the northern tip of the North Island from east to west, the French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville was in the same waters, sailing in the opposite direction. A storm prevented any chance of an historic meeting. Read more...

First Golden Kiwi draw

1961 First Golden Kiwi draw

Tickets went on sale for New Zealand’s new national Golden Kiwi lottery. All 250,000 tickets sold with 24 hours, with the £12,000 top prize (equivalent to around $500,000 today) four times that offered in previous lotteries. Read more...

Dec

13

First recorded European sighting of New Zealand

1642 First recorded European sighting of New Zealand

Towards noon the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted 'a large land, uplifted high', possibly the peaks of the Paparoa Range behind Punakaiki. Read more...

Battle of the River Plate

1939 Battle of the River Plate

When the cruiser HMS Achilles opened fire on the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the South Atlantic, it became the first New Zealand unit to strike a blow at the enemy in the Second World War. Read more...

Dec

14

First Auckland A and P Show

1843 First Auckland A and P Show

The Agricultural and Pastoral show demonstrated excellence in agriculture and animal husbandry. These shows became an annual event in communities throughout New Zealand. Read more...

Cabinet endorses Tino Rangatiratanga flag

2009 Cabinet endorses Tino Rangatiratanga flag

The government recognised the Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) flag as the preferred national Māori flag. Read more...

Dec

15

The evacuation of Gallipoli begins

1915 The evacuation of Gallipoli begins

In a well-planned operation which contrasted sharply with those mounted earlier in the campaign, the troops were successfully withdrawn between 15 and 20 December. Read more...

Poll tax on Chinese immigrants abolished

1944 Poll tax on Chinese immigrants abolished

The Finance Act (No. 3) abolished the poll tax introduced in 1881, which was described by Minister of Finance Walter Nash as a 'blot on our legislation'. Read more...

Belmont viaduct blown up

1951 Belmont viaduct blown up

The 38-m-high railway viaduct, near Johnsonville, Wellington, was built in 1885 and had not been used since 1937. It was demolished by army engineers as a training exercise. Read more...

OMC release ‘How Bizarre’

1995 OMC release ‘How Bizarre’

It may have been the mariachi trumpets, the gently rapped lyrics or that ‘making-me-crazy’ chorus, but whatever the cause, ‘How Bizarre’ by the south Auckland group Otara Millionaires Club (OMC) went on to become one of the most successful songs ever recorded in New Zealand. Read more...

Dec

16

All Blacks' non-try hands Wales historic win

1905 All Blacks' non-try hands Wales historic win

A great rugby rivalry was born when a try to All Black Bob Deans was disallowed, resulting in the only loss of the ‘Originals’ tour. Read more...

Dec

17

New Zealand’s own Eiffel Tower opens

1889 New Zealand’s own Eiffel Tower opens

Just 8½ months after Gustave Eiffel’s famous Paris tower was officially completed in March 1889, a wooden replica Eiffel Tower opened at the 1889–90 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin. Read more...

Ten crew of Cook's ship killed and eaten

1773 Ten crew of Cook's ship killed and eaten

At Wharehunga Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, 10 men serving on the ship accompanying Cook's Resolution died at the hands of Ngāti Kuia and Rangitāne. Read more...

Major Major, mascot of 19 Battalion, dies of sickness

1944 Major Major, mascot of 19 Battalion, dies of sickness

Major Major, No. 1 Dog, 2NZEF, and member/mascot of 19 Battalion since 1939, died of sickness in Italy. He was buried with full military honours at Rimini. Read more...

Dec

18

First encounter between Māori and Europeans

1642 First encounter between Māori and Europeans

Abel Tasman’s Dutch East India Company expedition had the first known European contact with Māori. It did not go well. Read more...

Dec

19

Universal male suffrage introduced

1879 Universal male suffrage introduced

The Qualification of Electors Act extended the right to vote (or electoral franchise) to all European men aged over 21, regardless of whether they owned or rented property. Read more...

HMS <em>Neptune</em> lost in Mediterranean minefield

1941 HMS Neptune lost in Mediterranean minefield

IIn New Zealand’s worst naval tragedy, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Neptune struck enemy mines and sank off Libya. Of the 764 men who lost their lives, 150 were New Zealanders. Read more...

Dec

20

New Zealand’s first cricket match

1832 New Zealand’s first cricket match

Church Missionary Society (CMS) leader Henry Williams gave the male pupils (Māori and Pākehā) of his mission school at Paihia in the Bay of Islands a rare day off. Read more...

Waterfront strike ends

1913 Waterfront strike ends

The Great Strike of 1913, which had begun in late October when Wellington waterside workers stopped work, finally ended when the United Federation of Labour conceded defeat. Read more...

Dec

21

New Zealand whalers harpoon their last victim

1964 New Zealand whalers harpoon their last victim

More than 170 years of New Zealand whaling history ended when J.A. Perano and Company caught its last whale off the coast near Kaikōura. Read more...

Full steam ahead for Kingston Flyer

1971 Full steam ahead for Kingston Flyer

A few months after the last steam locomotives had been withdrawn from this country's scheduled rail operations, New Zealand Railways launched a new tourist-oriented steam passenger venture in the South Island. Read more...

Dec

22

Future prime minister charged with sedition

1916 Future prime minister charged with sedition

Peter Fraser’s trial in the Wellington Magistrates’ Court was the sequel to a speech in which he attacked the government’s policy of military conscription. Read more...

Dec

23

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for royal tour

1953 Queen Elizabeth II arrives for royal tour

For New Zealanders old enough to have experienced it, the visit of the young Queen and her dashing husband, Prince Philip, in the summer of 1953–4 was a never-to-be forgotten event. Read more...

Dec

24

Tangiwai railway disaster

1953 Tangiwai railway disaster

he worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the central North Island. Read more...

Dec

25

First Christian mission established

1814 First Christian mission established

At Oihi Beach in the Bay of Islands, Samuel Marsden preached in English to a largely Māori gathering, launching New Zealand’s first Christian mission. Read more...

First ascent of Mt Cook

1894 First ascent of Mt Cook

At 1.30 on the afternoon of Christmas Day 1894, three young men became the first to stand atop Aoraki/Mt Cook, the highest mountain in the colony. Read more...

Dec

26

Sectarian violence in Canterbury

1879 Sectarian violence in Canterbury

In Christchurch, 30 Catholic Irishmen attacked an Orange (Protestant) procession with pick-handles, while in Timaru 150 men from Thomas O’Driscoll’s Hibernian Hotel surrounded Orangemen and prevented their procession from taking place. Read more...

Dec

27

Death of Rewi Alley

1987 Death of Rewi Alley

The former Cantabrian died in Beijing after living in China through six tumultuous decades. Read more...

Dec

28

'Black Saturday' in Samoa

1929 'Black Saturday' in Samoa

New Zealand military police fired on Mau independence demonstrators in Apia, killing 11 Samoans, including the independence leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III. Read more...

Dec

29

Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie

1880 Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie

Tuhiata, known as Tuhi, was hanged in Wellington for the murder of the artist Mary Dobie at Te Namu Bay, Ōpunake. Tuhi wrote to the governor days before his execution asking that 'my bad companions, your children, beer, rum and other spirits die with me'. Read more...

Floating dock breaks moorings in Wellington Harbour

1931 Floating dock breaks moorings in Wellington Harbour

Built in England, the Wellington Harbour Board’s new Jubilee Dock was 178 m long, 36 m wide and could lift ships displacing 17,000 tons. Read more...

Dec

30

Colenso arrives with a printing press

1834 Colenso arrives with a printing press

Church Missionary Society printer William Colenso arrived in the Bay of Islands on the schooner Blackbird with New Zealand’s first printing press. Read more...

Charles Darwin leaves New Zealand after nine-day visit

1835 Charles Darwin leaves New Zealand after nine-day visit

Darwin's visit to the Bay of Islands on HMS Beagle was brief and unspectacular from his point of view. The Beagle's captain, Robert FitzRoy, would later serve as the second governor of New Zealand. Read more...

Dec

31

First Gathering dance festival held

1996 First Gathering dance festival held

On New Year’s Eve around 4000 people made their way to the remote location of Canaan Downs, Tākaka, to take part in the first Gathering, a two-day festival for electronic dance music fans. Read more...

Grey leaves New Zealand after first term as governor

1853 Grey leaves New Zealand after first term as governor

During his first term as governor, George Grey was praised for ending the Northern War and obtaining land from Māori, but he also angered settlers by delaying the implementation of a constitution that would have given them political power. Read more...