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Historic NZ events in August


The Maori Language Act came into force, making te reo Māori an official language of New Zealand.


At the age of 37, Lorraine Moller ran the race of her life to place third in the marathon at the Barcelona Olympics. 


Windsurfer Barbara Kendall was New Zealand’s only gold medallist at the Barcelona Olympics.


The visit of the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Texas sparked anti-nuclear rallies on land and sea.


Five days after its arrival in Wellington, the four-masted barque Pamir was seized in prize by the New Zealand government.


Anthony Trollope, one of the Victorian era’s most famous novelists, landed at Bluff at the start of a two-month tour of the colony.


The opening of the 8.5-km Ōtira tunnel completed the long-planned transalpine railway between Christchurch and Greymouth. At the time, it was the longest tunnel outside the Alps and the seventh-longest in the world.


First included within the boundaries of New Zealand in 1901, the islands were governed by a Resident Commissioner until 1946. When they achieved self-government, Cook Islanders remained New Zealand citizens.


The report was triggered by the publication in Metro magazine of ‘An Unfortunate Experiment’, an article by Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle which alleged that cervical cancer patients at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital were receiving inadequate treatment.


New Zealand received the news of the outbreak of war just before 1 p.m. on 5 August. At 3 p.m. the Governor, Lord Liverpool, announced the news from the steps of Parliament to a large and enthusiastic crowd.


Valerie Adams won gold in the shot put at the London Olympic Games. It was awarded a week after the competition, when the intial winner was disqualified for testing positive for an anabolic steroid.


Jack Lovelock won New Zealand’s first Olympic athletics gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in a race witnessed by 120,000 spectators – including Adolf Hitler.


The 'Parliament Special' travelled over a makeshift track in the central section of the still-unfinished main trunk line. It carried MPs north to greet the American navy's 'Great White Fleet'.


Beatrice Faumuina became the first New Zealander to win an event at a World Athletics Championships when she threw the discus 66.82 m at Athens in 1997.


The much-loved entertainer was just 43 when he died of heart failure.


On 8 August 1995 Farida Sultana and seven other women met to discuss the establishment of a culturally specialist support service for Asian, Middle Eastern and African women in New Zealand.


The high point of the New Zealand effort at Gallipoli, the capture of Chunuk Bair underlined the leadership qualities of Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone.


Nepia was one of the stars of the 1924-5 All Blacks, playing in all 32 matches on the team's tour of the British Isles, France and Canada. He played the last of his nine tests in 1930, against the British Lions.


Sixteen American battleships arrived in New Zealand with much pomp and ceremony.


HMS Britomart arrived at Akaroa, on Banks Peninsula, a week before a shipload of French colonists landed there. The Britomart's captain raised the Union Jack to confirm the British claim to sovereignty over the area.


All Blacks Josh Kronfeld and Jeff Wilson signed contracts with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), heralding the victory of Rupert Murdoch over Kerry Packer in a battle for the right to televise professional rugby.


Few ships have had as much impact on New Zealand history as the Aramoana, the country’s first roll-on roll-off ferry, which entered service between Wellington and Picton in 1962.


The simple building measured about 10m x 6m and included an area for Māori students to sleep and a cordoned-off platform for teachers and Pākehā students


John Walker became history’s first sub-3:50 miler, running 3:49.4 at Gothenburg, Sweden.


In 1895 Southland’s Williamina (Minnie) Dean became the first – and only – woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Her story exposed the stark realities of paid childcare and the lack of choice for many women in this period.


Sapper Robert Arthur Hislop was guarding the Parnell railway bridge in Auckland when he accidentally fell. He died from his injuries six days later, but it would take a century for Hislop to be officially recognised as the first New Zealand casualty of the Great War.


David Lange was New Zealand's youngest prime minister of the 20th century. Renowned for his sharp wit and oratory, he led the fourth Labour government from 1984 until 1989.


New Zealand’s heaviest snowfall in decades closed airports and schools, forced the cancellation of buses and trains, caused electricity blackouts and cut off many communities across the country. Weather watchers described the storm as ‘a once in a lifetime event’.


These petitions, signed by 9000 women, contributed to the introduction of a Female Suffrage Bill in Parliament. This received majority support in the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Legislative Council.


Helen Connon was the first woman in the British Empire to gain her Master of Arts degree. Her academic career started with edcuation in Dunedin, New Zealand.


Japan's surrender following the atomic bombing ofHiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Second World War. More than 200,000 New Zealanders had served during the war and more than 11,500 had died.


The TSS Wahine was chartered by the New Zealand government to transport Kayforce troops to the Korean War. Shortly after leaving Darwin it ran aground on Masela Island in the Arafura Sea, east of Timor. 


While Kiwis had high expectations of their rowing squad at the Beijing Olympics, few expected identical twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell to successfully defend the double sculls title they had won in Athens in 2004.


A notice in the New Zealand Government Gazette gave effect to a British Order in Council, which stated that coasts of the Ross Sea would be administered by New Zealand.


CORSO was set up to support aid efforts in war-torn nations. It became increasingly involved in the developing world and also spoke out about poverty in New Zealand.


118 New Zealand prisoners of war died when the Italian transport ship Nino Bixio was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.


The sailing ship Tory dropped anchor in Queen Charlotte Sound to pick up fresh water, food and wood before proceeding to Port Nicholson (Wellington Harbour).


Soon after the development of the modern bicycle, Australasia's first women's cycling club was formed in Christchurch.


Prime Minister Keith Holyoake’s statement in Parliament that New Zealand’s combat force would be withdrawn before the end of the year coincided with a similar announcement by the Australian government.


Former top cyclist Dick Arnst had become world sculling champion in 1908. After two successful title defences at home, the muscular Arnst raced in a more exotic setting – on the Zambezi River.


Edward Te Whiu was one of the last four people executed in New Zealand. He admitted to killing 75-year-old widow Florence Smith, but his underprivileged background and childlike mental state led some to question the appropriateness of the death penalty.


The originator of the New Zealand Company was elected to the House of Representatives as the member for Hutt six months after arriving in the colony. He had been quick to lobby for the introduction of responsible government.


At approximately 9:20 p.m. local time, a Humvee taking a patrol member to see a doctor at Romero base in Bamiyan province was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.


As his damaged Hawker Typhoon fighter-bomber rapidly lost height, Pilot Officer James Stellin struggled to avoid crashing into Saint-Maclou-la-Brière, a village of 370 people. He succeeded, but at the cost of his own life. The villagers gave him a hero’s funeral and have honoured his memory ever since.


It was the first naval battle in the Tasman Sea. The New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina was intercepted and sunk by the Orion nearly 500 km off the Taranaki coast with the loss of 36 lives. Twenty survivors were taken prisoner.


The New Zealand Free Lance printed a J.C. Blomfield cartoon in which a plucky kiwi morphed into a moa as the All Blacks defeated Great Britain 9–3 in the first rugby test between Motherland and colony. This may have been the first use of a kiwi to symbolise the nation in a cartoon.


Auckland became the first New Zealand city to introduce the ‘Barnes Dance’ system, which stopped all traffic at intersections, allowing pedestrians to cross in any direction at the same time.


Hill 60 was the last offensive action fought by the New Zealanders during the Gallipoli campaign. The ‘abominable little hill’, as it was dubbed by Brigadier-General Andrew Russell, saw bitter fighting between New Zealand and Ottoman troops in late August 1915.


Held at the South Pacific Hotel in Auckland, the competition was open to all members of the Young Farmers’ Club. The inaugural winner was Gary Frazer from Swannanoa, near Christchurch. The contest has become an established part of the farming calendar.


The first draft of 118 British immigrants arrived in Auckland on the New Zealand Shipping Company liner Rangitata. They were among 77,000 men, women and children who arrived from Great Britain under the assisted immigration scheme between 1947 and 1975.


Violet Waldron was New Zealand’s first female Olympian, and part of New Zealand’s first Olympic team of four. She competed in freestyle swimming in the 1920 Antwerp Summer Olympics.


The journalist, poet and novelist, born Iris Wilkinson, was one of New Zealand's finest inter-war writers. Troubled by depression, illness and poverty, she took her own life in London.


The governor, the Marquess of Normanby, formally opened the new service, which was said to be the first in the southern hemisphere.


Three people were killed, 80 injured and about 150 buildings destroyed or badly damaged by New Zealand’s deadliest recorded tornado. The damage was estimated at more than £1 million (equivalent to $77 million in 2020).


After being found guilty of desertion, 28-year-old Private Frank Hughes was killed by a firing squad in Hallencourt, northern France. He was the first New Zealand soldier executed during the First World War.


Captain Euan Dickson completed the first air crossing of Cook Strait, flying a 110-hp Le Rhone Avro from Christchurch to Upper Hutt with the first air mail between the South and North Islands.


Tāwhiao had led his people through the traumatic period during and after the wars of the 1860s. He was succeeded by his son Mahuta.


After two bungled attempts and near disaster at sea, the installation of the first communications cable between the North and South Islands of New Zealand was completed. A simple copper telegraph cable was laid on the sea floor from Whites Bay, north of Blenheim, to Lyall Bay on Wellington’s south coast.


On this day King George V signed the Royal Warrant assigning the first New Zealand Coat of Arms. The Warrant was published in the New Zealand Gazette on 11 January 1912.


Victoria College (now Victoria University of Wellington) was founded in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's 60th jubilee. Until the opening of the Kelburn building in 1906, classes were taught in rented rooms.


Joseph Pawelka’s escape from Wellington’s Terrace Gaol was the last of three bold but seemingly effortless prison escapes he made over a period of 18 months.


Pauline Parker, aged 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, were convicted of the murder of Pauline's mother Honora at Christchurch on 22 June. Their story was later the subject of Peter Jackson's acclaimed film, Heavenly creatures.


Cantabrians awoke to find the region blanketed in snow. The ‘Big Snow’, as the 1992 storm came to be known, was the region’s heaviest for 30 years.


Colonel Robert Logan led a 1400-strong expeditionary force to capture German Samoa in New Zealand’s first military action of the First World War. This was the second German territory, after Togoland in West Africa, to fall to the Allies in the war.


Hundreds attended the opening ceremony for a dam above the Kawarau Falls which was to temporarily block the outlet from Lake Wakatipu and hopefully expose gold-bearing rock to prospectors.


Guide Joseph Warbrick and three tourists were killed instantly when the Waimangu geyser erupted unexpectedly.


The fate of the brig Sophia Pate, wrecked on a sandbar at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour with the loss of 21 lives, highlighted the dangers of navigating New Zealand’s poorly charted coastal waters.


The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration (IC&A) Act made New Zealand the first country in the world to outlaw strikes and introduce compulsory arbitration.


Leader of the Labour Party since 1965 and prime minister since late 1972, 'Big Norm' died suddenly at the age of 51. He was the fifth New Zealand PM to die in office.