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Historic NZ events in January


The Legislative Council was New Zealand's Upper House, to which members were appointed, not elected. It ceased to exist on New Year's Day 1951.


Pencarrow Head lighthouse, at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, was lit for the first time amid great celebration.


The first official New Zealand airmail to the United States left Auckland for San Francisco on Pan American Airways’ Samoan Clipper.


Coubray-tone news, the work of the inventive Ted Coubray, had its first public screening at Auckland's Plaza Theatre.


Pursued by Māori and colonial troops to Ngātapa, an old hilltop pā inland from Poverty Bay, Te Kooti narrowly avoided capture after a three-day siege. Many of those with him were captured and executed the following day.


Sir Edmund Hillary’s New Zealand team became the first to reach the South Pole overland since Robert Falcon Scott in 1912, and the first to do so in motor vehicles.


Led by Joe Hawke, the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee occupied Takaparawhā (Bastion Point reserve), a promontory overlooking Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour.

At Akers Station at Ōpiki, Manawatū, Godfrey Bowen set a new world record, shearing 456 full-wool ewes in nine hours.

Australian Guy Menzies’ flight from Sydney ended awkwardly when he crash-landed in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast.


In January 1863, geologist Julius von Haast led an expedition in search of an overland route from the east to the west coast of the South Island.


Internationally acclaimed author Katherine Mansfield revolutionised 20th-century English short-story writing. She died from tuberculosis in France, aged just 34.


French Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier arrived in Hokianga. His party celebrated their first mass three days later.


New Zealanders George Hood and John Moncrieff disappeared during a ‘gallant if somewhat ill-organised attempt’ to complete the first flight across the Tasman Sea.


Ellen Dougherty was one of the world’s first state-registered nurses. Grace Neill, Assistant Inspector in the Department of Asylums and Hospitals, advocated state registration of trained nurses, which was introduced by the Nurses’ Registration Act 1901.


The battle at Ruapekapeka (‘the bats’ nest’), a sophisticated pā built by the Ngāpuhi chief Kawiti, ended the Northern War. Debate soon raged as to whether the fortress had been deliberately abandoned or captured.


A crowd of 50,000 greeted Queen Elizabeth II, resplendent in her coronation gown, when she opened a special session of the New Zealand Parliament in its centennial year.


By defeating Irishman Ike Weir at San Francisco, Murphy became the first New Zealander to win a world professional boxing title.


In 1948, a 14-year-old Nelson schoolboy discovered the oldest fossils ever found in New Zealand.

Fitzsimmons knocked out Jack Dempsey in New Orleans to become the second New Zealander to hold a world boxing title.

United States Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s three-day visit to New Zealand sparked some of the most violent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations seen in this country.


The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was formed to enable the Royal New Zealand Air Force to release more men for service overseas during the Second World War.


Governor Sir George Grey issued a proclamation to bring the New Zealand Constitution Act (UK) 1852 into operation, establishing a system of representative government for the colony.


Upper Hutt’s Jon Stevens achieved back-to-back no. 1 singles when ‘Montego Bay’ bumped ‘Jezebel’ from the top of the New Zealand charts.


Nineteen men were killed when an explosion ripped through the Strongman coal mine at Rūnanga. An inquiry found that safety regulations had not been followed and a shot hole for a charge had been incorrectly fired.


The first Māori to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke Pōkai soon became disenchanted with the consequences of colonisation.


Captain Harold Ruegg, Administrator for the Ross Dependency, opened Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent Antarctic research station, during a ceremony on Ross Island.


The Canberra Pact was an undertaking by the two countries to co-operate on international matters, especially in the Pacific.


‘Professor’ Thomas Baldwin landed safely by parachute from a balloon floating high above South Dunedin.


Enjoying a cold drink on a hot afternoon was not always as simple as adding ice from the freezer to water from the refrigerator. At one time the ice made a much longer journey.


Slave trader Captain Thomas McGrath skippered the winning whaleboat in a race on Lambton Harbour which carried a £10 prize


The New Zealand Company's first settler ship, the Aurora, arrived at Petone to found the settlement that would become Wellington.


Twenty yachts left Wellington for Lyttelton in a race to celebrate Canterbury's centenary. The fleet ran into a severe southerly storm and only one yacht officially finished the race. Two others were lost, along with their 10 crew members.


The magnitude 8.2 earthquake had a profound impact on the development of Wellington city.


The New Zealand government ordered the Soviet Union‘s ambassador, Vsevolod Sofinsky, to leave the country within 72 hours after he allegedly delivered money to the pro-Soviet Socialist Unity Party.


Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron set out on what was to prove to be his final campaign in New Zealand with more than a thousand troops under his command.


The opening ceremony of the ‘Friendly Games’ had featured performances by schoolchildren and a Māori concert party. Next day, Canterbury runner Dick Tayler ensured the success of the Games with a surprise victory for the host nation in the 10,000 m track race.


A record one-day total of up to 84.8 mm of rain caused extensive surface flooding in the streets of Invercargill, Riverton, Ōtautau, Tūātapere and Bluff.


Faced with demands for revenge after 22 settlers were killed in an incident in the Wairau Valley, Governor Robert FitzRoy decided that Māori had been provoked by the unreasonable actions of the Europeans.


The 23-year-old Olympic 800-m champion hoped to run the first four-minute mile on New Zealand soil. In fact, he broke Australian Herb Elliott’s 3½-year-old world record by the smallest possible margin, 0.1 seconds.


Wellington blacksmith William Hardham served in South Africa with the fourth New Zealand contingent. He was the only New Zealander awarded a Victoria Cross during the South African War.


In a feat of navigational daring – and after several attempts – the French explorer Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville sailed the Astrolabe from Tasman Bay through the narrow ‘French Pass’ into Admiralty Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.


Auckland’s Anniversary Day commemorates the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson in the Bay of Islands in 1840.


A 1910 amendment to the Gaming Act banned bookmakers from New Zealand racecourses, other public places and hotels.


Piloted by Captain Euan Dickson, the first flight of the Canterbury Aviation Company’s new airmail service left Christchurch at 8 a.m., carrying several hundred letters to Ashburton and Timaru into the teeth of a south-westerly gale.