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Month Calendar View

Historic NZ events in December


New Zealand beat Canada 2–1 at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo in the third-place playoff at the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup.


Twenty-two-year-old pilot E.F. ('Teddy') Harvie and his female passenger, 18-year-old 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.


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’.


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.


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.


The New Zealand Settlements Act enabled the confiscation (raupatu) of land from Māori tribes deemed to have ‘engaged in open rebellion against Her Majesty’s authority’. Pākehā settlers would occupy the confiscated land.


Alexia Pickering’s induction into the Attitude Awards Hall of Fame recognised her lifelong dedication to championing accessibility for all New Zealanders.


Freda du Faur was the first female to complete the ascent of Aoraki/Mt Cook.


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.


Pirate station Radio Hauraki broadcast its first scheduled transmission from beyond New Zealand’s 3-mile territorial limit.


Inspired by its famous New York namesake, the amusement park opened to the public on Auckland’s waterfront (opposite the site of Spark Arena) at 2 pm.


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.


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.


Although the first elections for New Zealand’s House of Representatives were held in 1853, it would be another 69 years before residents of the isolated Chatham Islands (Rēkohu or Wharekauri) were able to vote for members of Parliament.


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


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 enquiries that led to the arrest of Ron Jorgensen and John Gillies.


The first issue of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly was distributed during the Depression. The magazine contained advice on cooking and housework, romantic short stories, knitting patterns and feature articles.


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


The announcement by the Prime Minister’s Department that New Zealand was in a state of war with Japan followed the surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan also attacked Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaya.


Whetu Tirikātene-Sullivan became the first female Māori Cabinet minister when she was sworn in as Minister of Tourism in Norman Kirk’s third Labour government


Forty-seven tourists and guides were on Whakaari (White Island) in Bay of Plenty when the active volcano erupted at 2.11 p.m. Twenty-two died immediately or subsequently from burns or respiratory damage. Most of the survivors suffered severe or critical injuries.


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.


About 40 male Arab civilians were killed by Anzac troops in revenge for the death of New Zealand Trooper Leslie Lowry.


Georgina Beyer won the Wairarapa electorate for Labour in 1999 by a margin of 3033 votes.


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


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’.


The 24-year-old South Aucklander of Samoan descent became the second New Zealand-born holder of a recognised world professional boxing title by outpointing Mexican Andy Ruiz.


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.


A great library bonfire was narrowly avoided in 1907, when fire swept through Parliament Buildings in Wellington.


Tickets went on sale for New Zealand’s new national Golden Kiwi lottery. All 250,000 tickets sold within 24 hours, with the £12,000 top prize (equivalent to nearly $550,000 today) four times that offered in previous lotteries.


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


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.


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


The Finance Act (No. 3) 1944 abolished the poll tax introduced in 1881, which was described by Minister of Finance Walter Nash as a 'blot on our legislation'.


It may have been the mariachi trumpets, the gently rapped lyrics or that ‘making-me-crazy’ chorus, but whatever the reason, ‘How bizarre’ by the South Auckland group Otara Millionaires Club (OMC) became one of the most successful songs ever recorded in New Zealand.


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.


In a well-planned operation which contrasted sharply with those mounted earlier in the Gallipoli campaign, Allied troops were successfully withdrawn from Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay between 15 and 20 December.


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


The Act specified the circumstances in which contraceptives could be supplied to young people, sterilisations could be undertaken, and abortions could be authorised.


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.


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


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


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


Air New Zealand was found to be in breach of the Human Rights Act after more than a decade of female cabin crew campaigning for the same opportunities as male workers at the airline.


In 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.


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


Agricultural and pastoral shows celebrating excellence in agriculture and animal husbandry became annual events in communities around New Zealand.

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.

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.


Just over three weeks after New Zealand women became the first in the world to vote in a national parliamentary election, voting was held in the four Māori electorates.


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


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.


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.


For the New Zealanders who 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.


The 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.


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


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.


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 taking place.


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


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


Tuhiata (Ngāti Ruanui, Tītahi; known as Tuhi) was hanged in Wellington for the murder of the artist Mary Dobie at Te Namu, near Ōpunake. He wrote to the governor of New Zealand a few days before his execution, asking that 'my bad companions, your children, beer, rum and other spirits die with me'.


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.


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.


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


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.


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