Month Calendar View

Historic NZ events in May

May

1

'King Dick' Seddon becomes premier

1893 'King Dick' Seddon becomes premier

Richard John Seddon became premier following the death of John Ballance. Immortalised as ‘King Dick’, Seddon dominated the New Zealand political landscape for the next 13 years. He remains this country’s longest-serving prime minister. Read more...

RNZAF's first combat strike since Second World War

1955 RNZAF's first combat strike since Second World War

Five Vampire aircraft of No. 14 Squadron carried out the RNZAF’s first combat strike since the Second World War against guerrillas in the Malayan jungle. Read more...

May

2

First shipment of salmon and trout ova arrives

1868 First shipment of salmon and trout ova arrives

The clipper Celestial Queen arrived at Port Chalmers carrying the first shipment of live fish ova from England. These fish were intended to provide sport for the settlers, but none survived. Read more...

New Zealand's last electric tram trip

1964 New Zealand's last electric tram trip

Tram no. 252, displaying the message ‘end of the line’ and driven by Wellington Mayor Frank Kitts, travelled from Thorndon to Newtown zoo. Large crowds lined the streets to witness the end of electric trams in New Zealand. Read more...

May

3

First European plough used in New Zealand

1820 First European plough used in New Zealand

The missionary John Butler turned New Zealand's first furrow at Kerikeri, writing: ‘I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude, and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn.’ Read more...

New Zealand's first woman doctor registered

1897 New Zealand's first woman doctor registered

Margaret Cruickshank, the first female doctor registered in New Zealand, practised in Waimate, South Canterbury, until her death from influenza in 1918. Read more...

Controversial ex-mayor killed in Berlin riots

1929 Controversial ex-mayor killed in Berlin riots

Charles Ewing Mackay, the disgraced former mayor of Whanganui, was shot dead by Berlin police during May Day riots in the German capital. Read more...

May

4

Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel

1937 Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel

The engineer-in-charge and the overseer were killed when the second avalanche to hit the Homer tunnel project in less than 12 months struck without warning. Read more...

Marion du Fresne arrives in Bay of Islands

1772 Marion du Fresne arrives in Bay of Islands

Du Fresne’s was the second French expedition to visit New Zealand, following that of de Surville in 1769. Du Fresne’s acceptance of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s beliefs about ‘noble savages’ was to have unfortunate consequences. Read more...

May

5

James Busby arrives in the Bay of Islands

1833 James Busby arrives in the Bay of Islands

James Busby’s arrival in the Bay of Islands was the first tentative step along a path that led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi seven years later.

Read more...

Dog Tax War narrowly averted

1898 Dog Tax War narrowly averted

War threatened sleepy Hokianga as government troops marched towards armed Māori ‘rebels’. Read more...

May

6

Colonial troops invade the Urewera

1869 Colonial troops invade the Urewera

The invasion was intended to punish Tūhoe for supporting Te Kooti Rikirangi, whose ‘rebel’ force it had sheltered after their defeat at Ngātapa, inland from Poverty Bay, in January. Read more...

May

7

Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō

1846 Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō

A devastating landslide obliterated the Ngāti Tūwharetoa village of Te Rapa on the south-west shore of Lake Taupō. Read more...

Henry Sewell becomes the country’s first premier

1856 Henry Sewell becomes the country’s first premier

Sewell held the position for just 14 days before being replaced by his provincialist rival William Fox, whose ministry in turn lasted just over a week. Read more...

Anti-Chinese hysteria in Dunedin

1888 Anti-Chinese hysteria in Dunedin

A meeting in Dunedin presided over by the mayor unanimously called for a ban on further Chinese migrants. Read more...

May

8

<em>New Zealand Railways Magazine</em> launched

1926 New Zealand Railways Magazine launched

Originally intended as a journal for the Railways Department’s 18,000 staff and their major customers, New Zealand Railways Magazine evolved into a hugely popular general-interest periodical. Read more...

'Cheryl Moana Marie' hits no. 1

1970 'Cheryl Moana Marie' hits no. 1

Pop singer John Rowles established himself as an international star in the late 1960s. His hit single ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’ sold a million copies worldwide. Read more...

May

9

First <em>School Journal</em> published

1907 First School Journal published

New Zealand pupils were for the first time able to read a schoolbook published in their own country. Read more...

Kiwi Wimbledon champ killed in battle

1915 Kiwi Wimbledon champ killed in battle

New Zealand's most successful tennis player, Anthony Wilding was one of the stars of the sport in the decade before the First World War. Read more...

New Zealand celebrates Victory in Europe

1945 New Zealand celebrates Victory in Europe

Germany surrendered on 7 May, New Zealand time, but acting Prime Minister Walter Nash insisted that celebrations should wait until after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had officially announced peace at 1 a.m. on 9 May, New Zealand time.

Read more...

May

10

NZ's first woman barrister and solicitor appointed

1897 NZ's first woman barrister and solicitor appointed

Following the passage of the Female Law Practitioners Act 1896, Ethel Benjamin became the first woman to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

Read more...

Death of William Massey

1925 Death of William Massey

A gruff Ulsterman from South Auckland, William Ferguson Massey, or ‘Farmer Bill’ as he was known to many, is our second-longest-serving prime minister Read more...

All-white All Blacks leave for South Africa

1960 All-white All Blacks leave for South Africa

Despite protests, the controversial rugby tour went ahead. The issue of sporting ties with South Africa would eventually split the country in 1981. Read more...

May

11

Charles Upham presented with first Victoria Cross

1945 Charles Upham presented with first Victoria Cross

New Zealand’s most-decorated soldier, Charles Upham, received the first of his two VCs – for outstanding gallantry and leadership during the Battle of Crete in 1941 – from King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

Read more...

May

12

Anti-Vietnam War protests in Auckland

1971 Anti-Vietnam War protests in Auckland

Anti-war protesters disrupted a civic reception in Auckland for New Zealand soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Read more...

May

13

National Party founded

1936 National Party founded

Following their crushing defeat by the Labour Party in the 1935 general election, the remnants of the United–Reform coalition government met in Wellington to establish a new ‘anti-socialist’ party.

Read more...

Death of Frances Hodgkins

1947 Death of Frances Hodgkins

One of this country's most celebrated artists, Frances Hodgkins spent most of her life overseas. She earned a place among the British avant-garde of the 1930s and 1940s – the first New Zealand-born artist to achieve such stature. 

Read more...

New Zealand wins the America’s Cup

1995 New Zealand wins the America’s Cup

Few New Zealanders in 1995 could have avoided television commentator Peter Montgomery’s famous line, ‘the America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s cup!’ 

Read more...

May

14

Wreck of the <em>General Grant</em>

1866 Wreck of the General Grant

Sailing from Melbourne to London, the General Grant hit cliffs on the west coast of the main island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. Fifteen of the 83 people on board survived the sinking, but only 10 of them were ultimately rescued 18 months later. Read more...

First game of rugby played in NZ

1870 First game of rugby played in NZ

Around 200 people were on hand at Nelson’s Botanic Reserve to watch a new version of rugby football brought to New Zealand by Charles Monro. Read more...

Plunket Society formed

1907 Plunket Society formed

Dr Frederic Truby King helped form the Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children at a meeting in Dunedin Town Hall. Read more...

New Zealand minesweeper sunk near Hauraki Gulf

1941 New Zealand minesweeper sunk near Hauraki Gulf

The minesweeper HMS Puriri was the second victim of mines laid off the Northland coast by the German raider Orion. Five of its crew were killed. Read more...

May

15

Early motoring offence

1901 Early motoring offence

Nicholas Oates appeared in the Christchurch Magistrate's Court charged with driving ‘a motor car within the city at a speed greater than four miles an hour’ on Lincoln Road, Christchurch. Read more...

Whanganui mayor shoots poet

1920 Whanganui mayor shoots poet

The victim of the shooting, poet Walter D’Arcy Cresswell, alleged that Mayor Charles Mackay had made homosexual advances towards him in the mayoral office and panicked when faced with the prospect of public exposure. Read more...

May

16

Eight killed in attack on Boulcott Farm

1846 Eight killed in attack on Boulcott Farm

Disagreements over the validity of land purchases by the New Zealand Company led to a series of skirmishes between local Māori and government forces in the Wellington region from 1845 to 1846. Read more...

All Whites beat Australia on road to Spain

1981 All Whites beat Australia on road to Spain

The New Zealand football team's famous 2-0 victory in Sydney was a defining moment in their epic qualifying campaign for the 1982 World Cup finals. Read more...

May

17

First British Resident inaugurated

1833 First British Resident inaugurated

Hundreds of Māori greeted new British Resident in New Zealand, James Busby, when he came ashore at the Paihia mission station on 17 May 1833. The ceremony that followed was the first formal meeting between Māori chiefs and the representative of a great power.

Read more...

Catholic Bishop found not guilty of sedition

1922 Catholic Bishop found not guilty of sedition

James Liston, the assistant bishop of Auckland, was found not guilty of sedition following a high-profile court case. Read more...

George Wilder escapes from prison

1962 George Wilder escapes from prison

George Wilder was a burglar who left apology and thank-you notes for his victims. He was at large for 65 days, becoming a renegade folk hero in the process.

Read more...

May

18

New Zealand nurses detained on way to Spanish Civil War

1937 New Zealand nurses detained on way to Spanish Civil War

The only organised New Zealand contingent to serve in the Spanish Civil War were New Zealand Spanish Medical Aid Committee (SMAC) nurses René Shadbolt, Isobel Dodds and Millicent Sharples. Read more...

Death of Māori King Korokī

1966 Death of Māori King Korokī

Korokī Te Rata Mahuta Tāwhiao Pōtatau Te Wherowhero was the fifth head of the Kīngitanga movement that was founded in 1858 in response to European colonisation. Read more...

May

19

Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy reach Māwhera pā

1846 Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy reach Māwhera pā

This journey was part of Thomas Brunner's epic 1846-48 exploration of the South Island. He was accompanied by Kehu of Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, and Charles Heaphy, a draftsman and artist with the New Zealand Company. Read more...

Attempted hijacking in Fiji foiled

1987 Attempted hijacking in Fiji foiled

An attempted hijacking of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 at Nadi airport, Fiji, was thwarted when a member of the cabin crew struck the hijacker on the head with a whisky bottle. Read more...

May

20

New Zealand's first sheep released

1773 New Zealand's first sheep released

During his second voyage to New Zealand in 1773, James Cook released a ewe and a ram in Queen Charlotte Sound. They survived only a few days – an inauspicious start to this country’s long association with sheep. Read more...

Loss of the <em>City of Dunedin</em> with all hands

1865 Loss of the City of Dunedin with all hands

The paddle steamer City of Dunedin left Wellington at around 5 p.m. on Saturday 20 May. It was never heard from again and no trace was ever found of its 25 crew and at least 22 passengers. Read more...

German paratroops assault Crete

1941 German paratroops assault Crete

The Battle for Crete raged for 12 days before the Allies were driven off the island. Casualties were high on both sides. More than 650 New Zealanders were killed and 2000 taken prisoner. Read more...

May

21

Hobson proclaims British sovereignty over New Zealand

1840 Hobson proclaims British sovereignty over New Zealand

Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over all of New Zealand – the North Island on the basis of cession through the Treaty of Waitangi, and South and Stewart Islands by right of discovery. Read more...

May

22

First New Zealand rugby team in action

1884 First New Zealand rugby team in action

The first representative New Zealand rugby team played its first match, defeating a Wellington XV 9-0 before embarking on a tour of New South Wales. Read more...

Waikato-Tainui sign Deed of Settlement with the Crown

1995 Waikato-Tainui sign Deed of Settlement with the Crown

Waikato–Tainui was the first iwi to reach an historial Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown for injustices going back to the 1860s. The Deed of Settlement included cash and land valued at a total of $170 million. Read more...

May

23

First major gold rush in Otago

1861 First major gold rush in Otago

Gabriel Read gained fame and provincial government bonuses when he found gold near the Tuapeka River, a tributary of the Clutha River in Otago. Read more...

Coronation of first Māori Queen

1966 Coronation of first Māori Queen

Princess Piki, the daughter of King Koroki, was selected as the sixth Maori monarch − and first Queen − during her father's funeral, in accordance with Kingitanga protocol. She assumed her mothers name, Te Atairangikaahu. Read more...

May

24

Parliament's first sitting in Auckland

1854 Parliament's first sitting in Auckland

It started with a bang – 21 in fact, fired from the guns at Auckland’s Fort Britomart. Once the smoke cleared, New Zealand’s first Parliament was in business. Read more...

Turning point in Battle of the Atlantic

1943 Turning point in Battle of the Atlantic

In the Battle of the Atlantic, one of the most important campaigns of the Second World War, 24 May 1943 was a crucial date. Thousands of New Zealanders took part in this long and bitter struggle.

Read more...

Three die in Īnangahua earthquake

1968 Three die in Īnangahua earthquake

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred near Īnangahua Junction, 40 km east of Westport, struck at 5.24 a.m., shaking many people from their beds. Read more...

May

25

The <em>Press</em> goes to press

1861 The Press goes to press

Published from a cottage in Montreal Street, the first edition was a six-page tabloid which sold for sixpence. Read more...

Bastion Point protesters evicted

1978 Bastion Point protesters evicted

Police and army personal removed 222 people from Bastion Point, Auckland, ending an occupation that had begun in January 1977. Ngāti Whātua were protesting against the loss of land in the Ōrakei Block, which had once been declared ‘absolutely inalienable’. Read more...

Scott Dixon wins Indianapolis 500

2008 Scott Dixon wins Indianapolis 500

Dixon's victory at the Brickyard in 2008, the first Indianapolis 500 win by a New Zealander, helped him secure his second Indy Racing League championship. Read more...

May

26

Parihaka ploughing campaign begins

1879 Parihaka ploughing campaign begins

Under the leadership of Te Whiti and Tohu Kākahi, Parihaka Māori began a ploughing campaign in protest against European settlement on land confiscated from Māori. Read more...

Anna Pavlova dances in New Zealand for the first time

1926 Anna Pavlova dances in New Zealand for the first time

The world’s best-known ballerina performed her famed ‘Dying Swan’ and ‘Fairy Doll’ to a full house in His Majesty’s Theatre, Auckland. Read more...

May

27

Amy Bock sentenced in Dunedin Supreme Court

1909 Amy Bock sentenced in Dunedin Supreme Court

The Tasmanian-born confidence trickster had topped off a long career impersonating well-off men for financial gain by posing as a sheepfarmer and bishop’s nephew. Read more...

Death of Colin McCahon

1987 Death of Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon was one of New Zealand's greatest painters. A risk-taker and non-conformist, he engaged with questions of religion, faith and the human condition through his art. Read more...

May

28

Fingerprints help convict murderer

1920 Fingerprints help convict murderer

In what may have been a world first for a capital crime, the conviction of Dennis Gunn was based almost entirely on fingerprint evidence. Read more...

May

29

Mabel Howard becomes first female Cabinet minister

1947 Mabel Howard becomes first female Cabinet minister

When Howard was appointed minister of health and minister in charge of child welfare, she became the first woman to serve as a Cabinet minister in a Commonwealth country. Read more...

Hillary and Tenzing reach summit of Everest

1953 Hillary and Tenzing reach summit of Everest

A beekeeper from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary, and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to stand on the summit of the world’s highest peak. Read more...

May

30

New Zealand says no to federation with Australia

1901 New Zealand says no to federation with Australia

A 10-man Royal Commission reported unanimously that New Zealand should not become a state of the new Commonwealth of Australia. Read more...

Auckland harbour bridge opens

1959 Auckland harbour bridge opens

New Zealand’s best-known bridge opened after four years of construction. The need for better transport links between Auckland city and the North Shore had long been the subject of inquiry and agitation. Read more...

New royal honours established

1996 New royal honours established

A totally New Zealand Royal Honours System was established with the institution of the New Zealand Order of Merit, which replaced the various British State Orders of Chivalry. Read more...

May

31

HMS <em>New Zealand</em> fights at Jutland

1916 HMS New Zealand fights at Jutland

In the misty North Sea on the last day of May 1916, 250 warships from Britain’s Royal Navy and Germany’s High Seas Fleet clashed in the First World War’s greatest and bloodiest sea battle. Read more...

Mona Blades vanishes

1975 Mona Blades vanishes

Eighteen-year-old Mona Blades was last seen sitting in the back seat of an orange Datsun station wagon. Her body was never found and her disappearance has never been explained. Read more...