First European plough used in New Zealand

3 May 1820

Early plough, c. 1830s-1840s (Alexander Turnbull Library, MNZ-1592-1/2; F)

The missionary John Butler turned the first furrow at Kerikeri, writing in his journal: ‘I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude, and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn.’

Butler, New Zealand’s first resident ordained clergyman, had arrived at the Bay of Islands in August 1819 as superintendent designate of the Church Missionary Society’s mission. With him were his wife and two children, and lay missionary James Kemp and his wife. The Butlers and Kemps took up residence at Kerikeri, which became Butler’s headquarters.

Butler’s journal of his years at Kerikeri not only details his contacts with Māori but also gives insights into contemporary Māori culture. A key aspect of the missionaries’ work was the introduction of European practices − including agricultural methods − that would help to ‘civilise’ Māori and prepare them for conversion to Christianity. On 3 May 1820 Butler wrote:

The agricultural plough was for the first time put into the land of New Zealand at Kideekidee [Kerikeri], and I felt much pleasure in holding it after a team of six bullocks… I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude, and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn. Each heart rejoiced in this auspicious day, and said, ‘May God speed the plough’.