Events In History


New Zealand disasters timeline

  • New Zealand disasters timeline

    The disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major loss of life.

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  • Page 1 - New Zealand disasters timelineThe disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major

Wahine disaster

  • Wahine disaster

    This April marks the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the ferry Wahine. With more than 50 lives lost, this was New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. The Wahine’s demise on 10 April 1968 also heralded a new era in local television, as pictures of the disaster were beamed into living rooms around the country.

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  • Page 2 – Timeline to tragedy

    The events that led to the drowning of 51 people in the Wahine disaster of 10 April 1968

  • Page 3 – Co-ordinating the rescue

    The police, emergency services and civilians rescued passengers and crew from the inter-island ferry Wahine in Wellington Harbour in April 1968.

Oamaru Harbour

  • Oamaru Harbour

    Ports were the beachheads of colonial expansion. No town could prosper without one. Oamaru Harbour, which closed to shipping in 1974, is the best place in the country to see how and why all New Zealanders once depended so heavily on sea transport.

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  • Page 2 – Early days

    European settlement at Oamaru began in 1853, and in the 1860s the town grew rich servicing pastoralists and gold miners. Oamaru, though, was no port. Cape Wanbrow, a stubby

  • Page 3 – Colonial beachhead

    The disastrous storm of 1868 forced Oamaru to invest in the construction of expensive concrete breakwaters and new larger wharves.

  • Page 4 – Deep-water port

    Oamaru's shipping tonnages rose after the First World War, but the port faced tough times as coastal shipping slumped from the 1960s.

  • Page 5 – Oamaru Harbour after 1974

    Although Oamaru no longer has an active port, tourism has brought new opportunities to the town and its harbour.

Pencarrow Lighthouse

  • Pencarrow Lighthouse

    On 1 January 2014 Pencarrow Lighthouse at the entrance to Wellington Harbour celebrates its 155th anniversary. New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse, Pencarrow was also home to this country’s first – and only – female lighthouse keeper.

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  • Page 2 – Slow beginnings

    It took 20 years for the first settlers to get a decent lighthouse built at the entrance to Wellington Harbour.

  • Page 3 – The lighthouse and its surroundings

    Key events in the development of the Pencarrow Lighthouse

  • Page 4 – Pencarrow Lighthouse keepers

    The experiences of the Pencarrow Lighthouse keepers and their families

  • Page 7 – Further information

    This web feature was written by Imelda Bargas and produced by the team.Links 'Guardians of the Light' - documentary about lighthouse keepers (NZ On Screen)Pen

Merchant marine

  • Merchant marine

    On 3 September New Zealand honours Merchant Navy Day. Here we explore the little-known but vital role played by the merchant marine during the First World War, when these civilian seafarers often found themselves in the front line of the war at sea.

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  • Page 2 – The merchant marine goes to war

    The outbreak of war in 1914 posed special problems for New Zealand because of its dependence on sea trade.

  • Page 7 – Home waters

    The First World War had a dramatic impact on shipping to and from New Zealand.

Container shipping

  • Container shipping

    Forty-five years ago, on 19 June 1971, the first all-container ship to visit New Zealand arrived in Wellington. Columbus New Zealand was part of a worldwide revolution in shipping. These simple steel boxes would change our transport industry, our ports and how we work and shop.

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  • Page 2 – The container is born

    A US trucker’s ‘out of the box’ solution led to the container shipping system we know today

  • Page 3 – Transforming shipping

    By the late 1960s, the valuable Atlantic trade was being containerised. New Zealand ports followed developments closely, since some ports were expected to lose much of their

  • Page 4 – Transforming our ports

    Containerisation changed the very look of our ports. In the 1970s the four cellular container ports – Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers – reclaimed land, filled

  • Page 5 – Transforming our economy

    Containers changed everything. Railways ordered fleets of flat-deck rolling stock and ‘daylighted’ tiny Victorian tunnels so they could get through. Truckers bought heavy-duty

  • Page 7 – The wreck of the Rena

    On 5 October 2011 the MSC-chartered, Liberian-flagged container ship Rena astonished local mariners by grounding on the clearly marked Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga. Three months

Royal NZ Navy's Bird-class ships

  • Royal NZ Navy's Bird-class ships

    October 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Royal New Zealand Navy. In 1941 the new navy had three brand-new ships – the Moa, Kiwi and Tui – working up or fitting out in Scotland. These little Bird-class minesweepers would see dramatic action in the Pacific War.

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  • Page 2 – 'Pocket corvettes'

    The Birds were unusual. Although they looked a little like the Admiralty’s Isles-class minesweeping trawlers, their extended forecastles gave them more of a naval look

  • Page 3 – Early wartime duties

    When the ships finally arrived at Auckland between April and August 1942, after lengthy voyages, they joined the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla

  • Page 4 – Moa and Kiwi bag a sub

    On the night of 29 January Kiwi and Moa were patrolling along Kamimbo Bay, on the north-western corner of Guadacanal when Kiwi detected a submarine

  • Page 5 – The sinking of the Moa

    On 7 April 1943, while refuelling from the American oil barge Erskine M. Phelps at Tulagi Harbour, in the Solomons, the Moa came under attack from Japanese aircraft

  • Page 6 – The Tui goes hunting

    The minesweeper Tui’s turn to claim a scalp came in August 1943

  • Page 7 – Peacetime years

    The RNZN downsized after the war, although it remained much bigger than the pre-war New Zealand Division.

  • Page 8 – Further information

    Links and books relating to New Zealand Bird-classs minesweepers

HMNZS Leander

  • HMNZS Leander

    When the Royal New Zealand Navy came into being on 1 October 1941, its main combat units were two Leander-class cruisers: Achilles and Leander. Although its early war was quieter than the Achilles, the Leander was to see dramtic action in the Pacific War.

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  • Page 2 – Leander-class light cruisers

    Facts and stats about Leander-class light cruisers

  • Page 3 – Leander goes to war

    By mid-1940 Leander was escorting convoys in the Red Sea and Aden areas. In between escorting merchant ships, the cruiser further pummelled the Italian submarine

  • Page 4 – Pacific attack

    After some early successes, Leander’s war came to an end when it was hit by a long-range Japanese torpedo

  • Page 5 – Recovery and repair

    Leander was hit just abaft the ‘A’ boiler room. Almost 500 kg of high explosive killed everyone in the boiler room. The blast, venting up through the boiler room duct, blew

  • Page 6 – Last days

    Leander never fought under the New Zealand ensign again and was eventually scrapped in 1949

  • Page 7 – Further information

    Links and books relating the to the HMNZS Leander


  • D-Day

    It was one of the largest amphibious landings in history. On 6 June 1944 a huge Allied military machine embarked on the invasion of German-occupied France. Thousands of New Zealand sailors and airmen were on active duty that day.

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  • Page 2 - The grand plan The plans for the Allied invasion of France were conducted in great secrecy and over several months.

The Merchant Navy

  • The Merchant Navy

    3 September is Merchant Navy Day, which was first officially commemorated in New Zealand in 2010. The date marks the sinking of the first Allied merchant ship in 1939, just hours after the Second World War began. This is the story of the 'fourth service' at war.

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  • Page 4 – The Battle of the Atlantic

    Although it was waged half a world away, few military campaigns were as vital to New Zealand's interests as the Battle of the Atlantic. A German victory, which would have

Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

  • Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

    For more than 80 years the overnight Lyttelton ferry was a vital link in the country's transport network.

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  • Page 3 – The early years

    Although many ships sailed between Lyttelton and Wellington during the course of their longer voyages, a regular passenger service between those ports took time to develop.

  • Page 4 – Politicians and ferries

    Politicians used the ferries to travel between their electorates and Wellington, so they scrutinised the Union Steam Ship Company's management of the ships.

  • Page 5 – Cabins de luxe and glory holes

    The purpose-built Maori of 1907 was a big leap forward, but description of the cabins was limited to ‘well endowed with spring mattresses and superior bed coverings'

  • Page 6 – Just like clockwork

    Every night, weather and sea conditions permitting, two ships crossed in the night at about 1.25 a.m. off the Kaikoura coast as perhaps 1500 New Zealanders passed quite

  • Page 7 – Officers and gentlemen?

    Some of the ferry masters – each known as ‘the Old Man' to the crew – were almost as well known as the ships themselves.

  • Page 8 – In strife and war

    The Lyttelton–Wellington ferries were such a vital link for travellers that they were given priority whenever strikes or lockouts paralysed the wharves, but wars

  • Page 9 – End of the line

    In the face of competition from other forms of transport the Union Steam Ship Company abandoned its glamour ferry service, sending the Maori to the scrappers in 1974.

  • Page 10 – Ferry tales

    Some people tell their stories of travelling on the Lyttelton–Wellington ferries.

Assisted immigration, 1947-75

  • Assisted immigration, 1947-75

    New Zealand is a country of immigrants. Wave after wave of peoples have settled here: Polynesian, British, European, Asian.

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  • Page 4 - The voyage outThe Captain Cook, along with the Captain Hobson, brought assisted immigrants to New Zealand via the Panama Canal from

The Vogel era

  • The Vogel era

    In 1870, Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel launched the most ambitious development programme in New Zealand’s history. The ‘Vogel era’ was a decisive moment in New Zealand’s 19th-century transformation from a Māori world to a Pākehā one.

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  • Page 2 - New Zealand in 1870Three decades after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s two main islands were like two different

Hospital ships

  • Hospital ships

    The Maheno and Marama were the poster ships of New Zealand's First World War effort. Until 1915 these steamers had carried passengers on the Tasman route. But as casualties mounted at Gallipoli, the government - helped by a massive public fundraising campaign - converted them into state-of-the-art floating hospitals.

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  • Page 2 - BackgroundWhat is a hospital ship and where did New Zealand's two ships come

A frontier of chaos?

  • A frontier of chaos?

    In the years before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, relations between Māori and Europeans were marred by a number of high-profile incidents.

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  • Page 4 - The Boyd incidentIn December 1809 the sailing ship Boyd was anchored in Whangaroa Harbour. It was attacked by a group of Māori who killed most of its crew and passengers in retaliation for the

Nuclear-free New Zealand

  • Nuclear-free New Zealand

    The sinking of the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in July 1985 shocked the nation. The incident galvanised an anti-nuclear movement that had emerged in opposition to both French nuclear tests at Mururoa and American warship visits to New Zealand. 

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  • Page 5 - Sinking the Rainbow WarriorIn 1985 New Zealand was basking in its position as leader of the anti-nuclear movement. Then on 10 July, two explosions set by French Secret Service agents ripped through the hull

Pacific aftermath

  • Pacific aftermath

    Participation in the First World War changed Pacific Islanders' lives. Returning servicemen had seen the world.

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  • Page 3 - Troop repatriationWhen the armistice was signed in November 1918, Pacific island troops in New Zealand service were stationed in a number of

The 1913 Great Strike

  • The 1913 Great Strike

    The Great Strike of 1913 was in fact a series of strikes between mid-October 1913 and mid-January 1914. It was one of New Zealand’s most violent and disruptive industrial confrontations.

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  • Page 3 - Outbreak of the 1913 strikeThe 1913 Great Strike was sparked off by two relatively small

Notes for My Successor

Flags of New Zealand

  • Flags of New Zealand

    The New Zealand flag hasn't always been our official flag. It was adopted in 1902, replacing the Union Jack. Between 1834 and 1840, the flag of the United Tribes was recognised as our first 'national' flag. Waitangi Day 2010 saw the first official recognition of the national Māori flag.

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  • Page 5 – Other official flags

    Six flags other than the New Zealand flag are flown for official purposes in New Zealand.

The Salonika campaign

  • The Salonika campaign

    23 October is the anniversary of the 1915 sinking of the Marquette with the loss of 32 New Zealanders, including 10 nurses. They were en route from Egypt to the Greek port of Salonika as New Zealand’s contribution to the little-known Allied campaign in the Balkans

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  • Page 5 - NZEF involvementThe New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) provided no combat units for the campaign in Salonika. The official contribution of New Zealanders was brief but marked by tragedy.

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