Aotearoa New Zealand – Maori Discovery, British Colony, Dutch Name

Val Mills By Val Mills, 9th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Place names can be fascinating. A brief explanation as to why Aotearoa, New Zealand, with indigenous Maori people, became a British colony with a Dutch name.

Aotearoa - the Land of the Long White Cloud

Kupe, a great chief of Hawaiki and navigator, supposedly arrived in New Zealand after a long canoe journey in 925 AD. As he approached the southern lands of New Zealand, after a long sea journey, he saw the Southern Alps covered in cloud, and thus called it Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud. This Maori name became reinforced with the arrival of the first Maori canoes to reach New Zealand and has become the accepted Maori name for the country.

Abel Tasman Discovers New Zealand

It was to be many years before European adventurers came upon these islands tucked away in the South Pacific Ocean. The first documented European discovery was that of the Dutch seafarer and explorer, Abel Tasman in 1642. He named his new discovery Neu Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland. He was also responsible for the first partial mapping of the coastline of the country.

Captain James Cook

In 1769, the British navigator and explorer, Capt James Cook, sighted land that was New Zealand from his ship the Endeavour. He made two further journeys to the country and is credited with being the first European to have circumnavigated the country and producing it’s first map. On 31 January 1770, he sailed from his camp at Ship Cove in what is now known as Queen Charlotte Sound, and climbed to to the top of nearby Motuara Island, proclaiming all that he could see in the name of British King George 111.

New Zealand as a Multi-cultural Country

It was not until 1840, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February by Maori chiefs and representatives of British Queen Victoria, that New Zealand became a British colony.
New Zealand in the year 2010 is a country rich in the Maori culture, its indigenous people, but also populated by people from many cultures around the world. It has an anglicized Dutch name, and is a member of the British Commonwealth.
Many New Zealand place names are either those given by original Maori inhabitants, or carry the names of the explorers Abel Tasman and Capt James Cook. Most New Zealanders just simply call themselves Kiwis, after our endangered wingless native bird.


Abel Tasman, Aotearoa, Capt James Cook, Kiwis, Maori, New Zealand

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author avatar Val Mills
Self-published writer, coffee drinker, enjoying life. Also found at and

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author avatar johnnydod
10th Jul 2010 (#)

Val I love ALL your wonderful features on NZ, I really must visit one day

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author avatar drelayaraja
10th Jul 2010 (#)

Wonderful share...

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author avatar Erik Van Tongerloo
11th Jul 2010 (#)

Beautiful article like always.

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author avatar Retired
23rd Jul 2010 (#)

Hi Val. I am glad I have found you on this site. This is a very good article especially as we Brits had such a hand in discovering New Zealand


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author avatar Carol
31st Jul 2010 (#)

Lovely article. Hope to visit NZ one day!

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author avatar DrSri
3rd Mar 2011 (#)

New Zealand is one of my favourite countries, I wish to visit it some time in future. BTW, my favourite cricketers are Sir Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns and Shane Bond.

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