1769 – First contact between Māori and Europeans.

English explorer James Cook visits New Zealand on board the Endeavour. At this time, over 66 million acres of land are under Māori control.


1769 – Europeans introduce new diseases.

1779 By this time, Māori have begun to succumb to new diseases (TB, influenza, dysentery, measles, pertussis, STD’s)

1790 60% of the Māori population in the southern North Island die in an epidemic of an introduced disease, (possibly influenza) called rewha-rewha.

Tracking and Analyzing Disease Trends Vol.7, No5, 2001



1800 – Estimated population of NZ: Only 50 non-Māori and 150,000 Māori.


1820 – Māori own and operate an export fleet of more than two dozen ships.

Trade statistics show 28 ships averaging 110 tons made 56 voyages between Sydney and New Zealand, carrying Māori-grown potatoes and milled grain.

Colonisation and the Involution of the Māori Economy, Hazel Petrie.


1821 – Musket Wars – Access to new international markets leads Iwi to fight among themselves for economic supremacy.

1821 Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika travels to England, as a guest of missionary Thomas Kendall, where he has an audience with King George IV and also obtains a small arsenal of muskets. Upon his return to NZ, the Musket Wars begin with raids by Hongi Hika and Te Morenga on southern Iwi and continue throughout the decade. New international markets and trade opportunities cause these to be wars of expansion and conquest (for new raw materials and natural resources) rather than border disputes or minor territorial conflicts.


1830 – Widespread literacy amongst Māori.

Throughout the 1830’s a rapid spread of literacy occurred amongst Māori.  Those who had learnt to read or write (in Māori) at the Mission schools, establish their own schools and pass on their knowledge to others. The opening of trade relations and international business opportunities cause literacy to become highly valued amongst Iwi, leading to widespread educational systems.

‘Literacy became widespread amongst Māori, even so that by the middle of the nineteenth century a higher proportion of Māori were literate than that of the settlers’ (Biggs, 1968).

MAI Review, 2007, 1, Intern Research Report 8, Towards an educational analysis of Māori and Pacific Island student achievement at the Church College of New Zealand. Tereapii Solomon.


1835 – 4000 Māori die in a measles epidemic introduced by whalers.

An estimated 4000 Māori (from the Ngai Tahu Iwi) die as a result of a measles epidemic. Introduced by whalers, it sweeps through the southern South Island, devastating local communities.

The Maoris of the South Island. Chapter V — The Decline of the Maori.T. A. Pybus.



1835 – Declaration of Independence.

“Of all the events and decisions that led to the Treaty of Waitangi, by far the most significant to both Māori and Pakeha is the 1835 Declaration of Independence. The document … still enjoys considerable standing among Māori. This is because – unlike the Treaty – it explicitly acknowledges the Chiefs’ tino rangatiratanga or sovereignty, on which most of the debate about the Treaty still centres.”



1840 – Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty of Waitangi is signed in 1840. After a 2 day hui in Waitangi, the Treaty is taken around the country and additional signatures are provided by Iwi leaders in over thirty places throughout New Zealand. Signatories include British officials and over 500 rangatira (Chiefs), including five women.



1840 – First Acts of Land Confiscation.


This ordinance established that all ‘unappropriated’ or ‘waste land’, other than that required for the ‘rightful and necessary occupation of the aboriginal inhabitants of the said colony’ were deemed Crown land.  The ordinance gave statutory recognition to the Crown right of pre-emption at the expense of any rights to Māori rangatiratanga over their own land, despite the promises of Article 2  of the Treaty.


Royal Instructions were issued to Governor Grey to chart all lands in the Colony.  Those lands not claimed or registered would automatically vest in the Crown.  No Māori claim was to be admitted unless the claimants “actually had the occupation of the Lands so claimed, and have been accustomed to use and enjoy the same, either as places of abode, or for tillage, or for the growth of crops, or for the depasturing of cattle, or otherwise for the convenience and sustainment of life, by means of labour expended thereon.”

This not only diminished the Māori economic base by confiscating their land, but also violated both Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty.



1850 – Non-Māori population surpasses the Māori population.

Less than 100 years after first contact, Māori became a minority in their own land when non-Māori population surpassed the Māori population. This was not only due to unchecked immigration by non-Māori but also to a rapid decline in the Māori population through the toll taken by introduced disease and (to a lesser extent) the Musket Wars. Māori becomes a minority language in New Zealand.

1852 – Voting rights are established but Māori are excluded.


This act gave the right to vote to men who owned (a small amount of) property.  Communally-owned land was explicitly excluded, thereby denying Māori men a vote.  As a result, Parliament became the domain of wealthy colonisers and land speculators.

This was a clear violation of Article 3.


1852 – Government reneges on an agreement to provide hospitals and schools to Māori.

1853 The Crown & Ngai Tahu negotiated the sale of the Murihiku Block, a large block of land, for the express purpose of building hospitals that will provide services for the Ngai Tahu people. Provincial authorities refuse to honour Crown promises, and the land is taken but the medical facilities are never built.


1860 – Crown invades Māori territory to annex land.

1860 New Zealand Wars

17 March 1860: Crown troops attack the pa (settlement) of Te Ati Awa chief Te Rangitake at Te Kohia. Te Rangitake (also know as Wiremu Kingi) and his supporters had been resisting the government’s claims to have purchased the Waitara block of land.

The dispute initially arose in 1859 when another Te Ati Awa chief, Te Teira Manuka, had offered Governor Thomas Gore Browne land at Waitara. At the time, Te Rangitake opposed the offer and warned the Governor: ‘I will not permit the sale of Waitara to Pakeha. Waitara is in my hands, I will not give it up’. Te Rangitake’s supporters erected a flagstaff to mark the boundary of their land as a way of delineating what territory would not be sold.

12 July 1863: British troops invade Waikato, deliberately crossing the Mangatawhiri stream. The Kingitanga had declared the stream to be an aukati (a line that should not be crossed) and that they would consider any breach to be an act of war.

The Kingitanga or Māori King Movement had been established in 1858. The Crown viewed it as an anti-land-selling league and therefore an impediment to settler progress as well as a separatist movement that challenged British sovereignty in New Zealand. In January 1863, Governor George Grey stated he would ‘dig around the Kingitanga until it fell’.

During this era, settlers also provided liquor to Māori in a deliberate attempt to promote debt among Māori and therefore cause the mortgaging of Māori land.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-new-zealand-wars (Ministry for Culture and Heritage)

1862 – Māori health deteriorates due to the loss of land and increasing European contact.

1860’s-1890’s Dispossession of land leads to the deterioration of Māori health. Worse health is noted among those Māori who have more dealings with Pakeha; Māori who shun contact with Europeans retain their health. “the men & women are healthy looking while the number of children playing about, and of fine stout infants to be seen in the arms of their mothers, is remarkable…it is sad to think that those natives who have least to do with Europeans are in every respect the best of their race, but so it is.: New Zealand Herald, 9 May 1878.

As cited in Land Purchase Methods and their Effects on the Māori Population 1865-1901. M.P.K Sorrenson Journal of the Polynesians Society, 1956

1865 – Millions of acres of Māori land are confiscated; Māori who resist are subject to execution.

Further dispossession from their land leads to further deterioration of Māori health not only because of the loss of an economic base but also due to the rapid deterioration in Māori living conditions.


This act suspended the right to habeas corpus for those found to be in rebellion against the Crown.  Military courts were established, and land confiscation and execution were standard penalties for rebellion. This was a direct violation of Article 3.


This Act permitted confiscation of Māori land in any district where a ‘considerable number’ of Māori were believed to be in rebellion.  This facilitated Crown confiscation of millions of acres.


The right was given to any person to apply to the Land Court for determination of title to land.  Courts were only permitted to consider the evidence before them in making title decisions.  This meant that if a Māori owner did not take part in this long and costly title process, then title to their land would automatically be ceded to the claimant.  Māori owners who did take part would often incur legal debts which resulted in forced sales anyway.


1867 – Māori are placed on separate electoral rolls and prohibited from voting in general electorates.


After legislation to individualise titles had (inadvertently) given some Māori the right to vote, the Crown realised that this would cause Māori voters to outnumber Pakeha in some electorates. This act was passed to remove the ‘threat’ of Māori outvoting Pakeha in these districts.

The act introduced racial separatism into the New Zealand political process by permitting Māori to vote only for Māori seats and not in general elections. The number of Māori seats were then deliberately held to a set minimum, ensuring that Māori would always have only a minority voice in government.



1881 – “They are dying out in a quick, easy way and are being supplanted by a superior race.” – Dr Alfred Newman.

Alfred Kingcome Newman was born in Madras, India, on 27 April 1849 to Alfred Newman, commander of an East India Company ship, and his wife, Isabella Soames. The family emigrated to New Zealand in 1853 and farmed the 13,000-acre Arlington estate near Waipukurau, becoming prominent members of the local community.

Newman studied medicine in England, but upon his return to New Zealand, practiced medicine only briefly. Instead, he became a very successful merchant and property owner. In 1879, he became president of the Wellington Philosophical Society and also served on the governing body of the New Zealand Institute. He utilised his medical training to analyse and comment upon Māori. In 1882 he published ‘A study of the causes leading to the extinction of the Māori’, in which he depicted the race as diseased, depraved and brutal, already dying out even before the arrival of Europeans. Newman declared the disappearance of the race to be ‘scarcely subject for much regret. They are dying out in a quick, easy way, and are being supplanted by a superior race.’


1884 – King Tawhiao visits England to petition the Queen to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi; he is refused access.

The first Māori king, Potatau Te Wherowhero was crowned in 1858; his son Tawhiao succeeded him in 1860. Tawhiao, who was also a prophet, led his people into exile south of Te Awamutu, an area now known as the King Country. He managed to maintain the Kingitanga even when it was considered a direct threat to the authority of the British Crown and to European settlement in general.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/the-maori-king-movement/te-kingitanga/introduction (Ministry for Culture and Heritage)

1896 – Māori population at its lowest point (less than 50,000 people).

1896 The Māori population reached its lowest point when a total Māori population of 42,113 people was recorded on the official census.

“Māori living with conditions were appalling. Most of them lived in makeshift camps, without sanitation. They were afflicted by a host of infectious diseases and there was a very high rate of infant mortality… They were seldom treated by doctors, let alone admitted to hospitals. For the most part, they had to fend for themselves.”

R T Lange.’ Oxford History of New Zealand. The Revival of a dying race: A brief chronology of health between Māori and Pakeha. p16-17


1897 – Māori academics and politicians begin to emerge.

1897 The Young Māori Party was established to improve Māori health and welfare.  Party membership consisted primarily of younger Māori men who had received a European-style education. Members included James Carroll, Apirana Ngata, Te Rangi Hīroa, and Maui Pomare. Most members of the Party believed that in order to prosper, Māori needed to adopt European ways of life, particularly Western medicine and education.


1907 – Māori healers outlawed.

“Suppression of Tohunga” Act

The spiritual and educational role of the Tohunga (healers and teachers of Māori culture) in preserving traditional Māori society was seen as a threat to Māori amalgamation by non-Māori society. Accordingly, the position was outlawed by the Crown, further diminishing the Māori population’s ability to care for themselves. Yet not improving their access to Crown (i.e. Pakeha) services.

1907 – Māori infants refused access to adequate healthcare services.

The enumerator in Taranaki in 1891 reported that probably not more than one in three Māori children would survive to maturity. Maui Pomare estimated in 1903 that fewer than half of all Māori infants survived to their fourth birthday – generally due to the execrable living conditions and the lack of access to adequate health care.

Plunket Society was Established. From its establishment, the Plunket Society specifically excluded Māori from its client base, despite their arguably having the highest need for such services. Māori were not provided with full access to Plunket services until some 70 years later.


1907 – Four million out of 66 million acres remain in Māori ownership; 94% of Māori lands have been confiscated, sold, or appropriated.

Various acts of Parliament had so successfully wrested ownership away from Māori that by 1912, less than 75 years after the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed Māori equality and taonga, only 6% of Māori lands (four million out of 66 million acres) remain in Māori hands. This was a direct breach of Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi.


1918 – Māori WWI servicemen are refused the same Government benefits as non-Māori.

Māori servicemen returning from WWI are declared ineligible for the benefits of the government’s Rehabilitation Scheme. The scheme was only available to non-Māori servicemen, a clear violation of Article 3 of the Treaty.

1918 – Suspected smallpox epidemic leads to the prohibition of (only) Māori gatherings and travel; Pakeha gatherings and travel are unhindered.

All Māori gatherings and travel were forbidden during the smallpox epidemic; the Auckland Health officer further advocated the placement of Māori “in reservations under supervision”.

G.W. Rice, Black November: the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand (1988; second edition, Canterbury University Press, 2005)


1918 – Māori death rate is nearly 6 times greater than non-Māori during the Influenza pandemic.

1918 Influenza Epidemic

Māori death rate: 22.6 per thousand (Non-Māori rate: 4.5)



1919 – Māori infant death rates remain high due to lack of Government spending on Māori health.

1920 Studies of high infant death rates in Māori communities identified the main causes of death as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, followed by diarrhea and enteritis. These were undoubtedly related to poor living conditions. In the 1920’s, Māori infant death rates were still four times higher than those for the non-Māori population.

1920 Peter Buck (Te Rangihiroa) nominated first Director of Māori Hygiene. Many reforms in the area of Māori health achieved.

1924 Plunket was allocated £26,831 of the government health budget for (Pakeha) infant and child healthcare; by contrast to this, ALL aspects of Māori health were to be addressed with a mere £10,689


1930’s – Māori are generally excluded from unemployment relief during the Great Depression.

1930s Economic Depression

Plunket clinics in the 1930s provided their Pakeha clientele with not only advice and health checks, but also supplied free or subsidised breast-milk substitutes and food parcels for the poor and undernourished. This service, free and accessible with a well-established infrastructure, was widely believed at the time to be highly successful, yet it was for all practical purposes unavailable to Māori women.

1933 Three-quarters of the adult male Māori population was registered as unemployed yet it was harder for unemployed Māori to qualify for relief. Even when they did qualify, they received benefits at a lower rate.


1934 – Māori embarked on a significant political campaign and achieved some gains.

1935 T.W. Ratana, an influential Māori prophet appealing directly to the morehu (the poor and dispossessed) embarked on a significant political campaign from 1928.  In alliance with the first Labour government after 1935, he was able to achieve some significant gains for Māori under the new welfare state.

In 1937, Labour launched a massive State housing programme, building 32,000 houses by 1949. Yet, because the homes were urban based and relied on the principle of cost recovery, the scheme had little impact on the housing situation for Māori.

Furthermore, racist attitudes by allocation committees also prevented Māori from gaining access to State housing.  A major barrier to improving housing and sanitary conditions for Māori was the prevailing attitude among the government and allocation committees (whose members were Pakeha) that ‘a new house will be of no use without a new mentality to go with it’. This view was expressed, for example, by Dr Duncan Cook, Medical Officer of Health for the predominantly Māori area of Whangarei, in 1936. By 1940, with an estimated 45,000 Māori people in inadequate housing, fewer than 500 houses had been built.

1940 Māori Housing reports stated that 57% of Māori homes were overcrowded, 45% had unsafe water supplies and 36% were ‘unfit for habitation’.



1940 – WWII: over 27,000 Māori men and women mobilised by the Māori War Effort Organisation.

During the Second World War, the Māori War Effort Organisation mobilised more than 27,000 Māori men and women – nearly a third of the Māori population. Of the more than 3600 men who served voluntarily with the Māori Battalion:

This casualty rate was almost 50% higher than the average for the New Zealand infantry battalions. By the time the Second World War ended in 1945, the 28th (Māori) Battalion had become one of the most celebrated and decorated units in the New Zealand forces. The pinnacle of its achievement was the Victoria Cross won by Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu in 1943.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/maori-in-second-world-war (Ministry for Culture and Heritage),

1950’s – Government launches a Māori social policy of promoting urbanisation.

Urbanisation of Māori, which began in the 1950s, was accompanied by new health risks. These emerged because of the adoption of new, Western lifestyles, including new diets, less activity, alcohol, smoking, and drug abuse, as well as dispossession from traditional support systems such as extended family and established communities.



1951 – Māori population finally recovers to levels equal to those prior to European contact.

1951 Māori population is recorded by the official census as 134,097 people.


1951 – The Māori Women’s Welfare League is formed and drives housing and health campaigns.

1951 The Māori Womens’ Welfare League was formed to involve local Māori communities in welfare projects. The problem of adequate housing for Māori begins to be treated. The construction of homes increases, and by 1951, 3051 homes had been constructed, representing 16% of Māori houses.


1953 – More land loss for Māori.


The Māori Affairs Department was established to act as a Māori Land Purchase Agent for the Government.  Māori land deemed “uneconomic” could be compulsorily purchased at state valuation (i.e. seized).  The (Pakeha) trustee was given power to buy Māori land worth less than 50 pounds without the owners’ consent, to use as he wished.


1952 – Plunket Society still refuses to visit Māori settlements.

1952 ‘The Plunket Society. . . must not visit Māori pahs [sic: ‘pa’ or settlements] or give advice to those living in Māori fashion as work amongst the real Māori’s is undertaken by the Department of Health’.

1967 – Māori finally get the same pensions as Pakeha.

1967 Māori are finally awarded the same pension as non-Māori.  Previously Māori received only half the entitlement that Pakeha received.


1970’s – Māori continue to resist land loss.

1971 Nga Tamatoa (The Young Warriors) was one of the new groups that questioned racial politics. This Auckland-based student movement took its lead from liberation struggles elsewhere.


This curbed some of the most iniquitous aspects of the 1954 Act.  It was largely the work of Matiu Rata (1934 – 1997) who subsequently left the Labour party due to their lack of support on this amendment.

1975 A wide range of Māori came together under the leadership of Whina Cooper, a respected Northland kuia (elder), to peacefully protest against the ongoing loss of Māori land. About 30,000 people marched the length of the North Island to Parliament to raise awreness about this issue.





1975 – Waitangi Tribunal was established by Hon Matiu Rata to hear Māori grievances.

1975 Waitangi Tribunal Act

This act set up a politically appointed Tribunal to examine Māori claims from  1975 onwards. Two non-Māori and one Māori were members. The Tribunal was only given the power to make non-binding recommendations to the Crown.

1985 Waitangi Tribunal Amendment Act

This act made Tribunal jurisdiction retrospective from 1840 onwards. Membership was increased to 7, of whom 4 must be Māori. In addition, it required the Tribunal to be headed by Māori through the Tribunal still only had the power to make non-binding recommendations.


1977 – 1978 Government attempts further alienation of Ngāti Whātua land.

1977 – 1978

Member of Ngāti Whātua occupied land at bastion point, Orakei for 507 days. The occupation ended in a dramatic eviction by the police. The Crown later admitted the land had been unfairly acquired from the tribe.


1992 – Area Health Boards were beginning to make concerted efforts to address Māori healthy issues.

By 1992, Area Health Boards were beginning to make concerted efforts to address Māori health issues in specific areas such as cervical screening, mental health and in health promotion. At the same time approximately around twenty Māori health providers had been contracted by the Boards to deliver community health services. The Government also developed a Strategic Objective by Government to improve Māori health so that Māori could enjoy at least the same level of health as non-Māori (1993). This Objective was to form the basis of much of the growth and development of Māori health initiatives throughout the 1990s.

2000 – Treaty principles included in the New Zealand Public Health & Disability Act 2000.

Our Current Legislative Position

The New Zealand Public Health & Disability Act 2000, incorporates a number of significant references in relation to Māori Health. The New Zealand Public Health & Disability Act 2000 requires District Health Boards to establish and maintain processes to enable Māori to participate in and contribute to strategies for Māori health improvement. These, and related requirements, are imposed in order to recognise and respect the Treaty principles and to improve the health status of Māori.

For example, Section 4 of the Act for example states that:

“In order to recognise and respect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and with a view to improving health outcomes for Māori, part 3 provides for mechanisms to enable Māori to contribute to decision making on, and to participate in the delivery of health and disability services.

Part 3 of the Act provides for the establishment of District Health Boards and sets out their objectives and functions. Of particular relevance are sections 22 and 23 of the Act. Section 22 specifies the objectives of the District Health Boards.

They include the objective of reducing health disparities by improving health outcomes for Māori and other population groups, and to reduce, with a view to eliminating, health outcome disparities between the various population groups (s 22 (1) (e) (f).

Section 23 sets out the functions of the District Health Board (“for the purpose of pursuing its objectives”). Of particular relevance is the requirement to establish and maintain processes to enable Māori to participate in, and contribute to, strategies for Māori health improvement (s 23 (1) (d)).

The New Zealand Health Strategy acknowledges the special relationship between Māori and the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi (Chapter 3 pp 7-8). The New Zealand Health Strategy also refers to the Māori Health Strategy, which was developed later to provide strategic direction and guidance to the sector in implementing the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act.

2003 – In a decade Maori providers grow from almost zero to over two hundred.

‘Māori health provider development has been occurring for at least a decade and is both a health and public sector success story. In that decade Māori providers have grown from almost zero to over two hundred. They form a uniquely indigenous response to health care delivery which the sector can be proud of. This rich history of Māori innovation and initiative, sometimes referred to as Māori Magic, was coupled to focused Rangatiratanga or leadership to create a momentum which was unstoppable.’ Professor CD Mantell


2009 – To this day Māori continue to have the worst health of any ethnic group in New Zealand.

2009 Approx. 620,000 Māori live in New Zealand, but major health disparities remain, including an 8-year gap in life expectancy [Māori women 73.2 years, men 69 years.  Non-Māori women 82 years, men 77 years.] This gap is unacceptable, and the Government made it a key priority to reduce the health inequalities that affect Māori. If Māori are to live longer, have healthier lives, and participate fully in New Zealand society, then the factors that cause inequalities in health need to be addressed.

Back to Module