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Closer relations with New Zealand

A look at the relationship between New South Wales and New Zealand from the early 1800s to Federation.

Historical background

New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean, approximately 1500 km east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. The indigenous population, the Maori, were settled predominantly in the North Island. Among the first Europeans to visit the islands were Abel Tasman in 1642 and James Cook in 1769.

NRS 16407/1/1/[13], p.137

When the Colony of New South Wales was proclaimed in 1788 the boundaries included "all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean within the latitudes of 10°37'S and 43°39"S".[1] This included the North Island and about half of the South Island of New Zealand. When Van Dieman's Land became a separate colony in 1825 the southern border of New South Wales was altered so that only the top half of the North Island was included within New South Wales. Whatever the physical limits of the Colony may have been, there was very little administrative interest in New Zealand.

European visitors and settlement

From the 1790s the first European visitors and settlers started to arrive in New Zealand. The whalers, traders and missionaries settled mainly on the far north coast of the North Island. Some conflict between the Maori and Europeans did arise. In response the British Government named James Busby as Official Resident in 1832. Busby had neither military aid or legal effect to control the ever-growing European population. There was a growing commerce relationship between Sydney and some Maori traders. Samuel Marsden regularly brought Maori chiefs, such as Ruatara (Duaerra), Hongi Hika and Koro Koro, back to Sydney with him.

This map of New Zealand probably dates from the 1880s.  There are outgoing lines from Auckland and Wellington to Sydnay and Melbourne including the distance to travel in miles.  SR Map 3528

In 1839 the New Zealand Company announced plans for settlements in several places throughout New Zealand and Captain William Hobson was sent to New Zealand to begin negotiating a treaty with the Maori tribes. Also in 1839, new Letters patent were issued so the borders of New South Wales now included all of New Zealand and the Governor of New South Wales, George Gipps, was appointed as the Governor of New Zealand. Hobson was successful and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Copies of the Treaty were then sent around the islands to be signed by other Maori chiefs. New Zealand was administered as part of New South Wales until 3 May 1841 when it became a colony in its own right.

New South Wales and New Zealand continued to have close ties for many years to come. Volunteers went to fight in the New Zealand Lands wars in 1863 and Sydney made two gunboats for the war. New Zealand participated in the Federation talks in the 1890s but decided against becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Australia, instead progressing from a colony to a dominion in 1907.

The Boyd Massacre, 1809

The first page of a three page account of the rescue of the survivors of the "Boyd", given on board the "City of Edinburgh" in the Bay of Plenty on 6 January 1810.  This first page begins with a warning for "All matters of ships frequenting New Zealand are directed to be careful in not admitting many natives on board as they may be cut off in a moment of surprise."  The account lays out the finding of "the miserable remains of the ship Boyd" and the Crew who were mostly "killed and eaten".  With Matengaro's "handsome conduct" four survivors were rescued.   NRS 897 [2/8130 p1] NRS 897 [2/8130] This is a close up of the bottom of page two of the account of the rescue of the "Boyd".  The account was made by Simeon Pattison, Alexander Berry and James Russell in the Bay of Plenty on 6 January 1810 while on board the ship "City of Edinburgh".  A note is also made that Tarra (a Maori) "behaved very well" and was rewarded with a small vessel.NRS 897 [2/8130 p2]

In October 1809 the Boyd sailed from Sydney to Whangaroa Harbour on the east coast of the Northland Peninsula of New Zealand to pick up some kauri spars. The Boyd was captained by John Thompson and had over 70 people on board, including Te Ara (also known as George), the son of Piopio, a chief of the Kaeo tribe in Whangaroa, who was working his passage home. There was a dispute on board which ended with Te Ara being flogged. Te Ara complained to his father once he reached home and wanted utu, or revenge, on the Boyd. A few days later the Boyd was attacked and almost all of the passengers and crew were killed and some may have been eaten. The Boyd was ransacked and then a barrel of gunpowder was accidently ignited, destroying the ship. A visiting chief, Te Pahi, arrived the next morining and unsuccessfully attempted to save the remaining passengers and crew. Captain Alexander Berry undertook a rescue mission and saved four people, Ann Morley and her baby, Thomas Davis, an apprentice and two-year old Betsy Broughton. In March a revenge attack undertaken by a group of whalers mistakenly attacked Chief Te Pahi's pa in the Bay of Islands, injuring Te Pahi and killing over 60 Maori.

See Colonial Secretary for more details on:

James Busby appointed "Official Resident"

First page of a two-page letter from the Colonel Secretary's Office in Sydney to the Church Missionaries [CMS] in the Bay of Islands, dated 12 April, 1833.  This is a letter of introduction for James Busby who is about to take up his post as British Resident.  The Colonial Secretary hopes that the CMS will give "give him [Busby] every assistance and personal accomodation that his novel situation in that Country may require."NRS 939 [4/3523 p197] A one page letter from the Colonel Secretary in Sydney to James Busby, dated 30 August 1833.  This letter outlines what may have been a typical problem that Busby dealt with as British Resident.  It appears that a Maori Chief, Pomare, stole a shipping vessel from the owners, a Mr Mair and Mr Powditch.  Busby, with the assistance of Reverend Williams, had already attempted to return the vessel to Mair and Powditch but failed.  Busby iwas given permission to use any "Ship of War" that may visit the Bay of Islands to regain the vessel.NRS 939 [4/3523 p251] This is a one page letter from the Colonial Secretary to James Busby dated 12 April 1833.  It appears that four convicts, William Liddle or Siddle, James Hawkins, Daniel Downey and George Nelson, escaped New South Wales on board the "Caroline" with the help of the captain of the vessel in June 1833.  The men had turned up working and living in Cloudy Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.NRS 939 [4/3523 p346] One page letter from the Government of New Zealand to James Busby, dated 18 November 1840.  Busby appears to have put in a claim against some land confiscated from a chief named "Reti" after Busby was robbed by the Chief.  Unfortunately for Busby, his claim to the land seems to have been dismissed: "he [Sir George Gipps] cannot consider you to have any private claim to the land in question, but that under the circumstances alluded to, it must be deemed to have been forfeit to the Crown".  Busby spent many years in court to protect his title to various blocks of land in the North Island.  NRS 986 [4/3819 p12]

James Busby was appointed as the Official Resident, representing the British Government in March 1832. He arrived in the Bay of Islands in May the following year and established his residence at Waitangi. Busby's position was an attempt to protect the burgeoning British trade and he was to act as a liaison between European (Pakeha) settlers and Maori tribes. Busby was ineffectual as he had no legal or military authority and very little money to pay basic expenses (which were to be paid by the New South Wales government). Many of the copies of Busby's letters that we hold cover such things as transporting his house on the Imogene, runaways, land grants, expenses and dealing with legal issues resulting from deaths, stealing, and assaults. Busby was replaced in 1838 by Captain William Hobson who held the position of the British Consul. Busby remained in the Bay of Islands and helped Hobson to draft the Treaty of Waitangi.

Trade and Maori

This is page one of three of a Government and Regimental Order dated 9 November 1814 and signed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.  The Order sets out "that the Commanders and Seamen of vessels launching at or trading with the Islands of New Zealand, and more especially that part of them commonly called 'The Bay of Islands' have been in the habit of offering gross Insult and Injury to the Natives of these Places".  The Order warns against the carrying off of any Maori without first obtaining the permission of the local Chiefs.  Macquarie then states that the Order aims to "protect the Natives of New Zealand and the Bay of Islands in all their just Rights and Privileges as those of every other Dependency of the Territory of New South Wales".  NRS 897 [4/1730 p327] [4/1730 pp328-9] [4/1736 p167] This is a reply to Rev Samuel Marsden dated 24 July 1821.  It appears Marsden was attempting to arrange the return to New Zealand of four NZ Chiefs.  It contains explicit instructions that the Chiefs were to travel on the store ship the "Coromandel" and be dropped "within six miles of their homes".NRS [4/3504 p166] In this letter date 24 April 1824 John Davison, the Master of the schooner the 'Samuel' had picked up a Maori woman and child "on the South end of New Zeland" and brought them back to Sydney.  The woman and child were to be fed by the Crown until they could return home.  NRS 897 [4/3510 p669]

Once European and American trading and whaling vessels started visiting New Zealand regularly, Maori also started to venture beyond their traditional homeland to see the world. Maori regularly visited Sydney from 1795 onwards. They wanted to trade food and goods for highly desirable items such as knives and muskets. In 1806, Moehanga became the first Maori to visit England and on his way home he stopped in Sydney to purchase muskets.[2] There is even a painting by Major James Taylor showing several Maori chiefs in cloaks in front of a villa with Sydney in the background painted in about 1821 (see NLA: NK 259/B). Some Maori also worked their passage and ended up staying in Sydney where they could be found working on the docks.

Records in our collection

The Index to the Colonial Secretary's Papers has many references to flaxhemptimber and other trade with New Zealand. There are also regular references to local Maori being carried off or mistreated under New Zealand and Missionaries.

Several missionaries are also listed including:

Some Maori Chiefs are also mentioned:

Treaty of Waitangi

This is page one of a two page statement of expenses for Major Bunbury included with a letter from 1842.  Major Thomas Bunbury was tasked with collecting signatures for the Treaty of Waitangi from the South Island Maori.  According to this statement Bunbury travelled on board the 'HMS Herald' from 27 April to 10 May 1840.  He was ccompanied by Mr EM Williams, who acted as an interpreter and Mr Stewart, who was Bunbury's personal secretary. NRS 905 [letter 42/1888 in 4/2581.4] This is page two of a statement outlining the expenses for Major Bunbury as he sailed around the South Island to collect signatures for the Treaty of Waitangi.  The New South Wales Treasury paid 147 pounds for the voyage, an overpayment of 36 pounds.  NRS 905 [letter 42/1888 in 4/2581.4]

Captain William Hobson arrived in Sydney en route to New Zealand and was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand on 14 January 1840 before continuing on to the Bay of Islands, where he arrived on 29 January 1840. He immediatley undertook preparations for establishing a Treaty with the Maori tribes and on 6 February 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed at Waitangi.

On 28 April Major Thomas Bunbury left the Bay of Islands on the HMS Herald to collect signatures from the Maori tribes in the South Island. Bunbury landed at the Akaroa Peninsula on 28 May before heading down to Stewart Island, Ruapuke Island, Otago Habour, Cloudy Bay and then back to the Bay of Islands in early July.

The above document is a Statement of charges that Bunbury accumulated on this voyage for himself, his interpretor, Edward Williams (son of Henry Williams), and his secretary, Mr W Stewart. Captain Joseph Nias is also mentioned on the first page. The voyage of the HMS Herald was funded by the New South Wales Treasury which initially paid out £147, which turned put to be an overpayment of £36.

Administrative control of New Zealand

This is the first page of an eight page list that provides a snapshot of the types of every day implements that were needed to establish a colony from scratch.  The list includes things like portable camp tables, plates, saucepans, kettles, water buckets, candles, cotton sacks, matches and tinder boxes.  The list again dates from the week when Captain Hobson visited Sydney in January 1840.NRS 905 [Document A in 4/2501 page 1 of 8] This list, from the Colonial Architects Office, is dated 20 January 1840.  It provides details of applicants for a variety of jobs in NZ, including blacksmiths, carpenters, stonemasons, brickmakers, quarrymen and labourers.   This letted dates the same week Captain Hobson was in Sydney en route to NZ.  NRS 905 [letter 40/703 in 4/2501] This is page one of a four page estimate of the costs of establishing the colonial government in NZ.  The estimate includes the following offices: Governor General, Colonial Secretary, Treasury and Customs, Protector of Aborigines, Colonial Surgeon, Police, Public Works, Harbour Master and Colonial Stores.  The total cost estimate was 7582 pounds.NRS 905 [letter 40/9012 in 4/2501] p1 of 4 This letter, from Lt Gov Hobson to George Gipps, is dated 17 March 1841 and advises of a group of prisoners being sent on board the 'Regia' to NSW for trial, as one assumes, the court system was yet to be established in NZ.  Five suspected convicts, Bernard Smith, Michael Flynn, Thomas Jones, William White and Kenny Racalle? (name hard to read) were being returned.  Three men, Robert Carmichael, George Harris and William Batten, were being sent to NSW for trial.  The party was accompanied by Corporal Howard and Private Robinson of the 80th Regiment and Constable Hore of the Police.NRS 905 [letter 42/28 in 4/2540] This is the first page of a two page letter dated 11 May 1842 from Mr Symonds to the Governor of NSW.  It is a personal and touching glimpse of just one human story.  Mr Symonds states "My reason for wishing to proceed to New Zealand, as your Excellency is aware, was to be near the only relation I had in this hemisphere.  The Public Journals have acquainted you with his untimely fate, bereft of him, all interest I took in this place is gone, while every object reminds me, of the irreparable loss I have sustained."  NRS 905 [42/5 in 4/2581.4] NRS 905 [42/5 in 4/2581.4] p2

The New South Wales Treasury seems to have had the unenviable position of supervising and paying for much of the costs of establishing British Government in New Zealand. There are many references in the Colonial Secretary's Papers for the period of 1840-41 that provide an idea of what help was required in regard to personnel and goods. A few of these requests are represented in the images above. There were requests for engineers, mechanics, surveyors, police and magistrates while supplies such as medicine, furniture, building materials, boats and also basic items like shovels, brooms, pots, pans and candles also had to shipped to New Zealand.


This Ticket of Leave, issued to William Spikeman in 1831, is a replacement for an earlier ticket (27/33).  Under General Remarks at the bottom of the Ticket it states the "original was granted on the special recommendation of the Church Missionary Society and this indulgence is only to be continued while Spikeman remains at the Station" in New Zealand.  Spikeman appears to have been a herdsman for the CMS, probably at the Station at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands.NRS 12202 [4/4080 #31/700] NRS 12196 [4/4285 #32/75] Leach NRS 12196 [4/4285 #32/75] Leach

A number of convicts eventually ended up in New Zealand.  Some were trying to escape the convict regime before their sentence had expired and got work on ships or whale boats heading further south. If these convicts were caught in NZ they were shipped back to NSW for further punishment.  Some convicts though, went to New Zealand on legitimate work.  William Spikeman (or Spekeman) per Canada, was granted a Ticket of Leave for working with the Church Missionary Society in NZ while Abraham Leach was granted several Tickets of Exemption from Government Labour for his services collecting plant seeds and samples in New Zealand as part of an expedition for the Botanical Gardens on board the HMS Satellite.

Maps and Plans

A Chart of the North Island of New Zealand, no date.  SR Map 170. SR Map 169 Current Basin in the Cooks Strait, as surveyed on the French voyage of Dumont d'Urville in 1827. Map showing Port Hardy in the Cook Strait from 1834.  In the bottom left hand corner there is a close up of the Port Hardy including a note about Nelson's Monument.  SR Map 178. Map of the entrance to the Hookianga [Hokianga] River in the North Island of New Zealand, 1839. SR Map 172 An early plan of the layout of the town of Auckland, situated on the banks of the Waitemata River, in the North Island of New Zealand.  SR Map 177, no date. Map of the Mt Pleasant Meridional Circuit and Survey Districts, which includes Christchurch and part of the Canterbury plains in the South Island of New Zealand.  SR Map 3518, no date.

A selection of maps that relate to various New Zealand locations. Search for similar Maps and Plans online.

Personal stories

Thomas and Alexander Fraser were declared insolvent in 1844 and although both brothers were trading as whalers in New Zealand, Alexander seems to have been living in Sydney while the insolvency case was settled.  This file note states "The Insolvent [Alexander] along with his brother having been carrying on business as whalers in New Zealand for the last three years they have been very unsuccessful having had several losses amounting to upwards of 4000 pounds which appears by their books.  Also the loss of a vessel called the 'John Duncombe' and being threatened with law proceedings by Mr Thomas Shearer in order to save the estate from any unnecessary law expenses are desirous of surrendering the same into the Hands of the Chief Commissioners of Insolvent Estates."NRS 13654 [2/8784 #1310] Schedule B provides the particulars of the land the two brothers owned: "An island in Cook's Straits in New Zealand called 'Mana' for which the sum of two hundred pounds was paid being twenty percent of the sum of one thousand pounds, the amount of purchase money.  The Chiefs would not acknowledge the right of the vendor to sell the same consequently the Commissioners of Claims in New Zealand would not sanction the purchase."  NRS 13654 [2/8784 #1310] NRS 13654 [2/8784 #1310] NRS 13654 [2/8784 #1310] NSW Government Gazette, December 3 1844, Vol 2, p.1469

Finding personal details of individual people can be difficult in a government archives. Some records, such as Deceased Estates, Probates, Intestate Estates and Insolvency files can contain useful details that provide a tantalising snapshot of how people lived.

Alexander and Thomas Fraser were twins from Scotland who came out to Sydney, New South Wales in 1832 before continuing onto New Zealand in the late 1830s. They settled on Mana Island in the Cooks Strait and began a whaling business. The brothers lost money in their whaling business due to the loss of a vessel and low prices for whale oil and bone in the early 1840s. In 1840 they lost £2337, in 1841 £284 and in 1842 £817. Although whaling provided a setback for the brothers they eventually owned large runholdings in Wellington and Otago. Both brothers never married and Alexander died in Wellington in 1868 and Thomas died in 1871 at Rangitikei.

New Zealand Land Wars

p1NRS 4523 [4/1629] pp2-3NRS 4523 [4/1629] This is a one page letter to the Governor of NSW from Colonel Charles Emilius Gold, written on 20 March 1860 at Waitara.  In the wake of the beginnings of the First Taranaki War Gold is applying to the Governors of NSW, Victoria and Tasmania "for as large a reinforcement in ships, particularly steamers, artillery engineers and Troops of the line as they can spare".  He believes that "the very appearance of whom, promptly, would probably induce the Maori people to wish for the return of peace".   NRS 4523 [4/1629] Another letter to the Governor of NSW pleading for help, this time rifles.  This three page letter, dated 4 April 1860 is from George Cutfield, the Superintendent of the Province of Taranaki.  Cutfield reports that "In a sharp skirmish which occurred last week and in which the irregular force had a large share, it became evident that the natives among the arms accumulated during the many years have possessed themselves of many rifles of good range".  In comparison, the local militia were using old muskets.  NRS 4523 [4/1629 letter 60/1693 p1] The last two pages of this letter are an entreaty from George Cutfield to the Governor of NSW for rifles, in particular Enfield rifles.  Cutfield pledges that the Provisional Government would return or replace the rifles.  This letter shows the desparate feeling among the English settlers in Taranaki at the time.  Cutfield underlines this feeling when he says on page three "I therefore trust this occasion will be held to justify an application which it would in ordinary circumstances be an unpardonable impertinance for me to make".  Unfortunately for Cutfield though, NSW was also waiting for Enfield rifles to arrive from England and had no spare rifles to send to New Zealand.  NRS 4523 [4/1629] letter 60/1693 pp2-3 This is a copy of a three page letter from Major Thomas Nelson at Camp Waitara, dated 23 June 1860, three days before the British troops suffered a heavy defeat at Puketakauere.  Nelson sent Lt Mould on a reconnoitre after a fire was seen buring in the the swamp south east of the British troops encamped at Waitara, near the twin pa sites of Puketakauere and Onukukaitara.  NRS 4523 [4/1629] Lt Mould started to return to Camp Waitara having ascertained that a group of Maori were cutting wood and gathering supplies in the swamp to support the warriors in the new pa, Puketakauere.  The troops wre fired upon from the old pa site "as well as along the top of the ridge in the direction of the Pah from which the Natives were seen to come out to the number of about 150, extending as they descended".  Skirmishes such as this one were probably common in the lead upto to the frontal attack on the twin pa site on 27 June 1860.  An 11 page copy of the report on the assault by Nelson is also enclosed with this letter (but not copied). NRS 4523 [4/1629]

The New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s was the first conflict in which large numbers of Australian born soldiers fought. In July 1863 British troops in New Zealand began an invasion of the Waikato region. Later in the same year the New Zealand Government made a request to the Australian Colonies for more troops and offered settlement on the confiscated land for the volunteers. In total, about 2500 Australians volunteered but only about 460 enrolled in Sydney (the majority came from Victoria).[3] Most of the New South Wales volunteers joined the 2nd and 4th Waikato Regiments and were involved in a number of minor skirmishes. It is believed fewer than 20 Australians were killed. The Waikato Regiments disbanded in 1867 and a number of the New South Wales volunteers stayed on in Alexandria (renamed Pirongia) and Hamilton. New South Wales also provided arms, ammunition, draught animals and supplies of food. Two iron-gunboats were also made for the New Zealand Government at PN Russell's ironworks in Sydney.

Edward Pearson

One of the more well-known New South Wales volunteers was Edward Pearson. He volunteered in Sydney on 16 February 1864 and served in the 4th Waikato Regiment (#376) before settling on a land grant in Hamilton. Edward created a sandstone soap, which later formed the basis of the Pearson Soap Company that operated in Sydney from the 1890s onwards.

Australian Federation

"Statistics of the Seven Colonies of Australia" was a publication by the NSW Bureau of Statistics.  It was published between 1895 and 1901 but the information contained in the booklets spans from 1861 to 1899.  It includes the six colonies of Australia with NZ tagged on as the 'seventh'.  NRS 698 [6/5601] These two page of the booklet provide statistics on Government Railways, Miles of Telegraph poles, Public Revenue, the number of letters and postcards posted and the number of newspapers published.NRS 698 [6/5601] This excerpt from the NSW Votes and Proceedings shows the Roll of Delegates for the start of the Convention at Parliament House in Sydney in March 1891.  The Convention went on to write the draft constitution for the Commonwealth.  NSW Votes & Proceedings, 1891, Vol 1, p133. NZ was represented by Sir George Grey, the former Premier of NZ, Captain William Russell, Leader of the Opposition and Sir Harry Atkinson, former Premier of NZ, at the National Australasian Conference.NSW Votes & Proceedings 1891, vol 1, p133. This telegram cable from the Premier of NZ, RJ Seddon, to the Premier of NSW dates from 12 July 1900.  It offers the "Commonwealth every prosperity".  NRS 14194 [10/4154.1]

The growth of nationalism in the 1880s coincides with the move towards a united Commonwealth of Australia. The 1890 Conference and the National Australasian Convention in 1891 were both attended by representatives of the New Zealand Government but in the end, New Zealand opted out of joining the Federation. Instead, New Zealand became a separate 'dominion' in 1907 with equal status with Australia before going onto complete self-government in 1907.

Online searches

The flow of people between New South Wales and New Zealand has been occurring for many years. Some of our online databases can be searched by locality: see Bankruptcy, Deceased estate, Insolvency, Intestate, Gaol Photographs and Registers of Police Online Indexes and insert New Zealand in locality, district or native place field.

Advertisement for NZ Insurance.  From Railway Tourist Guides: Tourists Handbook of Australia, 1905.  NRS 16407/1/1[13], p.137. A sign for Kiwi boot polish at Wynyard Railway Station, no date.  Photo Investigator digital id 17420_a014_a014000662


Archives New Zealand: Te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga

Papers Past - searchable online local New Zealand newspapers

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand


[1] Archives Investigator: New South Wales Organisation detail

[2] Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zeland: Maori Overseas

[3] Australians in the Waikato War 1863-64, Leonard Barton, p52