New Zealand is a multicultural society, with a distinctive blend of heritage, beliefs, and ethics and is portrayed by a
spirit of innovation and ingenuity bred from a frontier history.


People Who Made New Zealand Home

New Zealand was not known to the Europeans until 1642. Nearly 200 years later, settlers started to arrive from England, Scotland and Ireland. They came in the hope of a better life, eventhough the journey was long, arduous and uncomfortable. Today’s New Zealanders celebrate a wide and varied heritage – from the Pacific, Europe, Asia, Africa and America.


It is a measure of New Zealand’s isolation that 310 years after Tasman, those post-war Dutch immigrants were the first continental Europeans many New Zealanders had seen. They suffered prejudice and homesickness, but they also injected innovation and sophistication into the culture, and produced some 100,000 descendants. Some famous figures among early settlers of Dutch origin include the landscape painter Petrus van der Velden, and gold seeker and later Prime Minister Sir Julius Vogel, who had a Dutch father. Others, like Wellington’s first rabbi, Herman van Staveren, made their mark at the community level. In 1950 Wellington approached The Hague, asking whether it could obtain 2,000 skilled migrants. Carpenters, skilled labourers, and farm and domestic workers were high on the wanted list. It was a move based on pragmatic grounds, and both countries stood to gain from the arrangement. The need for workers was immediate. Even before the immigration agreement was signed in October, 55 Dutch dairy workers were selected. All the men took the long direct flight to Whenuapai, arriving just in time for the peak of the season.

The New Zealand Assisted Passage Scheme was extended to include a limited number of Dutch citizens with special skills. Candidates faced strict selection processes, with a quarter of the post-war, Dutch settlers were subsidised this way. The door also opened that year to those willing to pay their own way, so long as they had a job and a place to live. Within a few months, Dutch migrants came by the thousands mainly by sea, many bringing prefabricated houses with them. Dutch churches helped promote migration, with an estimated half being Roman Catholic. Most arrived with little money, having sold possessions to pay for their passage. They were permitted to carry minimal amounts of luggage, arriving after five weeks in crowded dormitories on ships like the Sibajak On arrival, all new migrants faced pressure to discard their culture, with the 1950s government wanting settlers to blend, socially and culturally, into the British-based society. This attitude was summed up by senior immigration official Dr Reuel Lochore: ‘We must make new Britishers: by procreation, and by assimilation; making suitable aliens into vectors of the British way of life.’

The aliens (Dutch) were fingerprinted and obliged to carry papers, this echoed the painful years of German occupation. Authorities carried out ‘pepper potting’ – scattering new immigrants throughout the country to avoid the clustering of ethnic communities. The assisted immigrants faced further restrictions within the first two years of arriving, as they were directed to specific jobs and localities which were, often in temporary construction or railway camps. The first arrivals enjoyed the fresh air, wide open spaces and large helpings of meat and dairy foods. Women in particular suffered isolation and homesickness, pining for the close-knit communities of home. They found that the spirit of gezelligheid (conviviality), which is at the heart of Dutch culture, was in short supply. The legendary ‘Brides Flight of 1953’ was and arrangement where young women engaged to Dutch men were brought out to New Zealand to join them. However a large proportion of Dutch men married locals, often settling down where they had first gone to work.

By introducing new customs such as foods, the Dutch have helped change the way of life in New Zealand. Migrants like Suzy van der Kwast in Wellington broke new ground by setting up popular cafes where New Zealanders could taste good coffee and exotic food. In the mid-1950s, Auckland restaurateur Otto Groen challenged the conservative drinking laws of the day, which prevented the European custom of drinking wine with meals in restaurants. His restaurant, The Gourmet, later became the first restaurant in the country to be granted a licence to serve liquor. Vogel’s bread, Van Camp chocolate, and Verkerk smallgoods are among the flavours of Europe introduced by the Dutch. Friesian cows were an early Dutch contribution to the agricultural landscape, with the migrants bringing a special expertise to dairy farming. Growing tulips is another Dutch migrant speciality. Today New Zealand exports tulip bulbs, back to the Netherlands and worldwide, through a multi-million-dollar business based in Tapanui, Southland.

Dutch immigrants have brought fresh and challenging ideas: Frank Carpay was an innovative designer and decorator of ceramics at Crown Lynn Potteries.  Ans Westra’s images, especially of Maori, have helped ensure her reputation as one of our greatest photographers. Riemke Ensing, arriving as a child in the 1950s went on to become an established poet. A distinctive Dutch contribution to design is evident in such commercial enterprises as Rembrandt Suits and Lockwood Homes. That Kiwi institution, the Lockwood home, is a Dutch invention. Two migrants – Jo la Grouw and Johannes (Jan) van Loghem – came up with the innovative idea in 1951. The prototype house built in Rotorua was based on the old log-cabin technique of interlocking timber walls. Their spaciousness and strength soon made the houses popular with New Zealanders. Lockwood Homes have gone on to become the country’s biggest house-building company, with sales in the many thousands both locally and internationally.

Dutch immigrants have gained recognition through sport, a few of these are; Dick Quax broke records in the 1970s as a middle-distance runner, Tino Tabak cyclist, Eric Verdonk sculler, Simon Poelman decathlete. Yvonne Willering, Silver Ferns netball player and later as national coach.


The English were the first and largest group, of Europeans to come to New Zealand, and their culture became the dominant culture. The English contributed greatly to the exploration and discovery of the country. English settlers led the fight to New Zealand becoming self-governing. Religion, influenced by the English specially the Anglican and Methodist Churches, becaming strong in society. Major sports such as racing, rugby, cricket, soccer and tennis owe their beginings and success to the English. From Yorkshire pudding to fish and chips, the diets of New Zealanders showed English origins. The rituals and manners of polite society – from table etiquette to social observances such as weddings – largely derived from English precedents. The view that emotional excesses should be repressed also, arguably, has its roots in the English adage to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’.

Many of the institutions established in New Zealand were based on the English system, for instance our polictical system. Through the political, military, and economic power of the crown, Māori were often encouraged to adopt English mannerisms and customs. The New Zealand Company settlements in Wellington, Nelson, New Plymouth and Wanganui were largely an initiative of English followers of colonial promoter Edward Gibbon Wakefield, and not surprisingly they recruited migrants mostly in England. Over 80% of those granted assisted passages by the New Zealand Company were from there. The Otago settlement of 1848 set out to attract Scots, but the Canterbury Association was very much an English scheme, as its name suggests. Auckland drew many settlers from Australia; but nevertheless, 45% of its incomers until 1852 were English.

During the First World War many New Zealanders headed to the Northern Hempisphere, often renewing contacts with their English relatives. But the longer-term impact was to encourage further assisted migration out of England. In the early 1920s a number of schemes were set up by the British and New Zealand Governments to provide assisted passages. Among those who emigrated were: fiancées, wives and children of New Zealand servicemen, drawn largely from areas close to New Zealand’s main military camps and hospitals in England, English ex-service personnel to whom the imperial government offered free passages,
‘Empire’ immigrants assisted by the British and New Zealand governments and including 2,300 young persons..

After the Second World War, New Zealanders began to describe English immigrants as Poms, Pommies, or occasionally Pommy bastards. The word was not an acronym of the term Prisoners of Mother England, nor a version of the French word for potatoes (pommes de terre), which English soldiers ate during the war; it was rhyming slang originally used in Australia. The word ‘immigrant’ produced ‘pomegranate’, which was shortened to ‘Pom’ or ‘Pommy’.

There is no doubt that small-scale farming and animal husbandry in New Zealand were shaped by English agricultural skills introduced in the 19th century. Mining benefited too – about a quarter of those who were attracted to the gold rushes, especially Cornish workers, came with a mining background. Domestic servants, whose range of skills was well suited to an undeveloped economy, were attracted by the prospect of marriage and higher wages. As the regional origins of the English arrivals changed from the south to the north from about 1890, so did their occupations. Industry expanded with the influx of skilled industrial workers from Yorkshire and Lancashire. With these groups came many of the institutions which flourished among the English urban working class – working-men’s clubs, building societies, retail co-operatives and craft guilds. The rapid growth of trade unions after 1890 was associated with the migration of English workers in the textile, clothing, footwear, mining, and marine transport industries.

The over 80,000 assisted British migrants who arrived between 1947 and 1975 were also selected for the contribution which they could make to industry, education, and health. The first English arrivals regarded their culture and values as the only true ones, and expected others, whether Māori or other European newcomers, to adopt them. Most English immigrants quickly developed a passionate attachment to New Zealand and expressed a sense of its superiority to the old country. Understandably, the English set out to use the land in ways that were familiar, and quickly established in New Zealand English forms of agriculture. They introduced animals such as sheep, cows and pigs, and cultivated crops such as wheat, and fruit such as apples. They also sought to make the landscape more recognisable by bringing in English trees and wild animals. The domestic garden was a notable English middle-class interest in the 19th century. For some genteel settlers, the establishment of civilisation in the wilderness was represented by a flourishing English garden. Trees such as oaks and beeches, and flowers such as roses or daffodils, were planted in part as memories of home. Gardening continues to be one of New Zealanders’ most popular pastimes. The commercial brewing of beer, still New Zealand’s most popular alcoholic beverage, was initiated by the Londoner Joel Polack, who in 1835 built a brewery at Kororakeka (Russell) to provide an alternative to rum. In 1876 James Speight, a Yorkshireman, along with Devonshire maltster Charles Greenslade and the Scot William Dawson, founded James Speight and Company’s Brewery in Dunedin.

In the first Parliament, English members of the House of Representatives pressed for, and in 1856 gained, responsible self-government. This paved the way for the establishment of a Prime Minister and Cabinet bound by the principle of collective responsibility, and accountable to Parliament. New Zealand’s Civil Service, though structured differently, was also based on the English model, including the office of permanent secretary. The concept of a loyal parliamentary opposition is similarly of English origin. Even for its local and territorial authorities, New Zealand looked to English models of counties and boroughs. Athough New Zealand’s early settlers included many immigrants from Scotland (which had its own legal system), it was English law that was adopted and which profoundly influenced the development of the New Zealand legal system. The first chief justices and judges of New Zealand’s Supreme Court were English-born lawyers.

New Zealand’s major sporting codes have English origins. Cricket, immensely popular in 19th-century England, arrived with the missionaries. The first recorded match took place in Nelson in 1844. Horse racing was also popular in England from the 16th century, and developed quickly in New Zealand. The first formal meeting was held in the Bay of Islands in 1835, and the first official horse race in Wellington was in 1841. Bowls, hockey and lawn tennis are also of English origin. , quickly appeared in New Zealand, and the Lawn Tennis Association was established in 1886.

Many English brought with them painful memories of life at home this brought a determination to prevent the reappearance of the least desirable elements of English life and society, such as poverty, the rigid class system. English-born reforming politicians like Richard Seddon, and later Walter Nash, were clearly imbued with a vision that New Zealand could avoid England’s mistakes while maintaining its virtues. The loyalty to English traditions and to family back home helped reinforce New Zealanders’ determination to stand with Britain in two world wars. The English immigrants who arrived in New Zealand from the early 1800s did not represent a cross-section of their society. Moreover, England experienced profound change throughout the 19th century so that the migrants who arrived in New Zealand in the 1840s were very different from those arriving in the 1920s or the 1950s. The former were still largely rural peasants used to pre-industrial ways of working; the latter were usually refugees from modern urban life. Therefore, the contribution made by the English to the development of New Zealand was complex. It comprised elements of an emerging ‘national’ English society and culture, distinctive aspects of some regional cultures, and features of the new urban-industrial class society that emerged during the course of the 19th century. By their social power and numerical dominance, successive waves of English immigrants have played a huge part in the shaping of modern New Zealand.


The first of the Asian people to New Zealand were the Chinese who were recruited by the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, when european miners left Otago for the newly discovered West Coast goldfields. The Chinese were thought to be hardworking, inoffensive, and willing to rework abandoned claims, and eventually would return to their homeland. Because of language problems and the lack of personal assets they often emigrated in kinship and stuck to their ways. They formed the strongest cooperative groups in the goldfields and which helped alinate them from the Europeans. Although most were small claim miners, in due course members of their ethnic group took on every branch of alluvial gold mining and pioneered the gold dredging of river flats. Choie Sew Hoy pioneered a gold dredge in 1888 which led the world in dredging river beaches and flats, and revitalised Otago’s mining industry and the region generally. Within 14 years, in 1902, Otago and adjacent Southland had a fleet of 201 gold dredges all modelled on the Sew Hoy dredge (better known as the ‘New Zealand gold dredge’).

Following the depletion of the goldfields in the late 1880s, the Chinese drifted to towns and cities looking for work. Many worked in fruit shops, laundries and commodity stores. They also found a niche in the market gardening trade, especially from the late 1920s. Growing vegetables was extremely labour intensive, requiring long hours but comparatively small capital outlay. The Chinese often leased land from Maori, and worked side by side with them, making a modest living.

In the late nineteenth century, the New Zealand Parliament passed discriminatory laws against Chinese seeking to enter New Zealand. The Chinese Immigrants Act of 1881 imposed a poll tax of £10 per Chinese person and restricted the numbers able to enter the country to one person per ten tonnes of ship cargo. In 1896 the tax was lifted to £100 per person and there were further restrictions on the numbers of Chinese able to enter New Zealand. In 1908, Chinese people had to put a thumbprint on their Certificates of Registration before leaving the country – no other ethnic group had to leave thumbprints. Chinese people were deprived of their right to naturalisation in 1908 and this was not rescinded until 1951 – no other ethnic group was deprived of this right. A reading test in English was introduced – other immigrants had only a writing test in their own language. Even in 1935 when entry permits were introduced after a suspension of 15 years for reunification of family and partners of Chinese people, they were severely restricted. On Wednesday, February 13, 2002, Prime Minister Helen Clark apologised to the Chinese New Zealanders who paid a poll tax and suffered other discrimination imposed by statute and to their descendents. She hailed the Chinese community in New Zealand as a “significant contributor” to New Zealand. “Modern New Zealand has a bicultural foundation, and today is home to many peoples. It is important that we value, honour and respect all our communities and see our diversity as a great strength,” she said.

Multiculturalism allowed the Chinese, many whose families have been in New Zealand for over a century, to become more open in the display of their culture. Chinese New Year and the mid-autumn festival, for example, have become popular celebrations drawing huge crowds of Chinese and other New Zealanders. Some events, like the lantern festival and the dragon boat race, are now widely popular among other New Zealanders, especially the young.


The outward signs of New Zealand’s diverse African community may be colourful, but behind them are stories of war, famine, trauma and and of perseverance and courage. From Algerian to Zimbabwean, New Zealand’s African-born people form a kaleidoscope of cultures, languages and ethnicities. They represent over 40 countries in Africa, and include Europeans, Asians, Indians and Arabic people. Many of New Zealand’s African-born people are white. Some came from Africa’s British colonies in the 1970s, but the majority arrived from South Africa in the 1990s. Across Africa, wars and brutal political regimes have driven thousands from their homes. Often arriving with few possessions and horrific memories, people came from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Refugees faced huge obstacles, endureing imprisonment, violence, loss of family members, and detention in camps. They have to learn English and adapt to an alien culture. African immigrants live mostly in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Through the family reunification scheme, some long-lost relatives continue to arrive and swell these communities.

Hot dance rhythms get a lunchtime crowd moving in Christchurch sultaneously in suburban Auckland, nimble players liven up at a soccer match. Women swathed in bright cotton catch the eye in Wellington’s Cuba Street. Playing soccer, performing African drumming and dance, braiding hair in traditional styles – these and other cultural activities connect Kiwis and Africans, and help the new immigrants put down roots in a strange land.


In the 1880s when the first Dalmatians came to New Zealand, the Austro-Hungarian empire ruled Dalmatia, which is on the Adriatic coast of the Mediterranean. Through this they were often mistakenly called ‘Austrians’ in New Zealand. Dalmatians clustered together in the gum fields of the Far North, where they lived in rough huts constructed from manuka poles and sacking.. Their days were spent deep in trenches and swampy holes where the prized kauri gum lay buried. Eventually with time, the land did offer a better way of life, with some diggers becoming farmers in the north while others started vineyards. Today the founders’ names read like a who’s who of New Zealand wine – Babich (1919), Selak (1934), Yukich (Montana Wines, 1944), Nobilo (1943) and Delegat (1947). Their wine was scorned at first and nicknamed Dally-plonk. Prejudice and ignorance hounded the Dalmatians for many years. Harsh rules that favoured the British made it increasingly difficult for them to dig for gum. During the First World War they were mistakenly called ‘Austrians’ and treated as enemies.

Dalmatians got on very well with Māori of the Far North – Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa, Ngati Kahu and Ngati Kuri, who dubbed them ‘tarara’ – ‘fast talkers’. Intermarriage occurred, producing some significant figures such as Dame Mira Szászy, one of the outstanding Māori women leaders of the 20th Century, and the first Māori woman to graduate with a degree from The University of Auckland. She was a former President of The Māori Women’s Welfare League. Dalmatians and others from the former Yugoslavia are proud of their heritage. Their hard-working attitude and contribution to the country is well recognised, especially in Northland and Auckland, where the term ‘Dally’ is now one of affection.


The first Scandinavian visitors to New Zealand were often sailors whose courage and stamina was needed to slash and clear the dense forests, of the Manawatu for settlement. In 1870 prospective migrants were promised free passage and 10 acres of land. In return for land, they opened up the native bush known to Maori as Tapere-nui-a-Whatonga, this forest stretched 70 miles from the Wairarapa to Hawke’s Bay. This made it easier for settlers that came later, but life for these trailblazers was harsh – sharing rough huts, facing hunger and fever.

By 1872 the government-named Scandinavian towns of Norsewood and Dannevirke were surveyed. As farms were drawn by ballot, nationalities were mixed throughout the region, although there were concentrations of Norwegians in Norsewood and Danes in Dannevirke. Families often shared crude punga and totara bark houses, while ‘slabs-hus’ (slab huts) were built. In 1871 the first government-assisted Scandinavian immigrants arrived in Wellington aboard the ‘Celaeno’. The 18 families settled on 40-acre sections between Palmerston and Foxton, opening a road and tramway through the bush that gave settlers access to Palmerston. Because Norwegian, Danish and Swedish are similar languages, barriers were minimal among the ‘Skandies’, as they were nicknamed. From the 1990s Swedes and other Scandinavians began to choose New Zealand because of work, marriage or lifestyle.

Groups of Finns and their families were recruited by New Zealand Forest Products Ltd. The forests provided more work in the 1950s and 1960s, triggering a small wave of Finnish immigrants. They worked in pulp and paper factories in Tokoroa and Kawerau. In the same period many young Danes arrived as government-assisted immigrants.


In 1975, the Communist Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, threw Cambodia into turmoil. This came about by the regime abolishing money, schools, banning owning private property, ordering people out of the towns and cities forcing millions to, work on the land. Almost 2 million died of starvation, exhaustion while others were tortured or killed, leaving hundreds of thousands to flee to other countries for refuge. New Zealand accepted over 4,600 Cambodian refugees between 1975 to 1992, but groups of students had also come on scholarships in the early 1970s, and stayed. Although it is still one of the smaller ethnic groups in New Zealand, the Cambodian community has grown quickly, from just 41 in the early 1970s, to 5,268 in 2001.

As numbers have increased, Cambodian culture has become more visible. Life has not been easy for the immigrants, many did not speak English, and had no experience in the skills required for working in New Zealand. Most worked in manual and processing jobs, including those who had professional qualifications. Community associations now flourish and play a large part in keeping the community together by participating in festivals, and providing places to celebrate religion and culture.


Laos is a South-East Asian country, land-locked by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and China. Its 600-year-old monarchy was replaced in 1975 by the Communist Pathet Lao government, which began a 20-year rule of terror, which led to Laotians coming to New Zealand as refugees in the 1977. They were fleeing atrocities perpetrated by the Pathet Lao, in what became known as the Killing Fields of Laos.

The first group of Laotian refugees arrived in New Zealand in 1977, when the government approved an intake of 70 families from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Laotians were selected from the refugee camps in Thailand. On arrival, refugees spent four to six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Centre in Auckland where theyy they were given accommodation, a medical check-up, and basic English lessons. Over 90% settled in the North Island, mainly in Auckland, Hamilton, Napier and Wellington. Many had to take low paid employment, and suffered feelings of isolation and distress. Most were employed in manual or processing jobs, found with the help of relatives, friends and sponsors. Of those who had obtained professional qualifications in their home country, few were able to find employment equal to their expertise. Today, Laotians continue to work predominantly in blue-collar occupations.


Fiji’s ethnic complexity is a consequence of British colonisation between 1874 and 1970. Official policies separated the indigenous, Indian, European and other communities in economic, administrative, political and social spheres. Between 1879 and 1916 about 60,000 Indians were hired to work under harsh and restrictive conditions in Fiji’s sugar industry. A unique Indo-Fijian culture developed, which explains why many Indo-Fijians are distinct from other New Zealand Indians. It also underlies different political and economic causes of migration.

Finding suitable work has not always been easy. The exodus of Indo-Fijians from Fiji to New Zealand during the late 1980s coincided with high unemployment in New Zealand. Many had to accept less skilled jobs, and some opened shops. Nevertheless in 2001, Fijians had the highest labour force participation and highest annual median income among Pacific groups.

In the 19th century Fiji attracted New Zealand planters, traders and missionaries, and on several occasions it was suggested that Fiji be made a state of New Zealand. New Zealand helped uphold Britain’s colonial power in Fiji, and sent troops at Britain’s request when Indian workers went on strike in 1920. New Zealand unions protested, initiating close bonds between organised labour in New Zealand and Fiji. In 1936 nursing in Fiji came under New Zealand supervision. During the Second World War New Zealand was responsible for Fiji’s defence, and later established an air base at Laucala Bay. Fijians immigrated temporarily under various work schemes between 1967 and 1987. They laboured in arduous, low-paid agricultural and scrub cutting work in the lower North Island or in tussock grubbing in North Canterbury. By 1969 work included fruit picking, forestry, vegetable and tobacco cultivation, and halal slaughtering. Initially most who worked under these schemes were Indo-Fijians. But by the 1970s and early 1980s, they were increasingly indigenous Fijians, partly because of the Fijian government’s preferential policies. Some of these temporary workers remained illegally in New Zealand and eventually became permanent residents.

Auckland became the principal centre of settlement, followed by the other four main centres. Thousands fled Fiji after two coups in 1987, which the military overthrew the government, causing economic, personal and political insecurity, particularly for Indo-Fijians. This prompted massive emigration to Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The initial exodus was sudden, and migrants were forced to leave behind family, homes, possessions, and jobs. During the subsequent military rule in Fiji, emigration increased as institutional discrimination against Indo-Fijians intensified. In the late 1990s with emigration still at a high, land leases came up for renewal and Indian farmers faced the likelihood of becoming landless. In 2000 a civilian coup took members of the government hostage for 56 days. This unleashed months of violence targeted at Indo-Fijians, but as the crisis intensified indigenous Fijians also became casualties of violence and economic collapse. The violence of 2000 prompted thousands of Indo-Fijians who had remained in Fiji or returned after 1987 to leave permanently. As more immigrants arrived, change accelerated within Fijian cultures in New Zealand. Many cultural values and practices have been maintained, but some are under threat. Fijian, Fiji Hindi and English are the main languages of Fiji, and many residents of Fiji understand the language of the other ethnic group. Sport and leisure activities reinforce Fijian social ties and also present Fijians positively to the non-Fijian population.

Arthur Jennings was the first Fijian to play for the All Blacks, in 1967 along with Bernie Fraser who was an All Black in the late 1970s. Since then many have played for provincial teams as well as the national side – All Black Joe Rokocoko among them. Fiji has also been represented in netball: Vilimaina Davu was the first Fijian Silver Fern. In 1977 the Fiji Association was established in Auckland which organised sporting and cultural event sponsoring Indian dancers and musicians from Fiji and India. The association has collected funds for hurricane relief in Fiji and to assist Fijians requiring medical treatment in New Zealand. Although Fijians in New Zealand have varied ethnicities and political agendas, they share a common national background. This identity remains important in New Zealand, but it is uncertain whether it will endure. Ties with Fiji remain strong, but are weakening among Indo-Fijians as more families emigrate. Indigenous Fijians have great kinship, cultural and land connections with Fiji, but these may change as the proportion of New Zealand-born Fijians do not speak their language as their first tongue. Yet many Fijians in New Zealand are now exploring their heritage and forging a new collective identity through religion, sports and social organisations.

Singaporeans & Malaysians

Malaysians and Singaporeans are relatively recent immigrant groups, but they have been quick to make an impression. In the late 1980s, many others arrived with the intention of staying permanently, hoping to make the most of the clean air and opportunities for enterprise. Three main ethnic groups have arrived from Malaysia: British colonials (for a time the country was a colony of Great Britain).

Students have been the most significant group of Malaysians to arrive since they first started coming in the early 1950s. They travelled to New Zealand because of a shortage of places at their local universities. After completing their education they returned home. Raymond Yap, a Malaysian at Massey University in the early 1970s, was instrumental in introducing and popularising the martial art tae kwon do in New Zealand. Malaysians gather annually to celebrate their national day on 31 August. Malaysian cuisine has become perhaps the most prolific and visible aspect of the culture in New Zealand. Dishes such as curry laksa and roti canai (Malaysian bread) have proven very popular, and restaurants thrive nationwide.

Ethnically, Singapore’s population is primarily Chinese, with a minority of Malaysians, Indians and other groups. Singaporean students have visited New Zealand since the 1960s. It was common to study overseas, as there were few places available at local universities. Although students tended to return after completing their studies, their travels blazed a trail for future migrants. Life in Singapore, the ‘Lion City’, could be highly stressful, and many migrants who arrived during the 1990s were in search of quieter times. Singaporeans invested heavily in businesses and residential property. But not all stayed – over the 1990s some left as they found New Zealand’s economy too small to support their enterprises.


After decades of war in Vietnam, in 1975 the South Vietnamese capital Saigon fell to the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese forces. The social upheaval and adverse economic conditions arising from the Vietnam War, combined with fear and uncertainty under a new Communist government, led to a mass exodus of Vietnamese people during the late 1970s and early 1980s. For most, the decision to emigrate was not one of choice – they risked everything to escape. These refugees were called ‘boat people’ because they fled their war-ravaged country in crowded boats. The voyage was often made in dangerously unfit vessels to nearby countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

On arrival in asylum countries they were placed in camps to await official refugee status, which allowed them to apply for permanent resettlement in countries such as New Zealand. The acceptance of 412 refugees in 1977 truly marked the start of Vietnamese migration to New Zealand. The greatest intake of Vietnamese refugees occurred between 1979 and 1980 when approximately 1,500 arrived. As Vietnamese immigrants moved to the main cities, a strong community evolved, particularly in Auckland. There are many restaurants and cafes, and various religious and social service organisations.

Many first-generation Vietnamese were manual workers, as are the new arrivals. A limited education and command of English, combined with fairly basic work skills, restrict this group to occupations such as factory work and semi-skilled trades. Many early refugees operated small businesses, such as bakeries and fast-food bars, where the whole family participated in the business, offering both economic advantages and family cohesion. As Vietnamese cuisine became popular, restaurants and cafes opened. Vietnamese in New Zealand still remember the political situation in their homeland and in 1999 they protested in Wellington against human rights abuses in Vietnam. Part of the form of this protest was the lighting of 45 candles, representing the 45 years of Communist rule.


The Welsh only ever formed a small proportion of the British immigration to New Zealand, but they were some of the earliest to arrive. Among the sealers and whalers was a Welshman John Grono, who named a South Island fiord, Milford Haven, which was his homeland in Pembrokeshire. It was another Welshman, John Lort Stokes, captain of HMS Acheron and also a native of Milford Haven, who changed the name to Milford Sound. Welsh men and women have attained prominence in the settlement and development of New Zealand. Among them, woodcarver and sculptor Frederick Gurnsey, trade unionists Alexander Croskery, Arthur Rosser and George Manning who became a long-serving and popular mayor of Christchurch. Notable Welsh-born women included the social reformer Eveline Cunnington and the brewery manager Mary Innes.

Welsh miners made an important contribution to the development of New Zealand’s mining industry, especially in coal mining. In 1936, Welsh in the working force were four times more likely to be miners or quarrymen. Despite their small numbers, Welsh immigrants have maintained various customs and traditions. The primary interest of local Welsh societies has been folk dancing, forming choirs to perform, carols, hymns and folk songs, and holding ‘Welsh weekends’ focusing on cymanfa ganu – the singing of sacred songs in parts.


In the early 2000s many arrivals were short-term visitors, with a large proportion being young Thai students. In 2000, 1,741 Thai students generated $28.5 million of foreign exchange, and settled mostly in Auckland and Wellington. By 2001 over 80% lived in the North Island; with Auckland claiming over half, with its warmer climate and greater employment opportunities. Despite the small number of Thais in New Zealand, their culture and customs are rich and distinctive.

Thai cuisine has become popular with the opening of many restaurants around the country. Popularity with this style of food has led to Asian and Thai stores, supplying ingredients for this type of cooking.

Muay Thai has grown as a sport in New Zealand, which has numerous Thai boxing gyms and trainers. Buddhism is the cornerstone of the Thai community. Images of Buddha are sacred and treated with great respect. Buddhist monks trained in Thailand arrived in New Zealand in the late 1990s. Aspects of Thai culture can be experienced at events such as the Loy Krathong Festival (Loy means ‘to float’, and a krathong is a lotus-shaped vessel made from banana leaves). Participants could buy krathongs and float them on a river or sea – this symbolises carrying away bad luck, and allows the person an opportunity to make wishes for the New Year.


In the late 19th century, life became increasingly hard in the Prussian and Russian parts of Poland with forced ‘Germanisation’ and ‘Russianisation’ provoking a national consciousness. There was a mass exodus of Poles after the failed uprising of 1863; most went to other parts of Europe or America, but a small number came to New Zealand. When Polish families arrived in the 1870s, travelling together in the same immigrant ship, they settled or clustered in groups. It was during this period Polish immigrants took advantage of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Julius Vogel’s offer, of assisted passage, to encourage agricultural labourers and others to come to New Zealand.

In 1843, the first Polish settlers were the Subritzky family. Matriarch Sophie Subritzky arrived with her extended family, and they settled for a time with German immigrants at St Paulidorf in the Moutere valley, near Nelson. Later they moved to Australia, and then returned to settle in Northland, where they intermarried with Maori tribes. In 1993, to mark the 150th anniversary of the family’s arrival, 3,000 descendants gathered at the original homestead at Houhora. Small Polish settlements developed in the South Island at Marshlands near Christchurch, and at Allanton and Waihola on Otago’s Taieri Plain.

In the North Island the largest settlement was in Taranaki, around Inglewood and Midhurst. There were smaller settlements at Halcombe in the Manawatu, in the Wairarapa, and in Rangitikei. Once they had arrived in New Zealand, the 19th- and 20th-century immigrants settled permanently, as lack of money, and political restrictions in Poland, made it difficult for them to return. In the 21st century the freedom of movement between Poland and New Zealand or to settle elsewhere can be obtained easier than any other time in the past.


Tokelau has only three populated atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu – habitation is restricted to a small area. Life has not always been easy in this tropical paradise, with limited resources for a growing population, and frequent battering by tropical cyclones. In the mid-1960s the New Zealand government was concerned that Tokelau’s population of 1,900 was too high for the small islands, so it widened the scope of assisted passage to include family groups.

Migration increased after a tropical cyclone in 1966 damaged the islands. A hundred families from each atoll were living in Porirua by 1972, earning it the nickname ‘Capital of Tokelau’, as one-third of all Tokelauan New Zealanders lived there by 2001. Arriving in winter, Tokelauan settlers suffered dysentery and respiratory illnesses, nevertheless, they held fast to their traditions, initially wearing lava lava (long cotton skirts) underneath their coats. Joining New Zealand society was a culture shock for many, with the introduction to woolen clothing, electricity, chairs, knives and forks, bread, cheese, milk, and many fruit and vegetables that were new. The early arrivals knew little English, and children struggled to adapt from an oral tradition to a written culture, with few studying past secondary school Tokelauans nurture traditional skills such as wood carving and mat making. One Tokelauan family group in Porirua made adzes and built a full-size waka (canoe).


There were just six people from the Philippines in New Zealand in 1936, but more than 11,000 in 2001. There have been three main groups of immigrants:
1960s – Students;        a scholarship scheme brought young Filipinos to New Zealand for study.
1980s – Women;         more women than men emigrated, many came to marry Kiwi men.
1990s – Professionals; highly skilled people arrived, mostly settling in Auckland.

Among Filipinos, traditional values of pakikisama (smooth social interaction), amor propio (self-esteem), utang na loob (reciprocity) and the extended family are important. The Filipino festival known as Oktoberfest is held each Labour Weekend where New Zealanders can get a glimpse of Filipino culture, including dances such as the elegant jotobal, which reflects the Spanish influence in the Philippines. Typically, New Zealand Filipinos are bilingual, well educated and earn above-average incomes. The family is very important, along with other traditional values, and most members of the community are Roman Catholic.Although New Year’s Eve is traditionally observed with a ‘merienda media noche’ (midnight snack), most New Zealand Filipinos celebrate with fireworks. The community also gathers to mark Philippine Independence Day (12 June).


Germans were the largest non-British immigrant group to settle in New Zealand. In the 19th century brought the desire to be independent and free, bringing thousands of Germans to the other side of the world.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, German immigrants established several rural communities around New Zealand. Ranzau was a town near Nelson, being renamed 1914 Hope in 1914, but retaining the name Ranzau in several features in the town: Ranzau Road, Ranzau School, Ranzau Lutheran Church and Ranzau cemetery.

One of the best-known German-speaking settlements is at Puhoi, north of Auckland. It was founded in 1863 by people from Staab in Bohemia, under the leadership of Martin Krippner. Traditions and customs of the homeland have been preserved to a greater degree than in other German-speaking communities. Some Egerländer dialect words are still heard (‘kochen’ is a traditional treat made from cheese curd), and Bohemian folk tunes are played at social gatherings. They are usually performed by four to six musicians playing violin, accordion and the dudelsack (a Bohemian version of the bagpipes).

During the two world wars, German residents were treated with fear and suspicion. Some were detained as enemy aliens on Somes Island, near Wellington. Around 1,000 German refugees, mostly Jewish, fled to New Zealand in the 1930s and 1940s to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany. From the 1950s leading figures were to emmerge in a number of fields, from artists and academics to doctors and lawyers. In the 1990s the largest wave of German immigrants arrived, continuing into the 21st century. Unlike the early settlers, they were mostly professionals, looking for a different way of life, in a ‘clean and green’ land.

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Carved in Transylvania Székely kapu (decorative wooden gate). Entrance to Magyar Millennium Park.Wellington. North Island, New Zealand.

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Situated on the corner of Molesworth and Hawkestone Streets in Wellington, is New Zealand’s only national Hungarian memorial. This park was created to promote Hungarian-New Zealand relations and understanding, and to provide a permanent focal point pointing to the presence of Hungarians living in New Zealand. It is an expression of the Hungarians’ appreciation to their adoptive country, and offers future generations of New Zealand Hungarians, a legacy of their Hungarian heritage.

In the late 1950s, over 1,000 Hungarians sought refuge in New Zealand, from political conditions in their home country. Settling into their adopted country was not easy, as cultural differences were quite vast and political tensions still remained. Paul Szentirmay, who was to become the Hungarian consul in Wellington, began his life in New Zealand as one of the many who fled Communist rule in 1956. Julius Fenyves, became the oldest graduate of the University of Auckland in 1986. When Louis Somogyváry escaped from Hungary, like many others he brought with him little more than his memories. Those memories went back to Christmases spent in Budapest in the 1920s. But he claimed that 1956 gave him the Christmas present of his life – his freedom.

Hungary is a landlocked country, but Mike Racz (a descendant of one of the Hungarian settlers in Tuatapere, Southland) proved to be world’s fastest oyster-opener. He opened 100 oysters in 2 minutes, 42.74 seconds, during Invercargill’s 1986 Festival of the Oyster.



French explorers of the late 1700s were among the first Europeans to map and describe the country. They also produced many scientific reports and detailed paintings. The most well-known explorer is Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville, who visited three times, and named places such as French Pass and D’Urville Island. Bishop Pompallier and the first Catholic missionaries arrived from France in 1838. They faced poverty and hostility, yet they converted many Maori, who chose Catholicism partly to show their discontent with Protestant, British rule. However, when the New Zealand wars broke out in the mid-1800s, Pompallier turned away from Maori and focused on the spiritual needs of Europeans.

In 1838 the whaler Jean François Langlois saw the money-making potential of Banks Peninsula, and persuaded the French king to help him establish a colony at Akaroa. But France’s interest increased Britain’s desire to make New Zealand a British colony. When Captain Charles François Lavaud arrived in 1840 to establish French rule, he discovered that the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed with the British Crown just weeks before. The small group of French migrants who arrived at Akaroa soon after were greeted by the British flag. But with its French colonial architecture and street names such as Rue Balguerie, Akaroa still holds traces of its original community. Although the French are a relatively small group in New Zealand, their culture has had a remarkable influence.

There is a strong history of cultural, scientific and academic exchange between the two nations. From the beginning, wine was imported and French was taught in schools, and still today French wines, food and language classes remain popular.


The cheerful sound of bouzoukis; the mystery of gold icons and candlelit churches; spicy lamb and honey-sweet baklava; folk dancing and family gatherings. Greek traditions are rich, but the immigrants who brought them were often very poor. There were many reasons for emigrating to New Zealand – ‘the land on the edge of the world’, as they called it. First arrivals in the 19th century were men, mostly bound for the goldfields. Many returned to Greece, but some stayed on.

Between 1890 and 1914 Greeks were known as establishing themselves as fishermen, street hawkers, confectioners and restaurateurs in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. Those who were successful encouraged relatives and friends to join them, setting up chain migrations from poverty-stricken towns in Greece to Wellington. By 1936 there were 82 Greek-born people living in Wellington with other immigrants residing in New Plymouth, Feilding, Palmerston North, Dannevirke, Napier and Hastings. While in the South Island they went to Ashburton, Temuka, Timaru, Waimate and Oamaru.

During the Second World War, civilians in Greece often risked their lives to assist New Zealand soldiers during the retreat from Greece in 1941, thus establishing a warm relationship between the New Zealand and Greek people. In 1951 New Zealand, as a member of the International Refugee Organisation, accepted over 1,000 Greek refugees. The men were sent to work in hydroelectric construction and heavy industry where there was a shortage of labour. In 1981, 50 Cretan families were invited to settle here as thanks for helping New Zealand soldiers during the Second World War. Maintaining family and national ties has been vital for Greeks.

In Wellington, suburbs such as Mt Victoria developed a distinct Greek character because immigrants clustered together for community support. Now Miramar is the city’s main Greek enclave, with significant numbers in Hataitai and Seatoun. Since 1984 Wellington has a sister-city relationship with Hania (the old capital of Crete) and celebrates Hania Day on 21 May. A Greek-New Zealand memorial in Cambridge Terrace was dedicated in 1995.

Cook Islanders

Lying roughly 1,500 km east of Samoa and 3,000 km north-east of Auckland, the 15 islands that make up the Cooks are scattered over an expanse of ocean the size of Mexico. In 1901 the islands came under New Zealand administration. In the late 1950s departures from the Cook Islands accelerated because of improved transport links, dissatisfaction with island conditions and better job opportunities in New Zealand. By the 1960s this outflow had become a chain migration of family groups with the New Zealand Cooks mainly paying for those who followed, and who were relatives. Early arrivals journeyed to the cities of Auckland and Wellington, with the majority taking up manual work, where they earned a reputation as reliable and hard working. Some firms employed gangs of Cook Island workers, and even paid fares for prospective workers. By the mid-1960s some Cook Islanders had begun moving to suburbs of Otara and Otahuhu, near heavily industrialised Penrose. Napier, Hastings, Tokoroa, Murupara and Whakatane were also popular destinations, as they offered work in fruit and vegetable canning factories and timber mills.

New Zealand’s Cook Island communities and culture is thriving – from language nests to quilt making and dance festivals. Cook Islands percussionists produce a steady backbeat for traditional dance troupes. With highly rhythmic drumming on the pate (wooden slit drum) and wild, sensuous dancing, Throughout New Zealand, tivaevae makers – who sew colourful bed coverings or quilts – gather to work and gossip. The beautiful quilts are often presented as gifts or used on important occasions, such as the rite of passage ceremony in which a young boy has his first haircut. The boy typically sits on a tivaevae draped over a chair, while guests come up and cut a lock of his hair, giving him cash in return. It is likely that some New Zealand Maori can trace their ancestors to the Cook Islands. The various dialects of the Cooks are very similar to Maori.

While different islands have different dialects, Rarotongan has emerged as the dominant Cook Islands Maori language. Even this is a candidate for the endangered language list, not only in New Zealand but also in Rarotonga. In the 1960s many older migrants spoke only their own tongue at home, while younger people were increasingly speaking English. By 2001 only 18% of Cook Islanders in New Zealand were able to hold an everyday conversation in Cook Islands. Maori. Initiatives such as punana reo (‘language nests’ for young children), and learning materials provided in some schools give hope for saving the language. A language curriculum for New Zealand schools was launched in 2004.

While the Cook Islands’ economy and future are fragile, the oputangata, or extended family, is very important to Cook Islanders. In the early days many households regularly sent remittance, in return, relatives would send over Rarotonga’s green bananas, taro, kumara, coconuts and mangoes, which formed the mainstay of the immigrants’ diet. In the 2000s the traditional custom of sharing surplus food is still practised, mainly by the older generation. Cook Islanders who have achieved success in their fields, vocalist Annie Crummer, league professionals Tony and Kevin Iro, writer Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, and Ryan Monga-Ardijah.


Indians are the second largest Asian ethnic group to the Chinese in New Zealand. The Indian community is distinguished by many differences; place of origin, language, religion and caste, these differences are not understood by the majority of New Zealanders. While the majority of Indians in New Zealand are Hindu religion, there are also Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Most Indians of Gujarati are Hindu, majority from Punjab are Sikh and Indians who have recently arrived from Fiji are both Hindu and Muslim.

Overpopulation, underemployment, and the decline of village industries led many Indians to seek advancement in other countries. Gujaratis and Punjabis have always had close contact with Westerners through British-run industries in India, and were aware of opportunities overseas. Some who were seafarers or employees of British civil servants heard about New Zealand’s employment possibilities.

These first immigrants were often sojourners rather than settlers: they intended to return to India once they had improved their lot. They were almost all men, especially the Sikhs who were employed as flax workers, drain diggers and scrub cutters. They also built roads and made bricks, and in urban areas they worked as bottle collectors and hawkers of fruit and vegetables. Apart from a small community in Christchurch, most chose to live in the North Island, especially Auckland although there were communities in Wellington, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, and Wairarapa. Indian immigrants encountered prejudice from white settlers. They were often lumped in the category of ‘Assyrian hawkers’, along with Syrians and Lebanese. During the 1890s there were attempts to legislate against the activities of these hawkers, and to limit their immigration.

After the Second World War Indian women arrived in greater numbers to help in businesses that their husbands and fathers had set up. With the birth of children in New Zealand, the Indian community became more balanced and settled, and also more self-sufficient. Although the New Zealand government saw the arrival of women as assisting assimilation into the wider community, in some ways it had the opposite effect. The home-making contribution of women made it more feasible for Indians to follow traditional dietary practices.

Women also revived some daily religious observances centred on the household. From the 1970s the opening of supermarkets changed shopping patterns. It was about this time that many Indians invested in dairies (convenience stores), which could make a small profit by operating for extended hours. Others started video stores or restaurants in the 1980s. While many Indians are still employed in retail work and market gardening, others, both men and women, have moved into skilled jobs and the professions, including medicine, education and information technology.

Traditional Indian family values emphasise the importance of family honour and duty, conforming to prescribed gender roles, respect for elders, and following parental advice on decisions such as marriage. In Indian society, extended kinship networks founded on caste are the basis of a sense of belonging.

Indians who have achieved success in their fields; Sukhi Turner, who was a long-serving mayor of Dunedin, Ramesh and Mohan Patel, who were members of the 1976 Olympic Hockey Team, and cricketer Dipak Patel.


For about 100 years from the 1870s, the emigration of the Italian people was one of the greatest movements from a single country in modern history. Throughout the latter part of the 19th century, many people in Italy were living in desperate poverty and faced a bleak future. Those who came to New Zealand often did so by chance, or after their luck had failed in Australia. The gold rushes of the 1860s attracted a small group to Central Otago, where they worked at a site named the Garibaldi Diggings.

Later migration was based on trails led from rural Italy to small settlements in New Zealand, based on family and work. A number of important communities developed from these migration chains:
Fishermen from the island of Stromboli and from Massa Lubrense, near Naples, came to Wellington, so that a part of Island Bay became informally known as    ‘Little Italy’.
Tomato growers from Massa Lubrense and Potenza in southern Italy settled in Nelson.
Gold miners who had come from the Valtellina valley in Lombardy eventually became dairy farmers in Taranaki.
Market gardeners from Tuscany and the Veneto grew fruit and vegetables in the fertile Hutt Valley.
Coal miners from Belluno, Vicenza and Conco in the Veneto settled in West Coast mining towns.

Coming from impoverished villages, many Italians brought the hopes, skills and family bonds that would help them adapt to a new life in urban New Zealand. Life centred on the family, work and traditional roles, and much value was placed on respect for elders and their traditions. Although there was intermarriage with New Zealanders, many men married Italian women, or New Zealand-born daughters of Italians.

One of the earliest Italian immigrants was Nicolas Sciascia, who became a lighthouse keeper at Mahia Peninsula. He married a Maori woman, Riria McGregor, and together they had 11 children. Nicolas died in 1893 on Portland Island, off the peninsula, and his descendants, who number over 2,000, meet every few years to commemorate his life and legacy.

When their country entered the Allied side of the First World War, Italians gained greater acceptance. But the most disturbing instance of prejudice occurred during the Second World War, when Italy was declared an enemy. About 38 Italian men were summarily interned on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. However, when Italy joined the Allies, a closer bond was formed as Italians helped New Zealand soldiers. Direct diplomatic relations with Italy began in 1951. Since the 1990s there has been a burgeoning interest in things Italian. Foods that were once unavailable to the immigrants are in demand – pasta, pizza, wine, espresso coffee, vegetables, herbs and breads. Many aspects of the culture are highly valued, from fashion and language classes, to furniture and garden design. The family continues to be an anchor, but New Zealand-born children have absorbed their adopted country’s values and language, and moved into other occupations. Many of the younger generation retain a respect for the beliefs and expectations of their parents and grandparents.


Many Iraqis emigrated to western countries as refugees during the 1990s. They were escaping the harsh internal policies of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party of oppressing minorities groups. Combined with this oppression were the United Nation’s sanctions, imposing a complete blockade of goods on Iraq in 1991. Iraq’s 18 million people had been struggling under United Nation sanctions ever since Husseins decision to invade Kuwait in 1990. Many Iraqi refugees were Assyrian Christians and Iraqi Jews who suffered greatly in the 90’s under the ruling Muslim Sunni. Of the Iraqis that came to New Zealand, the largest majority settled in Auckland.


Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. This conservative and rigid regime made many Iranians seek political refuge abroad. The Iranian diaspora is estimated at over three million people who emigrated to North America, Western Europe and South America, mostly after the Iranian revolution. Iran also hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq. Around half of the Iranian residents in New Zealand in 2001 were Muslims, and the majority are concentrated in Auckland. In their new environment Iranians have worked hard to build a better future for their children. The kin group and the church remain the focus of their social interaction.


For centuries Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands, known as the Dutch East Indies. It was renamed the Republic of Indonesia when it became independent in 1949. Relatively few Indonesians have settled in New Zealand. In 2001 they numbered around 3,700, mostly living in Auckland, and were made up of three main groups:
Dutch colonials. From the late 1940s there was a big influx of Dutch immigrants after Indonesia became independent.
Indonesians from Java and Sumatra. Many in this group came as students in the 1960s. There was a new wave of arrivals in the 1990s, and in 2001 the    population reached 2,073. Most were Christian, and around one-third were Muslim.
Chinese Indonesians. These were mainly businesspeople that came in the late 1960s and again in the 1990s.

There is a rich variety of music, cuisine, arts and crafts. Wellington’s Padhang Moncar music group produces the interweaving metallic and woody sounds of the gamelan orchestra. Authentic dishes, flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass and other spices, are served at restaurants throughout the country. The Toko Baru Indonesian restaurant opened in Wellington in 1983, and in the 2000s restaurants also operated in Auckland and Christchurch. Gado gado (salad with peanut sauce), nasi goreng (fried rice) and sate (skewered meat) have all proved popular dishes among New Zealanders.

The Indonesian community today is made up of several ethnic groups: Javanese, Sundanese (Muslim people from West Java), Sumatrans and Chinese Indonesians. In 2001 the majority were Christian and around a third were Muslim. Whatever their religion or ethnicity, Indonesians gather to celebrate Indonesian Independence Day (17 August). The day signifies the end of Dutch rule in Indonesia.

Central and Southern Europeans

Immigrants include Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and people from the Balkans (Romanians, Bulgarians and Albanians). For a long time, these regions were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918 the empire split into a number of different countries. Some people of these nationalities fled from political oppression, and others emigrated to find better jobs and opportunities. A small number of refugees and emigrants made it to New Zealand. They came as refugees from Nazism or as displaced persons after the Second World War. Later, they came to escape Communism.

The Austrians who came in the 20th century included a world-famous philosopher, some notable architects, a gymnast who transformed physical education in New Zealand and, in the early 1950s, a group of 200 young carpenters and builders. About 120 Czechs came to New Zealand as refugees from Nazism in the late 1930s. More came when there were times of political unrest in the Czechoslovak republic – a few hundred arrived after the Communist coup in 1948, and the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968 saw more arrive. There were only tiny numbers of Romanians, Bulgarians and Albanians in New Zealand until after the Second World War. Those who came as displaced persons immediately after the war were joined in the late 20th century by others escaping the political turmoil that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. The communities of Austrians, Czechs, Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians have been small, but several societies have kept their national identities and cultures alive.

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Most early Japanese arrivals to New Zealand were visitors rather than settlers including a travelling troupe of circus entertainers who were among the first to arrive in 1874. In the 1800s, Japanese naval ships visited New Zealand and the captain of one of these ships presented a samurai suit of armour to the Maori King Tawhiao. Japanese visitors saw New Zealand as a socialist utopia, and goodwill visits and trade increased in the 1920s and 1930s.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941 and attacked British possessions, apprehension hardened into outright hostility. Along with some 40 compatriots from the Pacific Islands, five Japanese residents were interned on Somes Island, in Wellington Harbour, as enemy aliens. Hundreds of Japanese prisoners of war were detained in a camp at Featherston, near Wellington. During a sit-down strike at the camp, guards shot and instantly killed 31 of these men; 17 died later.

After the Second World War, political, economic and cultural exchanges were re-established. From the 1960s Japan became a principal trading partner. The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and New Zealand’s Expo 70 in Osaka fostered friendship. Language courses started in schools and universities from the 1960s. During the next two decades through an increasing number of Japanese businesses, cars, televisions and tourists became numerous. Other connections were established, including 14 New Zealand-Japan societies, 32 sister cities, and numerous cultural and sporting exchanges.

Immigrant families enjoyed the space and freedom that was lacking in Japan’s crowded cities. In 1965 Massey University became the first university to teach Japanese at degree level, and in 1987 the Centre for Japanese Studies was opened there. By this time, secondary schools were teaching Japanese to a growing number of students. Japanese students were a familiar sight on campus and about town, especially in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Many lived with New Zealand families, making cross-cultural experiences more relaxed and personal.

Growing interest in Japanese food has sprung up around the country, and retail outlets sell authentic ingredients such as seaweed and shiitake mushrooms. At least since the 1960s New Zealanders have shown an appreciation of things Japanese. There has been a long association between the two countries in the martial arts with judo, kendo, aikido and karate being the most popular forms in New Zealand.

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Ryuzo Nishidas self-portrait awarded first prize 2004 Adam Portraiture Award.
Japanese artist Ryuzo Nishida came to New Zealand in 1997, attracted by reports of the opening of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. He has produced artworks as varied as sculptures, portraits made of chocolate, and videos influenced by Japanese popular culture. A self-portrait, made with painted nails hammered into a computer-enhanced photograph, was awarded first prize for the 2004 Adam Portraiture Award



The red in Dunedin’s tartan signifies the blood ties that Scottish settlers had to leave behind, but the green symbolises new pastures. Arriving with a mix of idealism and common sense, they helped build the nation as farmers, engineers, social reformers, businessmen and politicians. In Otago they founded a city renowned for its educational institutions. Among sealers and whalers who frequented New Zealand waters in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was Captain William Stewart, who gave his name to Stewart Island (Rakiura). The arrival of one group of Scots in the 1850s is among the most dramatic of New Zealand’s immigration stories. The charismatic preacher Norman McLeod left Scotland in 1817 for Nova Scotia, Canada, leaving there in 1851 after facing economic hardship, sailed to Australia and then on to New Zealand. In 1854 they secured land at Waipū in Northland, more Scots came, from both Nova Scotia and Scotland. The total number of Waipū Scots exceeded 800 and most were Highlanders. Though now indistinguishable from any other rural townships, Waipū still celebrates its Scottish origins.

Two Sydney-based Scots, David Ramsay and Gordon Browne, established an early (probably 1826) European trading and shipbuilding settlement at Hōreke, in Hokianga Harbour. The first recorded European settlers at Whāngārei and early settlers on Waiheke Island were also Scots, and in the late 1830s several immigrants from Caithness settled in the Bay of Islands. James Busby was the founder of New Zealands wine industry in the 1830s. Prior to the founding of the Canterbury settlement in 1850, several Scots moved south from Wellington. among them were the notable brothers John and William Deans, who settled at Riccarton in 1843 and established the first successful farm on the Canterbury Plains. After their early deaths, John’s widow Jane became the matriarch of one of Canterbury’s most prominent families. Otago’s Scottish origins are reflected in the place names of southern New Zealand. The region’s major river, the Clutha, bears the ancient Gaelic name for the Clyde. ‘Dunedin’ is an older variant of ‘Edinburgh’, and the name Invercargill (devised to honour one of Otago’s founders, William Cargill), includes the Gaelic word for town, which is part of such Scottish place names as Inverness.

A ‘Lowlanders’ rugby team? ‘Lowlander’ condensed milk? The majority of Otago’s Scottish immigrants came from the Lowlands, but when rugby was reorganised in the 1990s and the provincial team needed a new name, it became The Highlanders. The name ‘Highlander’ had already been used commercially for a popular brand of condensed milk, manufactured by a company on the outskirts of Invercargill. The Highlander figure, which appeared for many years on the company’s cans of condensed milk, is believed to have been Drum Major James Macgregor of the Invercargill Pipe Band. The Scottish have left their impression on sport with golf and curling, first played in central Otago by gold miners. Knitting owes its popularity to Scottish immigrants. So does whisky. Porridge, shortbread and scones (if not haggis), all Scottish in origin, appear on everyday New Zealand menus.

Predominantly Scottish, early Otago took the lead in education with the opening in 1863 Otago Boys’ High School. In 1871 New Zealand’s first public high school for girls – one of the earliest such schools in the world – opened after a long campaign by a Scot, Learmonth Dalrymple. The school’s first principal, Margaret Gordon Burn, was also Scottish.

Of greatest influence in the mid-19th century was the Highlander Donald McLean. A government official and politician, McLean played a key role in the developing relationship between European settlers and Maori, and secured Maori land for settlement. One of the country’s most influential prime ministers was the Scot Peter Fraser who come from humble beginnings as a labourer, trade unionist, journalist, politician and then prime minister. He faced enormous responsibilities during the war and coped with impossible situations, revealing abilities matched by few other New Zealand political leaders. He had determination to place national interests as he saw them, before those of his party. By the end of his term, he had earned admiration and respect, ranking him as one of New Zealand’s great Prime Ministers.


Taking the form of a plover, the god Tangaloa ‘Atulongolongo descended from the sky onto an uninhabited island. The bird pecked a maggot growing in a creeper into three parts, and from these grew three men – the first Tongan men. Then the demigod Maui fetched women from Pulotu, the underworld, to be their wives. Their descendants multiplied and became the Tongan people.

Although Tongans have travelled to New Zealand for over 100 years, there were very few arrivals before the 1940s. The late Queen Sālote, known throughout the world for her participation in Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, often visited New Zealand, and a few Tongans were brought over to look after her. She also brought some relatives and the children of chiefs to be educated. Some of these early visitors got married in New Zealand, and others found work. In the 1960s more Tongans arrived on temporary permits to take up work opportunities. Some came to learn trades, and others were brought to study professions in tertiary institutions, such as teaching, nursing and medicine. After their permits expired, some returned to Tonga but many remained in New Zealand illegally.

The government took a tougher stance on Pacific Islanders who had overstayed their visas. There were random street checks of Pacific people, and dramatic confrontations known as the ‘dawn raids’, by police seeking overstayers. In 1976 there was a tala’ofa (amnesty), and many were granted permanent residence. By this time there were enough Tongans in New Zealand to conduct church get-togethers in the Tongan language. Tongan people constituted the third largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand. In 2001, 80% of Tongans were living in the Auckland region. The 1990s saw a shift from central to south Auckland, in part because inner-city rental houses were being sold and renovated, forcing tenants to find housing further out. The two areas of concentration were Otara and Māngere, which have some of the biggest Tongan churches. Tongans are likely to live close to their churches, which are their community centres. Many Tongan people perceive their move to New Zealand as a significant achievement. Compared to those with no regular employment in Tonga, a person receiving a benefit or low wages in New Zealand is seen as relatively well off. Essential measures of success are the ability to contribute to the extended family, and fulfilling community obligations. Having large families is an indicator of success, as resources can be pooled to carry out family responsibilities. Those who send money to their family members in Tonga are highly regarded. In return for their remittances they receive gifts of mats and ngatu (bark cloth) – items of great value in Tongan culture – or Tongan food such as yams, taro and cassava. Since the arrival of missionaries in Tonga, the Christian Church has been central to the identity and culture of Tongans. As the community grew in the 1980s and 1990s, Tongans built churches themselves, and some left the Methodist Church of New Zealand to run them. The major group was the Free Wesleyan Church, with a big building in Mangere.

Many Tongans believe that without their language, people lose their identity; and that to develop anga faka-Tonga (the Tongan way) it is important that the language be a feature of children’s upbringing and socialisation. In 2004 a draft curriculum for Tongan language was produced for preschools and primary and secondary schools. Tongan language courses are taught at the University of Auckland.

The arts is an area where a distinctive Pacific Island identity has emerged especially in music. Young Pacific Islanders draw on other influences such as African-American culture, to develop their own style and sound. The lead singer of Polynesian hip hop band, Nesian Mystik, is Donald McNulty, a New Zealand-born Tongan. Ben Makisi grew up in Wellington, where he learned to sing with the Wesley Church choir and at Tongan socials. He now brings this background to a flourishing career as an operatic tenor singing on the opera halls of the world. Filipe Tohi came to Auckland from Tonga in 1978. Moving to New Plymouth, where he developed a unique style as a sculptor, drawing on European art traditions, Maori wood carving and the shape of Tongan stone ruins.

Tongans involved in sport, especially in netball and rugby, have influenced the games in New Zealand. All Black Jonah Lomu became a national icon


Regulating the flow and determining the status of Pacific migrants became complex when larger numbers came after the Second World War to meet New Zealand labour needs. Some Pacific Islanders are New Zealand citizens and have enjoyed freedom of entry (Cook Islanders, Nuians, Tokelanians). Other Pacific Islanders(including Togan, Fijian. and Samoans) have faced barriers. These have changed according to New Zealand economic conditions and public opinion when labour was short. Pacific islanders had relatively unrestricted access to New Zealand.Western Samoans admitted under a quota, had to meet certain requirements and have a guarantee of employment before they arrived. Three month visas were in place from 1964 and annual quotas were set in 1967. The nineteen sixties and seventies were years of of economic expansion and labour shortages, the temporary visas and quotas were not strictly enforced. Demand for unskilled labour remained high, government turned a blind eye to Samoans arriving on temporary visas and staying on or arriving in greater numbers than the quotas allowed.
Many Samoans moved to New Zealand for greater opportunities and a better education for their children. By 2001, two out of three Samoan New Zealanders lived in the Auckland region; the next largest population was in Wellington, with Christchurch third. In Auckland one in every three lived in Manukau City, south of Auckland, where over a quarter of the population were Pacific Islanders. Auckland became the Polynesian capital of the world and the showplace of Pacific culture.


Korea is divided into two countries: the Communist north and the Democratic south. Only a handful of North Koreans have arrived in New Zealand; almost all the Korean immigrants have come from South Korea. Koreans were used to living in apartments in high-rise blocks, and with their arrival n New Zealand gravitated to a urban lifestyle.. On arrival most families had sufficient funds to buy houses in relatively affluent suburbs such as Auckland’s North Shore, where Korean churches became established. By 2001, on the North Shore, Auckland, Korean was the second most spoken language after English.

Those who arrived in the early 1990s, when Korea’s economy was booming, were unwilling to take just any job on arrival in New Zealand. Finding a suitable job was the greatest challenge. In Auckland, Korean laundries and daries sprang up in in urban areas, greenhouses and market gardens were supplying the city with vegetables. Some Koreans who had moved north to Whangarei became involved in businesses such as sawmilling and golf driving ranges, akin to the Koreans passion for golf. In 2002, 13-year-old Jae An from Rotorua became the youngest person to qualify for the New Zealand Golf Open, where he impressed such luminaries as Tiger Woods.


Lying at the crossroads of the Orient and Europe, Lebanon, a mostly Muslim country, has a history of trading and dealing. The mountain village where many of Dunedin’s Lebanese originated is Bsharri (Becharre). The name is biblical, meaning ‘milky white’, and refers to the snow-covered cedars of the Lebanon Mountains. In the late 1800s population growth put pressure on the available land. Increasingly young men looked overseas for economic opportunity. In the late 1800s and early 1900s tens of thousands of Lebanese sailed west to the Americas, Australia, and a handful came even further, to New Zealand.

Arriving in New Zealand, the Lebanese quickly found opportunities to hawk goods to isolated farmers and gold miners. British people were often too proud for such work, but the Lebanese saw no shame in it – besides, it could payed. With these earnings they built up businesses such as clothing stores and other retail stores. Lebanese have been called ‘the quiet immigrants’ because they easily assimilated into New Zealand society.

Many of Dunedin’s pioneering Lebanese traversed the land selling fancy goods door to door. Although the women stayed at home, they stood out in Dunedin because of their fondness for jewellery and brightly coloured clothes. They also cooked with oil and used garlic – unusual practices at the time. Foods such as kibbeh (mutton, crushed wheat and olives) and tabbouleh (crushed wheat, lemon juice and parsley) seemed exotic. In Henderson, west Auckland, early Lebanese settler Assid Corban and his family cultivated their vineyards, slowly convincing the public that this was good wine country. The Corban family was instrumental in introducing commercial winemaking to New Zealand. Many ran cafés and restaurants. The cuisine has been welcomed in New Zealand and Lebanese (pita) bread is popular, as are hommos (hummus), kebabs and tabbouleh.


Niue, known as ‘the rock’, lies 2,400 km northeast of New Zealand’s Cape Reinga. At 259 sq km and with a high point of 68 m above sea level, it is one of the world’s largest uplifted atolls. Large numbers came after 1960, when the atoll was battered by tropical cyclones. When Niueans saw the modern luxuries introduced by New Zealand aid workers, hundreds turned their back on village life and emigrated. Travel was made easier when Niue’s airport opened in 1971. More arrived around 1974 when Niue became self-governing – some Niueans were worried they would no longer be able to enjoy residency rights to New Zealand. Most live in Auckland’s suburbs.

Christianity had been introduced to Niueans by missionaries in the 1840s, and religion is still an important part of their life in New Zealand. Over three-quarters of Niueans attend a Christian church. The Niuean language is kept alive in New Zealand schools, some of which offer Niuean programmes. Although a small nation, Niue excels at rugby. Many players are based in New Zealand, including former All Black Frank Bunce.

Music is also a national passion, especially reggae, hiphop and rap. Niuean-Maori hip hop artist Che Fu has enjoyed huge success. School students practise Niuean dances and songs in the lead-up to Polynesian festivals. Women keep alive the traditional skills of weaving and creating adornments, often experimenting with new materials such as plastic bread bags and nylon. Concerns for their island’s future and the survival of its language and culture are keenly felt, both by those in New Zealand and the one in fifteen who still live on Polynesia’s ‘rock’.


Whether seeking a better life or fleeing for their lives, Jewish immigrants have brought to New Zealand a passion for education, a devotion to family, communal survival, and a strong social conscience. Jews were on the first ships to arrive in Wellington. Several hundred English, German and Polish Jews were among the gold seekers of the 1860s. They became a prominent part of business life in the West Coast town of Hokitika. Some later moved on to become leading members of business communities in larger cities like Christchurch.

After 1881 some Russian and Polish Jews, fleeing from persecution by the Tsarist government, came as far as New Zealand. From the outset New Zealand adopted a welcoming attitude towards Jews. In 1840 David Nathan opened several successful stores and in 1859 leased land on the corner of Commerce and Customhouse streets. Here he erected a large gum store, a bond store and a tea warehouse. He retired from business in 1868, after establishing that year the firm of L. D. Nathan and Company for his sons, Laurence David and Nathan Alfred. Nathan was highly regarded as a businessman and was a benefactor of many Auckland societies and institutions. He was a founder member of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, established in 1856, and president in 1868. He was a trustee of the Auckland Savings Bank from 1864 to 1885 and vice president from 1878 to 1882, was an early commissioner for the port of Auckland, and served on the city council in 1854-55.

In Dunedin, the Fels, de Beer, Hallenstein, Brasch and Theomin families were successful in enterprise, and socially prominent. Several of those who entered local or national politics had first excelled in business. Hugo Friedlander became mayor of Ashburton after founding a substantial company supplying grain to the county.

Jews were elected to positions in local government as mayors and councillors, and as members of Parliament. In 1873 a Jewish MP, Julius Vogel, became premier, serving two terms from April 1873 to July 1875, and again from February 1876 to September 1876. New Zealand’s first woman doctor, Emily Siedeberg, was Jewish; so was the first woman lawyer, Ethel Benjamin. Michael Myers became chief justice in 1929. One 20th-century arrival, Fred Turnovsky, is better known as a supporter of the arts than for the success of his leather business. He was one of many Jewish refugees from Nazism who did much to enrich the cultural life of Wellington during and after the Second World War.

The New Zealand Jewish community, although small, has offered its members the full range of facilities and services required of organised Jewish life. This includes the building of synagogues and the employment of rabbis, who have to be recruited from overseas. In the different communities there has been established a chevra kadisha – a society to assist with burials – and land has been consecrated for Jewish burial grounds.

Other Western Europeans

The vast majority of New Zealand’s western European immigrants have come from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. But even from the gold rush days, small numbers of people have also emigrated from other countries in the region: notably Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the former British colonies of Malta and Gibraltar. Most of New Zealand’s European immigrants have come from north-western Europe. As only small numbers arrived from other Western European countries like Spain, Portugal or Belgium, they have not formed discernible groups with distinctive cultural or social lives. At least a few people of almost every European nationality came during the gold rushes of the 1860s. For the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries, people from these other European countries arrived intermittently, as individuals or in small family groups. Their numbers seldom rose above a few hundred. Among the small number of Spaniards who came in the 19th century was Manuel José, who married into Ngati Porou. His descendants, known as the Pāniora (Spanish) of Ngati Porou, number in the thousands. The number of Spanish-born living in New Zealand did not rise above 100 until the 1960s. The number peaked at 222 in 1976, fell back to below 200, and then rose to 336 in 2001. In the 1991 census, 543 people living in New Zealand identified themselves as Spanish, but some of these were probably Latin Americans. In the late 20th century, Spaniards and Latin Americans joined forces for cultural activities and to promote the teaching of Spanish in New Zealand.In the 19th and early 20th centuries there were more Portuguese than Spaniards in New Zealand. This was probably a reflection in part of the close commercial links between Portugal and England. One Ngāti Kahungunu family has a Portuguese whaler in its whakapapa (genealogical chart). From the 1890s, the number of Portuguese declined from around 200 to about 30 in 1966, and then increased to 138 in 2001.


Only tiny numbers of Belgians ever settled in New Zealand, but one feature of their culture has been transplanted to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Native Belgians and New Zealanders who enjoyed the beer cafés of Belgium have opened similar outlets in New Zealand.

Belgians have shown less inclination than other European nationalities to emigrate. They were eligible for assistance to come to New Zealand between 1970 and 1975, but still did not arrive in large numbers. Those who did blended into New Zealand society – partly because of there small numbers – and no communities became established. The most conspicuous sign of a Belgian presence in New Zealand is the beer cafés in some cities. Belgians were involved in the Australasian wool industry from the 1850s, and in the second half of the 20th century Belgian wool buyers were among those who settled. Belgians continued to arrive in the later 20th century at a steady rate, their number reaching 510 in number.

The Occidental Cafe. Vulcan Lane, Auckland.


A wave of anti-German hysteria swept through New Zealand during the First World War. New Zealanders stopped describing a pre-cooked meat, usually sliced thinly for sandwiches, as ‘German sausage’. They renamed it Belgian sausage, and the new name stuck.

British imperial policy was to relocate people from overcrowded Gibraltar and Malta to other British colonies. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were almost equal numbers of Maltese and Gibraltan people in New Zealand, although the populations were always small. It is believed that the first Maltese to arrive was a boatman, Angelo Parigi, around 1848. A later arrival, Charles Mallia, founded an institute for seamen in Wellington, and was made an MBE in 1953. Fewer than 100 Maltese people were living in New Zealand in any one year until the 1950s. By 1975 there were more than 400; in 2001 the number had fallen to 363, but enough Maltese settled in Wellington to sustain a Maltese Association. Unlike the Maltese, the numbers of Gibraltans did not increase significantly in the late 20th century. There were only 60 residents in New Zealand in 2001.


Russians Ukranians and Baltic People

As well as Russians, immigrants from the Ukraine and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia came in small numbers to New Zealand, often as refugees, from the 1860s onwards.

Since the 1990s the number of arrivals from the former Soviet Union has rapidly increased. They no longer come as refugees, but to enjoy the opportunities for work and lifestyle. Russia was formerly one country of many incorporated in Tsarist Russia and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, 1917-1991). The USSR, or Soviet Union, broke up in 1991. At this time many countries which had been republics within the Soviet Union, including Russia, the Ukraine, and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, became independent.

Almost all immigrants to New Zealand from countries that were formerly within the Soviet Union have come from these five countries. Some have also come from two other countries of Eastern Europe, Belarus and Moldova, but very few from the countries of the Caucasus or of what was Soviet Central Asia.

Other South Pacific People

For Pacific Islanders who want to enjoy the benefits of moving to a more sizeable economy, New Zealand is often the nearest, making it the the choice of many. But there are many other smaller Pacific groups who have also made New Zealand their home theKiribati people, Tuvaluans, French Polynesians, Papua New Guineans and Solomon Islanders. The migration of Pacific peoples is strongly linked to their colonial history. When transport routes were forged between colonising country and island, this opened the way for travel and eventually migration. Tahitians and New Caledonians went to France, American Samoans to America, and Melanesians to Australia. Pacific peoples who migrated to New Zealand came mainly from those islands which were nearest, and from islands with a British colonial history. Fewer people migrated from islands colonised by France and America. After the Second World War Solomon Islanders, Papua New Guineans and Tuvaluans attended schools and universities in New Zealand. In 1956 Francis Talasasa graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Canterbury University – he was the first Solomon Islander to receive a degree. Students tended to return home after their studies, to work for the benefit of their people. The most numerous of the other Pacific groups in New Zealand were Kiribati people, Tuvaluans, French Polynesians, Papua New Guineans and Solomon Islanders. Most of them lived in the north of the North Island, particularly in Auckland. Although groups were small, many had distinct communities which gathered to celebrate traditions and to speak their native tongue.

Kiribati, a former British colony, is a group of 33 islands straddling the equator north of Tuvalu. The name Kiribati (pronounced kiri-baas) is a translation of the former English name for the main island group, the Gilbert Islands. In the First World War a few Kiribati men, along with some Niueans, served in the 28th (Māori) Battalion. But most Kiribati people have arrived since the 1970s in search of work. Regard for katei ni Kiribati (the Kiribati way) is strong – demonstrated by their conviction that the group is more important than the individual. The Kiribati community formed clubs in Wellington and Auckland. In 2000 the Wellington club gathered to mark the 21st anniversary of Kiribati’s independence from Britain (12 July), with a feast and traditional performances such as the tekatoka bau (flower garland presentation dance). Dancers’ arms and hands were decorated, and they wore costumes made from coconut fibres or pandanus leaves.

Tuvalu (Ellice Islands) consists of nine atolls which are situated roughly midway between Hawaii and Australia. In the 1970s the New Zealand government introduced a labour scheme for Pacific Islander groups, which allowed Tuvaluans and Kiribati people to work in New Zealand on 11-month contracts. The majority returned home after their contracts expired. The majority of the Tuvaluans who t settled permanently in New Zealand arrived after Tuvau’s independence from Britain in 1978. The Tuvalu government made a formal request to Australia and New Zealand in 1994 to take 1,000 of its 10,200 people, as the tiny atolls were becoming overcrowded. By 2003 the New Zealand government had given 75 citizens per year from Tuvalu the opportunity to settle. Tuvaluans are religious people, and many belong to the Protestant Christian Church of Tuvalu. Many islanders living in New Zealand send money home to their relatives. In Tuvaluan culture a handshake is the usual greeting, while relatives may sogi – press cheeks and sniff deeply, and like other Pacific countries, Tuvaluan women practise the arts of weaving and creating adornments.

French Polynesia is vast area encompassing the Society Islands (which include Tahiti), the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Australs and Gambiers. The majority of French Polynesians in New Zealand are Tahitians from the Society Islands; in 2001 there were 1,200, living mainly in Auckland. Tahitian cultural groups such as Auckland’s Tahiti Ia Ora often perform at the annual Pasifika Festival, where women wear coconut-shell bras and practise their alluring hip-swaying dances.

Originally, many Papua New Guineans visited New Zealand as students. Some remained, and by 1976 there were 544, increasing to 1,149 by 2001. There are hundreds of languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, but the New Zealand group communicates in Pidgin (a mixture of English and local languages) or English. As the national sport, rugby league has a keen following. Many play rugby league or rugby union in New Zealand, and the local community turns out in force whenever the Papua New Guinea national team, the Kumuls, visits the country. Solomon Islanders came to New Zealand on secondary school scholarships in the 1960s. In the 1990s migrant families opened their homes for Solomon Islands university students, who in turn taught Melanesian kastom (tradition) to their New Zealand-born children. Solomon Islanders are soccer mad, and players such as Henry Fa’arodo, Batram Suri and Commins Menapi were standouts in the Nelson soccer scene in the early 2000s. Women have been important figures in New Zealand’s Solomon Islands community. Mary Cole, who first came as a school student in 1965, and Doreen Prebble, wife of politician Richard Prebble, have been active in promoting Solomon Islands issues.

North Americans

Americans were first interested in New Zealand for its resources. They began visiting New Zealand from 1797 to work the sealing grounds around Fiordland and Foveaux Strait. Members of a United States scientific expedition were present when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. But British annexation made New Zealand less appealing to Americans. Some whalers, resenting new customs duties, encouraged Hone Heke to chop down the British flagstaff and fly the American ensign from his canoe. They also smuggled arms to Māori in the 1845-47 war.

American visitors included entertainers and popular lecturers. Writer Mark Twain was one of the best-known Americans to visit, and he recounted his experiences in ‘Following the equator’, published in 1897. The trade union, temperance and women’s suffrage movements all gained impetus from visiting North American activists such as Walter Mills who played a prominent part in events that led to the unification of the New Zealand labour movement. Religious missionaries, Seventh Day Adventists like Nettie Keller and Mormons like Matthew Cowley who endeared himself to Māori through his sympathy for their culture and fluency in Māori language. ‘Matiu Kauri’ as he became known, made many converts during his missions in New Zealand. Their message remains influential, especially among Māori and Pacific Island people even today.

New Zealand’s curiosity about things American in the 19th century led to a Wellington suburb being named after the famous borough of Brooklyn, in New York. Some of the streets were named after American presidents, including McKinley, Taft and Cleveland. The large park separating Brooklyn from the city was, of course, named Central Park. American links with Brooklyn were strengthened when, during the Second World War, an American military camp was established in Central Park. Between 1942 and 1944 about 100,000 American troops were stationed in New Zealand to support the counter-offensive in the Pacific. They were based mainly in Auckland and Wellington, and at any one time swelled the small local population by 50,000.The American presence had an impact on New Zealand’s way of life: nightclubs, milk bars, florists and drycleaners sprang up to cater to American needs, and relationships were forged.

Like Americans, from 1870 some Canadians simply visited New Zealand, but more of them stayed. Nevertheless, New Zealand benefited from Canadian expertise. The geological survey of New Zealand was organised by Canadian James Bell between 1905 and 1911. Founders of the State Forest Service in 1919 had Canadian training and experience. Several New Zealand nursing administrators of the 1920s and 1930s visited Toronto, where a public health course was offered. Improved travel and communications helped. The Canadian Pacific Railway made Vancouver an important stopover from the 1890s, and in 1902 the Pacific cable linked British Columbia by telegraph with New Zealand. Flights from Canada and the US to New Zealand began in the 1930s.

Latin Americans

Early Latin Americans reached New Zealand on ships that called at South American ports when sailing around Cape Horn.. They also arrived as part of the mid-19th century’s floating population of gold seekers. In 1874 there were fewer than about 80 Brazilians, Chileans, Mexicans and Peruvians living in New Zealand. The number of Latin Americans in New Zealand rose slowly after the Second World War, to about 400 in 1971. In the 1960s New Zealand began selling dairy products to Chile, Peru and Mexico, and diplomatic posts were opened in Lima and Santiago in 1972. However, these new contacts did not lead to greater migration to New Zealand.

Chilean refugees were the first South Americans to arrive in significant numbers. They came after the military coup of 1973, in which President Allende’s democratic government was replaced by General Pinochet’s dictatorship. By 1981, Chileans outnumbered Argentineans in New Zealand. Latin American dances such as the samba and rumba were taught in New Zealand before there was a large ethnic community. These dances became more popular as the community grew, and today, tango, salsa and ceroc are widely enjoyed. Musical groups which brightened New Zealand’s cultural life included Kantuta in Auckland and Pachamama in Christchurch.

Carnivals brought colour and energy to Wellington’s streets. In the early 21st century some Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, took steps to form an association of Brazilian residents. The Brazilian Culture Education Centre opened in Auckland to teach Portuguese to both children and adults and to promote Brazilian music, folklore and literature. The emergence of a Latin American community was matched by the development of closer diplomatic and trading ties between New Zealand and Latin America, especially Chile. A working holiday agreement between New Zealand and Chile fostered people-to-people contacts.


Since the early 1800s Aussies have crossed the Tasman Sea and made their mark. Whalers, prime ministers, gold miners, trade unionists, farmers, and business people – they have contributed in almost every sphere to the development of their neighbour and ally. Both countries were settled primarily by the British, and both adopted British institutions. With these strong similarities, by the late 19th century the two peoples were grouped under the label ‘Australasian’. Later they frequently referred to each other as ‘cousins’. When the new Australian Federation was established, New Zealand chose not to join as the seventh state. After 1 January 1901 there were two countries, not seven Australasian colonies. But during the First World War, the two nations forged a new connection through the shared experience of the Gallipoli landing.

Organised settlement of New Zealand began in 1840. The New Zealand Company, driven by the colonial vision of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, wished to exclude Australian convicts and pastoral squatters alike, and brought its settlers from the Britian. Nevertheless, in the 1840s and 1850s settlers for Wellington were recruited in Australia, likewise Otago and Canterbury gained Australian migrants as their farming industries expanded. Auckland, free of Wakefield’s prejudices, drew more Australians than other regions did. . But overall most arrivals from Australia had originally come from Britain and a relatively small number were Australian-born. New Zealand’s wool industry began when men and stock arrived from Australia in the early 1840s. More came in the 1850s, when drought in Australia coincided with buoyant wool prices and the discovery of native pasture in Canterbury. These ‘shagroons’ – who owned huge flocks of sheep, which they put out to pasture on leased land – quickly merged into Canterbury’s community of large-scale sheep farmers.

It was an Australian, Gabriel Read, whose 1861 discovery sparked the Otago gold rush. During the next six years, over 50,000 came from Australia seeking gold. Many had merely passed through Australia, but by 1867 there were over 11,000 Australians living in New Zealand. Miners from Australia’s main goldfields in Victoria flocked to Otago. The discovery of gold on the West Coast sparked another wave – Hokitika was described as a suburb of Melbourne. Many miners left once the rushes subsided, but some remained in the stable gold mining communities of Otago and the West Coast. Australian experience guided the organisation of New Zealand goldfields.

Vincent Pyke had spent more than a decade in Australia before crossing to Otago in 1862. As a commissioner, he prepared regulations to control gold mining in New Zealand. Some who came from the Australian goldfields became prominent New Zealanders, among them two premiers: Julius Vogel, born in London, had spent nine years in Australia; Lancashire-born Richard Seddon was in Victoria from 1863 to 1866. The Australian gold miners were strongly independent and democratic. They had a long-term effect on New Zealand’s political culture. Depression and severe drought in Australia drove out thousands; by 1911 there were over 50,000 Australians in New Zealand. Tough, hardworking men tackled farming in the central North Island. Shearers headed for New Zealand’s shearing sheds, and miners migrated to the West Coast coalfields. Many were left-wing radicals, and some immigrants such as Michael Joseph Savage became leading politicians. Others excelled in business. In the early 20th century depression hit the Australian coal industry. Australian miners migrated to the West Coast coalfields, and also to quartz gold mining areas such as Waihi and Inangahua counties. These miners had a profound impact. They included socialists who helped to revive militant unionism in New Zealand, and to form the ‘Red’ Federation of Labour in 1908.

Among the Australian-born radicals who came to New Zealand were Michael Joseph Savage, Robert Semple, William Parry, Patrick Webb and Mark Fagan. All five were later members of the 1935 Labour cabinet, and Savage became prime minister. Another Australian who for many years led the Labour Party, Harry Holland, arrived in 1912. After 1975 affordable air travel made it easier for Australians who had been living in New Zealand to return home, and made possible a massive exodus from New Zealand to Australia. Some of these Kiwis eventually returned, bringing trans-Tasman cultural influences with them. Some also brought Australian spouses and children. These mixed families soon merged with New Zealand’s wider community. Among the Australians who moved to New Zealand were business managers on transfer. Increasingly, New Zealand banks and insurance firms became branch offices of Australian companies. Although most Australians lived in Auckland, returning New Zealanders tended to take their Australian spouses and children back to the regions they had come from.

In 1907-9 and 1914 (after New Zealand had declined to join the Australian Federation) Anthony Wilding of Christchurch and Norman Brookes of Melbourne won the Davis Cup for ‘Australasia’. The countries shared an Olympic team until 1919. Today, Australia and New Zealand are fiercely competitive on the sporting field.