New Zealand profile - Timeline

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section Asia

A chronology of key events:

c. 1200-1300 AD - Ancestors of the Maori arrive by canoe from other parts of Polynesia. Their name for the country is Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud).

1642 - Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sights the south island and charts some of the country's west coast. It subsequently appears on Dutch maps as Nieuw Zeeland, named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

1769 - British captain James Cook explores coastline, also in 1773 and 1777.

1815 - First British missionaries arrive.

1840 - Treaty of Waitangi between British and several Maori tribes pledges protection of Maori land and establishes British law in New Zealand.

1845-72 - The New Zealand Wars, also referred to as the Land Wars. Maori put up resistance to British colonial rule.

1893 - New Zealand becomes world's first country to give women the vote.

1898 - Government introduces old-age pensions.

1907 - New Zealand becomes dominion within British Empire.

1914 - Outbreak of World War I. New Zealand commits thousands of troops to the British war effort. They suffer heavy casualties in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in 1915.

1939-45 - Troops from New Zealand see action in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific during World War II.


1947 - New Zealand gains full independence from Britain.

1950 - Troops from New Zealand serve with UN forces in the 1950-53 Korean War.

1951 - Anzus Pacific security treaty signed between New Zealand, Australia and USA.

1960s - New Zealand sends a small combat force to support US troops in Vietnam. The move sparks a lively public debate.

1984 - Labour government elected, Prime Minister David Lange begins radical economic reforms.

Rainbow Warrior

1985 - New Zealand refuses to allow US nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships to enter its ports.

French secret service agents blow up Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour. One person killed.

1986 - US suspends its Anzus obligations towards New Zealand.

1989 - Prime Minister Lange resigns, replaced by Geoffrey Palmer.

1990 - Palmer resigns just before the general election, which is won by the opposition National Party. James Bolger becomes prime minister.

1993 - National Party narrowly wins election. Referendum introduces proportional representation.

1996 - Under new electoral system, number of Maori MPs rises from six to 15.

1997 - After leadership challenge, Bolger resigns and Jenny Shipley becomes New Zealand's first woman prime minister.

National Party forms coalition with centrist New Zealand First (NZF).

1998 - Waitangi Tribunal orders government to return confiscated land in Turangi Township to its Maori owners.

Coalition with NZF collapses.

1999 - New Zealand troops join a UN peacekeeping force in East Timor.

Labour Party victory

1999 - Labour Party wins election. Helen Clark becomes prime minister.

2001 October - Government rescues Air New Zealand 12 years after it was privatised and takes an 83% stake in the carrier.

2002 June - Prime Minister Helen Clark apologises to Samoa for New Zealand's poor treatment of its citizens in colonial times. The apology is made at a ceremony in Samoa marking 40 years of independence.

2002 July - Labour Party's Helen Clark wins a second term in a general election. The rival conservative National Party records its worst result in 70 years.

2004 May - Intense debate over proposed bill to nationalise sea bed. Maori protesters say bill would infringe ancestral rights. Government survives no-confidence vote.

2004 July - New Zealand suspends high-level contacts with Israel, alleging that two Israelis jailed for trying illegally to obtain New Zealand passports were Mossad agents. The suspected spies are deported in September.

2004 December - New Zealand and China begin talks on a potentially-lucrative free trade agreement.

Parliament passes bill which recognises civil unions between gay couples.

2005 August - Death is announced of David Lange, the 1980s prime minister who spearheaded pivotal reforms.

2005 September - Incumbent PM Helen Clark secures a narrow election win over the resurgent National Party.

2006 May - New Zealand troops join an intervention force in East Timor, intended to quell unrest.

2006 August - Queen of the indigenous Maori population, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, dies aged 75 after a reign of 40 years. A week of mourning is declared.

2007 October - Police arrest 17 people in anti-terror raids. Prosecutors accuse Maori activists of planning a violent campaign against the country's white majority.

2008 September - New Zealand's economy goes into recession for the first time since 1998.

2008 November - John Key leads the centre-right National Party to victory in a general election, ending nine years of Labour-led government.

2008 December - New Zealand and Fiji expel each other's top diplomats in a deepening political row. The row stems from a decision by Fiji's military leader, Frank Bainimarama, to delay plans for democratic elections.

2009 March - Official figures show the New Zealand economy shrank at its fastest rate in 17 years in the last three months of 2008.

2009 June - New Zealand's economy shrinks for the fifth consecutive quarter, making it officially the longest recession in the country's history.

2009 August - New Zealand is to send about 70 elite SAS troops to Afghanistan for the third time at the request of the United States. They last served there in 2006.

2009 October - Former Labour cabinet Taito Phillip Field is sentenced to six years in prison for granting immigration favours to eight Thais who then laboured for him for free. He is the first senior politician to be imprisoned on a serious charge.

2009 November - New Zealand's unemployment rate hits a nine-year high of 6.5% in the third quarter as the economy sheds 17,000 jobs. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard warns of a slow and vulnerable recovery.

Fiji expels New Zealand's top diplomat in retaliation for a travel ban on members of Fiji's military-led government. New Zealand follows suit.

2010 January - After months of diplomatic tension, New Zealand and Fiji re-appoint senior staff to their high commissions.

Prince Williams pays his first official visit to New Zealand on behalf of his grandmother the Queen.

2010 October - Labour laws amended to help ensure that two big-budget films of the novel The Hobbit are made in New Zealand.

2011 February - Scores of people are killed in a major earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, on South Island.

2011 November - Elections. National Party wins another term.

2012 February - High Court blocks sale of dairy farms to a Chinese consortium, in a row over foreign ownership of agricultural land.

2013 April - New Zealand becomes the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex marriage.

2013 August - A health scare halts powdered milk exports and a product recall by dairy giant Fonterra. Government officials subsequently say it was a false alarm.

Parliament passes legislation allowing the country's main intelligence agency to spy on residents and citizens. The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was previously only allowed to spy on those with no right to reside in New Zealand.

Two powerful earthquakes rock central New Zealand including the capital, Wellington, but without causing major damage.

2014 January - A 6.3 magnitude earthquake rattles New Zealand's North Island, but without causing major damage or serious injury.

2014 March - Prime Minister John Key proposes a referendum on whether to change the country's national flag, to take place during the next parliamentary term.

2014 September - Prime Minister Key and his National Party win a third term in parliamentary elections.

2014 November - Opposition Labour Party elects Andrew Little as its new leader following drubbing at the polls in September, its worst election performance in almost a century.