New Zealand profile - Timeline

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New Zealand flags fly in front of The Beehive during the Commission Opening of Parliament at Parliament on October 20, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
New Zealand's parliament building, The Beehive, was officially opened in 1981

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.

British rule

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.

Dominion status

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.

1984 - Labour government elected, Prime Minister David Lange begins radical free-market 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.

1990 - Opposition National Party wins election, James Bolger becomes prime minister.

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

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

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

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.

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

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 November - John Key leads the centre-right National Party to victory in a general election.

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 sends about 70 elite SAS troops to Afghanistan for the third time at the request of the United States.

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.

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

2013 - Two powerful earthquakes rock central New Zealand including the capital, Wellington, but without causing major damage.

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

2016 December - Bill English becomes prime minister after John Key quits unexpectedly.

2017 March - A river revered by the Maori people becomes the first in the world to be recognised as a living entity with the same legal rights as a person, after parliament passes a bill granting the Whanganui River special status.

2017 May - A New Zealand-American company, Rocket Lab, launches its first test rocket into space, ushering New Zealand into the select group of countries which have carried out a space launch.

Coalition government

2017 October - Inconclusive parliamentary elections. Labour's Jacinda Ardern forms coalition government.

2019 March - Fifty people are killed when a far-right gunman attacks worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch. Government tightens gun laws.

2020 October - Jacinda Ardern wins landslide victory for Labour in parliamentary elections, in part over her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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