To understand New Zealand as it is today, I think you might find it useful to have a brief outline of the basic history.
The Maori, first came to New Zealand over a 1000 years ago. They had, and still do have, a great respect for the land and sea, and many legends passed down through the generations are interwoven with tales of the mountains and the sea.
In 1769 Captain James Cook first arrived in New Zealand and he was followed by the sealers and whalers, who traded with the Maori. At the beginning of the 1800s Europeans began to settle in New Zealand. Organised British settlement began in 1840 and as a result of this, the Treaty of Waitangi was produced. This partnership document, which was signed on 6 February 1840, allowed settlers to go about their business, at the same time protecting the rights of the native Maori.
The Treaty of Waitangi, which included agreements about the purchase of land by the Crown, was not honoured and is still the subject of much dispute.. It resulted in some tribes being left totally landless and others were unable to get access to resources. In recent years parliament has recognised the Treaty and its obligations. Settlement of the grievances is still in the early stages. It has proved to be a complicated and protracted affair.
The Pakeha are the descendants of the European settlers. When you realise it is only 150 years since these first European settlers arrived, then you can appreciate what a young country it is and how far they have come in such a short time
These early pioneers faced incredible hardships and many felt they had been betrayed, when they finally arrived after a three month sea voyage. They endured appalling conditions on board ship, only to arrive and find a wild and unyielding country awaiting them.
In the early days both men and women worked extremely hard and found their way round, what might today seem insurmountable problems. The lack of spare parts, or materials for repairs for work to be carried out, produced some of the most ingenious ideas. It has also resulted in the ‘make do and mend’ mentality that is alive and well today.
In 1935 the First Labour Government came into power and they revolutionised social welfare in New Zealand. They promised New Zealanders a ‘cradle to grave’ form of social provision. They introduced rental housing, free hospital and maternity care, raised the school leaving age, introduced a family benefit system, expanded school dental operations, strengthened trade unions and introduced sickness and unemployment benefits. New Zealand had a welfare system that was envied throughout the world.
In the 1960’s there was another huge immigration drive in England and I have spoken to people who came out here as assisted immigrants “the Ten Pound Poms” as they were known.
Advertisements were placed in newspapers all over England and for just ten pounds, people could ’start a new life’ in New Zealand. Many took the opportunity and soon found themselves on a six week cruise that would change their lives for ever.
Many friendships were forged and for some there was plenty of fun and romance. Others had a less easy time, it very much depended where you were placed on the ship. Married women with little children, often had to share cabins with young single girls and this was hard on them.
Some men who were travelling ahead of their families to the promise of a new life, had affairs on board ship and wives and children arrived a few months later to shattered marriages.
Once in New Zealand many families were placed in remote parts of the country and the men went away to work. Some women found conditions extremely tough compared to back home. Others enjoyed the freedom of not having the men coming home at the end of the day, expecting an evening meal, and many groups of women and children enjoyed a less structured lifestyle.
In 1984 the Labour government of the day, realised that it could not sustain the ‘cradle to grave’ welfare provisions enjoyed by New Zealanders. Benefits were cut, family allowance was scrapped and ‘user pays’ was introduced into health care. New Zealanders still have a welfare system, but no longer enjoy the same benefits that previous generations have.