Key Historical Events. Polynesian Maoris immigrated from the eastern Pacific before and during the 14th century. The first European to discover New Zealand was Tasman in 1642. The coast was explored by Capt. Cook in 1769. From about 1800 onwards, New Zealand became a resort for whalers and traders, chiefly from Australia. By the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 the Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty to the British Crown and the islands became a British colony. Then followed a steady stream of British settlers.
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