Rural New Zealand Towns & New Zealand’s Colonial History
New Zealand is thought to be a young country in terms of its known human history, having been discovered only about 700 years ago.
The first people to discover the land and settle there were Polynesians, who were originally from over a thousand islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. As natives to the land, they developed a Māori culture, which is an important part of New Zealand’s culture as a whole, centered on kinship and links to the land itself.
The Town of Russell
Russell is also known by the Māori name ‘Kororāreka’ and was the first known meeting point between Māori and European people in the 1800s. The Bay of Islands offered a base for positive trade relations, but the developments that followed this resulted in a negative reputation and fighting. In 1840, chief Moka Te Kainga-mataa and governor William Hobson signed a Treaty of Waitangi, making the country a British colony.
Although initially thought to be an amicable agreement, with Māori ownership of their lands, forests, and other properties, there was a great misunderstanding between the two peoples. In 1845, the Flagstaff War began as the Māori chief Hōne Heke challenged the authority of the British, making up just one of the many conflicts between 1843-1969.
Today, Russell is a place full of many holiday homes, as well as an idyllic base for exploration of the Bay of Islands. Steeped in history, it is here you can also find the Catholic Mission ‘Pompallier’, which is New Zealand’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic building, and ‘Christ Church’, the oldest existing church in New Zealand. The latter still has musket ball holes from the land wars.
To this day, traditional arts play a large part in Māori culture, including whakairo (carving), Raranga (weaving), kapa haka (group performance), Whaikorero (oratory), and Tā Moko (tattoo). Māori people make up around 14% of the current population, and this aspect of New Zealand culture is central to its identity. It is well known that haka dances are a must-see when visiting New Zealand, with Rotorua being widely accepted as one of the best places for seeing these tribal dances. The dances were traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as in peace, and often used now during celebrations and ceremonies, as well as when challenging opponents during competitive sports. Other opportunities to partake in cultural experiences include attending workshops and finding out about the stories and legends.
The Marae translates as meeting grounds, and are often fenced-in and made up of multiple decorative buildings, belonging to a particular tribe, subtribe, or
family. They are used for various ceremonies, general meetings, educational workshops, and important events. They feature a meeting house, open space, dining hall, kitchen, and bathroom facilities. Although these are not living spaces, during important occasions, people may stay over. An example of communal living, people sleep in the same room, and take part in all activities. Visitors must take part in a formal welcoming ceremony in order to be able to come inside. Without this special privilege, you are only able to view from the outside of the grounds.
Today’s Home stays
One of the best ways to visit rural parts of New Zealand is to spend some time in a home stay, which can often be on farms. Here, you can find out about the agriculture of the country, whether staying in an olive grove, or sheep farm. A quiet place with all the home comforts you could ask for, you will often benefit from getting a special insight from your host. You will get into the communal spirit of living by sharing different tasks, cooking and eating together, and meeting some of the friendliest Kiwis.
See if Trueblue Kiwi can arrange a special tour for you to get to know the real New Zealand. Whether you want to learn about the country’s history, you would like to be welcomed into a Māori community, or you simply want to gain some authentic experiences during your travels, these unique adventures are at your fingertips.