New Zealand is often referred to as the last place on earth to be inhabited. It is thus, a very young country in terms of the human inhibition.
Geologically speaking, New Zealand is over 500 million years old. It was a part of the Gondwanaland supercontinent but started to split away some 85 million years ago. Unlike most other countries, New Zealand is located on two different tectonic plates; the Pacific plate and the Australian plate. So, if we are looking at the geological age New Zealand is about as old as Gondwanaland itself.
Looking at the history of human settlement in New Zealand, the islands of New Zealand were settled by the Polynesians some 700 years ago. It is these settlers who developed the Maori culture. Like the Maoris, the Moriori – another tribe descending from Polynesian settlers – lived on the Chatham Islands for many centuries. The Moriori tribe, however, has faded into history.
The first European to sight New Zealand was the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1642, but he did not make landfall. British explorer Captain James Cook conducted the first known circumnavigation of New Zealand, in 1769. He later undertook two additional voyages and explorations of the New Zealand islands. Later European missionaries, whalers, and traders began to arrive by the early 1800s.
On February 6th, 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between 40 Maori Chiefs and the representatives of the British Crown. This treaty, a sovereignty sharing agreement, is considered the founding document of the country and the day (Waitangi Day – February 6th) is a public holiday. Thereafter New Zealand existed as a colony of the British Crown until 1907. Although New Zealand was granted self-government in 1852, it gained recognition in 1907 thus becoming the Dominion of New Zealand.
In 1947, New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster which does not allow the British Parliament to legislate for the country effectively declaring its independence.