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Wellington History, New Zealand

History of Wellington – Polynesian Explorers and Maori Settlement

The history of Wellington dates back to the times when the Polynesian explorers started arriving in New Zealand (then referred to as Aotearoa). Kupe is credited with the discovery of Wellington; back in 950 AD, Kupe had anchored close to the southern tip of the present-day Wellington harbor. He was followed by other Polynesian voyagers and Tara, son of Whatonga of the Mahia Peninsula, was chief among them. Tara’s arrival in the land and his favorable accounts of it led to the establishment of a Maori settlement in the region.

History of Wellington – English Explorers and English Settlement

Captain James Cook’s ship HMS Resolution had touched the Wellington Harbor in 1773, but it was not before 1826 that the harbor was charted. The English settlers arrived later, around the 1840s. The New Zealand Company (founded in 1839), which was entrusted the task of the proper colonization of New Zealand, had decided upon the present-day Petone-site for the settlement; however, the flooding of the region forced a change of site and a planned town came up at the current location. (Apart from Wellington, the New Zealand Company was also responsible for establishing settlements at Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, New Plymouth and Wanganui).

History of Wellington – As a Capital

From the very beginning, the newly formed township became a strong industrial and commercial center. Its active harbor, favorable geographical location and heavy manufacturing industries gave employment to a number of people and when in 1865 the seat of the government was shifted from Auckland to Wellington, it became the capital of New Zealand. Wellington was granted the status of a city in 1886.

Wellington has been the scene of revolutionary social as well as economic reforms. It was in Wellington that the 40-hour week movement was first launched; again, it was in Wellington that pressure-groups started demanding voting rights for women. These may have been 19th century incidents, but the trend continued in the 20th century and continues even to this day. Be it the social reforms of the 1930s or the economic reforms of the 1980s, Wellington has always been the setting. Actually, the immigrant groups had brought with them progressive ideas and have always refused to take things lying down. So far, they have done everything in their power for social and national welfare and will, hopefully continue to do so.

History of Wellington and its Many Names

Wellington has been known by several names in the course of Wellington history. Initially, it was named ‘Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui’, meaning ‘the head of Maui's fish’. Following Tara’s visit and the subsequent settlement it came to be known as ‘Te Whanganui-a-Tara’ or ‘the great harbour of Tara’. (This name is still popular among the Maoris).

When the city was charted for the first time in 1826 by Captain Herd, he named it Port Nicholson, (after a port/harbor-master of great repute). The present name Wellington was adopted by the New Zealand Company. The company officials decided on this name because they saw it as a way of expressing their gratitude towards their benefactor, the Duke of Wellington.

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