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Early New Zealand Industry

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Development of farming. Agricultural Processing Industries. Dairy factories were built from the late 19th century to process milk.

Agricultural Processing Industries

Dairy products – butter, cheese and milk powder – would become New Zealand’s most valuable exports from the 1930s. Early dairy processing. Primary Source. Sheep farming. A quick, easy summary Read the Full Story Importance of sheep farming Sheep farming has played a huge part in New Zealand’s economy.

Sheep farming

From 1856 to 1987, it was the most important farming industry. But since then, dairy farming has earned more money. Small Farms Association. At 7 p.m. on Friday 18 March 1853 a well–attended meeting was held in the Crown and Anchor on the beach at Lambton Quay in Wellington.

Small Farms Association

The meeting, called by a group of Wellington working men, discussed the establishment of a Society to promote the cause of "village settlements," and the establishment of small farms for families with little capital. The meeting appointed a committee to set up such an organisation. Forestry. Kauri. Starting in about 1830, after three decades of removing small trees, pit sawyers moved into the forests to cut logs into boards for local and export markets.


Kauri rapidly became the preferred timber for house construction, furniture, and boatbuilding. The wood is soft, but strong and durable, with an even straight grain free of knots. Kauri is so easy to work that it is possible to plane against the grain. Sawmills were first established in the late 1830's, and soon there were numerous small mills powered initially by water wheels, and then later with steam, cutting logs from kauri forests around the sheltered harbours of Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula.

New Zealand Kauri. In this gallery you will find a range of historical primary sources relating to New Zealand’s kauri tree -its environment and exploitation.

New Zealand Kauri

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Close. Te Ara Article. Before human arrival Before humans arrived, more than 80% of New Zealand was covered in trees.

Te Ara Article

Most of the North Island and nearly all of the South Island – except Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin – was forested. Throughout the country there were conifer–broadleaf forests. The most common trees within them were kauri, rimu, tōtara, kahikatea and mataī. Kauri forests grew in the north of the North Island. A treasured tree Māori valued trees that had many uses.

Human impact When Māori began arriving in New Zealand from 1250–1300 AD, they built dwellings, forts, canoes and other structures from native woods. Timber Pioneers - Brownlee of Marlborough and Baigent of Nelson. William Brownlee (1828-1917)and Edward Baigent (1813-1892) were two of Marlborough/Nelson's most successful sawmillers.

Timber Pioneers - Brownlee of Marlborough and Baigent of Nelson

Generations of both families continued to work in the timber and forestry industries until the end of the twentieth century. When William Brownlee, his wife Christina and their family arrived in the Pelorus District in June 1864, they found the area timbered with dense, virgin native forest.1 Brownlee had a sawmilling background in Scotland and brought sawmilling machinery with him. Coal mining in New Zealand. Down the coal mines. Through the eyes of a miner. Brunner Mine. Weekly Review No. 97 - Coal from Westland - Short Film. Primary source. The Gold Rushes. Non Fiction 622 MAH. New Zealand Gold Mining. In this gallery you will find a range of historical primary sources relating to gold mining in New Zealand.

New Zealand Gold Mining

Gold and gold mining. A quick, easy summary Read the Full Story Why is gold valuable?

Gold and gold mining

Whalers and Sealers. Otago Whaling & Sealing - Dunedin Public Libraries. In the 1800's whale oil was in great demand around the world. It was used to lubricate machinery and as lamp fuel all over Europe. The bones and baleen of the whales were likened to 'the plastic of the 1800's' and every part of the whale was used including its bones. The early whalers and sealers of New Zealand were tough men. Many died in shipwrecks, accidents, falling off cliffs or drowning. Some were left behind on remote islands or beaches while the lucky ones were rescued by passing ships.

Sealers were often left on rugged stormy beaches with very little food for up to a year at a time! Sealing on Te Ara. Māori sealing It seems likely that before the arrival of Polynesians, between 1250 and 1300 AD, New Zealand fur seals and to a lesser extent sea lions and elephant seals were widespread around the coast. They were an obvious prey for Māori. As the naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster recorded, seal meat was ‘a most excellent & palatable food; by far more tender, juicy & delicate than beefstakes’.1 In addition, seal teeth were valuable for fish hooks.

In the first two centuries of settlement, Māori were more often seal hunters than moa hunters. There is evidence of extensive sealing in the far north, Coromandel, Taranaki, Cook Strait, the Canterbury coast and the south from Waitaki to Fiordland. First European sealers It was perhaps bad luck for seals that in 1773 Captain James Cook spent time in Dusky Sound, where numbers of fur seals still survived. Seal rushes. Whaling on Te Ara. For the first 40 years of the 19th century whaling was the most significant economic activity for Europeans in New Zealand – with the hunt first for sperm whales from visiting ships and then for right whales by shore-based whalers.

The pursuit had major consequences for Māori society. Some of New Zealand’s most important early European settlers were whalers. Whale products During these years whaling was an important industry worldwide. Whales were caught primarily for their oil, which was used to light city streets and lubricate machines. New Zealand Flax. Te Ara Article. First encounters.

Short Film. Marlborough's Flax Industry. Marlborough had perfect growing conditions and was noted for the excellent quality of its flax.1 Native flax (Harakeke/Phormium tenax) grew in swampy land and on the low foothills and by the 1870s, the province was a principal exporting district.2 The processed flax fibre was stacked in stooks and dried and bleached in the sun. Marlborough Historical Society - Marlborough Museum Archives . 0000.900.0815Click image to enlarge Native flax (Harakeke/Phormium tenax) grew throughout New Zealand and was used by Maori for a range of purposes.