Respected in quarters the world over for its liberal politics and iconic rugby team the two islands of New Zealand were first settled by eastern Polynesians journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. Over the years, these peoples have developed their own unique culture known now as Māori.
First discovered by Europeans in 1642, by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, the islands became known as Staaten Island. But it was Captain Cook, who circumnavigated the islands in 1769-70, and formally annexed the islands in the name of King George III a second visit in 1777. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was agreed and signed. The document, between the British Crown and the Māori, established British law in New Zealand. Today, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a popular attraction.
New Zealand was granted self-government as of 1856. However, curiously, the New Zealand Post Office continued to operate as a British government department until 1987, when postal services were re-organised as the state-owned enterprise New Zealand Post.
New Zealand is also known for two attempts at postal reform – one successful, another a failure. On 1 January 1901, New Zealand introduced one penny universal postage from the nation to any country in the world willing to deliver them. A great idea in principle. Australia, USA, France and Germany refused these letters, fearful of having to reduce their own postal charges to match. More successfully, New Zealand was the first country to trial stamp vending machines. The first of its kind was installed in the General Post Office, Wellington in 1905.
The conquest of Mount Everest by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 was one of the defining moments of the 20th century. “I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander,” wrote Hillary. “I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed.” We’re sure that the same can be said of those completing the stamp collection of New Zealand.