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Trade

Strictly business

Whalers started hunting the oceans near New Zealand before the nineteenth century. By 1805, whaling ships called regularly at New Zealand's Bay of Islands. Māori offered them fresh food and water, and sometimes women. In exchange, Māori received manufactured goods, clothing, and sometimes muskets.

Enlarge image Whaling off North Cape, New Zealand

Whaling off North Cape, New Zealand. From Thomson W Leys (1890) Early History of New Zealand (Auckland: H Brett), Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Neg No: B.29249

Whaling and dealing

Whalers started hunting the oceans near New Zealand before the nineteenth century. By 1805, whaling ships called regularly at New Zealand's Bay of Islands. Māori offered them fresh food and water, and sometimes women. In exchange, Māori received manufactured goods, clothing, and sometimes muskets.

Enlarge image Thoms´s whaling station, Porirua, 1847

Thoms's whaling station, Porirua, 1847, engraving by H Melville after an original by Samuel Charles Brees. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: PUBL-0020-05-3)

Inshore opportunities

Some British whalers turned their attention from the open ocean to New Zealand's coastal waters, where right whales came to give birth.

The whalers set up shore stations all around the country. Here, Māori and British worked alongside each other catching and processing the whales. Both groups felt they benefited. Māori learned new skills and acquired manufactured goods. The British gained access to a land base and a local labour force.

Marriage between whalers and Māori often forged a bond that secured the protection of local rangatira (chiefs).

Outside the law

Some Māori took work on ships. They travelled to places as diverse as Australia, Asia, North America, England, and Europe. However, they were sometimes ill-treated on board, abandoned in foreign ports, or cheated of their wages.

As early as 1805, Philip King, British governor of New South Wales, was discussing the problem with Māori in Sydney, but in practice he couldnt do a thing. Britain had no control over its citizens once they left British-owned territory. And it had no authority either in New Zealand or on the high seas.

Enlarge image Kauri being cut on the Wairoa River

Kauri being cut on the Wairoa River, upper Kaipara, watercolour by Charles Heaphy, 1839, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref:C-025-014)

Building relationships

New Zealand's high-quality timber was sought after in Britain and Australia. Māori and Pākehā set up joint ventures to export it. Boat-building started here, too.

Enlarge image A group of Taranaki women dressing flax

A group of Taranaki women dressing flax. Published in Illustrated Sydney News,16 August 1865, Making New Zealand Collection, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref:PUBL-0169-1865-001)

Tying up deals

Flax fibre had long been used by Māori for many purposes. But British traders wanted it for one thing – to make rope for ships' rigging.

In the 1820s Māori sold flax in return for goods such as muskets and blankets. They offered their services to prepare and bring the flax to collection points for Pākehā traders to export.

Kei a koe te taonga, kei au te hiahia.
You have the goods, I have the need.