Month Calendar View

Historic NZ events in December

Dec

1

First movie shot in NZ

1898 First movie shot in NZ

The first motion pictures known to have been taken in New Zealand were made by photographer W.H. Bartlett, who filmed the opening of the Auckland Industrial and Mining Exhibition Read more...

First flight from North Cape to Bluff

1933 First flight from North Cape to Bluff

22-year-old pilot E.F. ('Teddy') Harvie and his passenger, 18-year-old Miss Trevor Hunter, set a record for the longest flight within New Zealand in a single day. They completed the 1880-km journey in 16 hours 10 minutes. Read more...

Dec

2

'Six o'clock swill' begins

1917 'Six o'clock swill' begins

Six p.m. closing of pubs was introduced as a 'temporary' wartime measure. It ushered in what became known as the 'six o'clock swill', in which patrons drank their fill before closing time. The practice was to last for 50 years. Read more...

Dec

3

Bluff Island Harbour opened

1960 Bluff Island Harbour opened

The 40-ha man-made Island Harbour, eight years in the making, is the centrepiece of the modern port facilities at Bluff, New Zealand's southernmost commercial deepwater port. Read more...

Land confiscation law passed

1863 Land confiscation law passed

This law allowed for the confiscation (raupatu) of Māori land to punish North Island tribes which were deemed to have rebelled against the British Crown in the early 1860s. Pākehā settlers would occupy the confiscated land. Read more...

Dec

4

Radio Hauraki rules the waves

1966 Radio Hauraki rules the waves

The state's monopoly of commercial radio broadcasting was challenged by the pirate station Radio Hauraki's first scheduled transmission from the vessel Tiri in the Colville Channel. Read more...

Dec

5

First 'one man one vote' election

1890 First 'one man one vote' election

From the 1890 election no Pākehā could vote in more than one district, ending the long-standing practice of 'plural voting' by those who owned property in more than one electorate. Read more...

Dec

6

First Labour government takes office

1935 First Labour government takes office

The first Labour government assumed office following the party's landslide victory in November's general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, this government is best remembered for its significant social welfare reforms. Read more...

Dec

7

Bassett Road machine-gun murders

1963 Bassett Road machine-gun murders

The bullet-ridden bodies of Frederick George Walker and Kevin James Speight were found in a house at 115 Bassett Rd, Remuera, Auckland. Ron Jorgensen and John Gillies were convicted of the killings. Read more...

Dec

8

Fire at Seacliff Mental Hospital kills 37

1942 Fire at Seacliff Mental Hospital kills 37

The fire that swept through Ward 5 of the Seacliff Mental Hospital, north of Dunedin, killed 37 female patients. Most of the windows in the ward were locked and could only be opened by a key from inside. Read more...

New Zealand declares war on Japan

1941 New Zealand declares war on Japan

New Zealand's declaration followed the surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan also attacked Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaya. Read more...

Dec

9

NZ troops fire first shots during South African War

1899 NZ troops fire first shots during South African War

Having answered the Empire's call to arms against the breakaway Boer states in South Africa, New Zealand troops fired their first shots in anger in northern Cape Colony. Read more...

Dec

10

Rutherford wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1908 Rutherford wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Ernest Rutherford's discoveries about the nature of atoms shaped modern science and paved the way for nuclear physics. Albert Einstein called him  a 'second Newton' who had ‘tunneled into the very material of God'. Read more...

Wilkins wins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

1962 Wilkins wins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

New Zealand-born Maurice Wilkins and his colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick shared the prize for their studies on the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the genetic molecule found in all organisms. Read more...

Dec

11

Parliament's library escapes great fire

1907 Parliament's library escapes great fire

Old wooden buildings and books were a highly combustible combination, and many colonial library collections went up in flames. When a great fire swept through most of Parliament Buildings in 1907, the General Assembly Library had a narrow escape.  Read more...

Statute of Westminster passed

1931 Statute of Westminster passed

The British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, confirming the complete autonomy of its six Dominions. Australia and New Zealand held back from adopting this status, but in 1947 New Zealand became the last of the Dominions to do so. Read more...

Dec

12

First Golden Kiwi lottery draw

1961 First Golden Kiwi lottery draw

The Golden Kiwi lottery replaced the euphemistically named ‘art union'. The government saw this new lottery, with its bigger prizes, as a way to regain ground that had been lost to more glamorous overseas lotteries. Read more...

De Surville first sights NZ near Hokianga

1769 De Surville first sights NZ near Hokianga

As James Cook rounded the northern tip of the North Island from east to west, the French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville was in the same waters, sailing in the opposite direction. A storm prevented any chance of an historic meeting. Read more...

Dec

13

Battle of the River Plate

1939 Battle of the River Plate

The cruiser HMS Achilles goes into action against the German 'pocket battleship' Admiral Graf Spee, becoming the first New Zealand warship to take part in a naval battle. Read more...

First recorded European sighting of New Zealand

1642 First recorded European sighting of New Zealand

Towards noon the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted 'a large land, uplifted high'. What he saw may have been the peaks of the Paparoa Range behind Punakaiki. Read more...

Dec

14

First Auckland A and P Show

1843 First Auckland A and P Show

The Agricultural and Pastoral show demonstrated excellence in agriculture and animal husbandry. These shows became an annual event in communities throughout New Zealand. Read more...

Dec

15

Poll tax on Chinese immigrants abolished

1944 Poll tax on Chinese immigrants abolished

The Finance Act (No. 3) abolished the poll tax introduced in 1881, which was described by Minister of Finance Walter Nash as a 'blot on our legislation'. Read more...

The evacuation of Gallipoli begins

1915 The evacuation of Gallipoli begins

In a well-planned operation which contrasted sharply with those mounted earlier in the campaign, the troops were successfully withdrawn between 15 and 20 December. Read more...

Belmont viaduct blown up

1951 Belmont viaduct blown up

The 38-m-high railway viaduct, near Johnsonville, Wellington, was built in 1885 and had not been used since 1937. It was demolished by army engineers as a training exercise. Read more...

Dec

16

All Blacks' non-try hands Wales historic win

1905 All Blacks' non-try hands Wales historic win

A great rugby rivalry was born when a last-minute try to All Black Bob Deans was disallowed, handing the Welsh victory. The incident remains a source of debate amongst rugby fans of both nations. Read more...

Dec

17

New Zealand’s own Eiffel Tower opens

1889 New Zealand’s own Eiffel Tower opens

On 31 March 1889 Gustave Eiffel's famous 300-m tower was officially completed in Paris. Just 8½ months later a 40-m wooden structure modelled on the tower opened at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin Read more...

Ten crew of Cook's ship <em> Adventure </em>  killed and eaten

1773 Ten crew of Cook's ship Adventure killed and eaten

At Wharehunga Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, 10 men serving on the ship accompanying Cook's Resolution died at the hands of Ngāti Kuia and Rangitāne. Read more...

Major Major, mascot of 19 Battalion, dies of sickness

1944 Major Major, mascot of 19 Battalion, dies of sickness

Major Major, No. 1 Dog, 2NZEF, and member/mascot of 19 Battalion since 1939, died of sickness in Italy. He was buried with full military honours at Rimini. Read more...

Dec

18

First contact between Māori and Europeans

1642 First contact between Māori and Europeans

On the evening of 18 December Abel Tasman and his men had the first known European encounter with Māori. Although this initial meeting was peaceful, misunderstanding and fear soon led to violence. Read more...

Dec

19

Universal male suffrage introduced

1879 Universal male suffrage introduced

The Qualification of Electors Act extended the right to vote (or electoral franchise) to all European men aged over 21, regardless of whether they owned or rented property. Read more...

HMS <em>Neptune</em> lost in Mediterranean minefield

1941 HMS Neptune lost in Mediterranean minefield

It was New Zealand's worst naval tragedy. When the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Neptune struck enemy mines and sank off Libya  early on the morning of 19 December 1941, more than 750 men lost their lives. Among them were 150 New Zealanders Read more...

Dec

20

Waterfront strike ends

1913 Waterfront strike ends

The Great Strike of 1913, which had begun in late October when Wellington waterside workers stopped work, finally ended when the United Federation of Labour conceded defeat. Read more...

Dec

21

NZ whalers harpoon their last victim

1964 NZ whalers harpoon their last victim

More than 170 years of New Zealand whaling history ended when J.A. Perano and Company caught its last whale off the coast near Kaikōura. Read more...

Full steam ahead for Kingston Flyer

1971 Full steam ahead for Kingston Flyer

A few months after the last steam locomotives had been withdrawn from this country's scheduled rail operations, New Zealand Railways launched a new tourist-oriented steam passenger venture in the South Island. Read more...

Dec

22

Future PM Fraser charged with sedition

1916 Future PM Fraser charged with sedition

Peter Fraser's trial at the Wellington Magistrates' Court was the sequel to an anti-conscription speech. A number of union leaders were charged with the same crime. Fraser was convicted and served 12 months in gaol. Read more...

Dec

23

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for summer tour

1953 Queen Elizabeth II arrives for summer tour

For New Zealanders old enough to have experienced it, the visit of the young Queen and her dashing husband, Prince Philip, in the summer of 1953-4 is a never-to-be forgotten event. Read more...

Dec

24

Tangiwai railway disaster

1953 Tangiwai railway disaster

The worst railway disaster in New Zealand's history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington-Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River at Tangiwai. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. Read more...

Dec

25

NZ's first Christian service?

1814 NZ's first Christian service?

At Oihi Beach in the Bay of Islands, Marsden preached in English to a largely Māori gathering, launching the Christian missionary phase of New Zealand history. Read more...

Dec

26

Sectarian violence in Canterbury

1879 Sectarian violence in Canterbury

In Christchurch, 30 Irishmen attacked an Orange procession with pick-handles, while in Timaru 150 men from Thomas O'Driscoll's Hibernian Hotel surrounded Orangemen and prevented their procession taking place. Read more...

Dec

27

Rewi Alley dies

1987 Rewi Alley dies

Rewi Alley, friend of China, died of heart failure and cerebral thrombosis at his Beijing residence, aged 90. A few weeks earlier, Alley had celebrated his birthday with Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Read more...

Dec

28

'Black Saturday' - NZ police open fire in Apia

1929 'Black Saturday' - NZ police open fire in Apia

New Zealand had been granted a mandate over the former German colony following the First World War. Growing Samoan calls for independence came to a head during a Mau demonstration in Apia which left 12 people dead. Read more...

Dec

29

Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie

1880 Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie

Tuhiata, known as Tuhi, was hanged in Wellington for the murder of the artist Mary Dobie at Te Namu Bay, Ōpunake. Tuhi wrote to the governor days before his execution asking that 'my bad companions, your children, beer, rum and other spirits die with me'. Read more...

Dec

30

Charles Darwin leaves NZ after nine-day visit

1835 Charles Darwin leaves NZ after nine-day visit

Darwin's visit to the Bay of Islands on HMS Beagle was brief and unspectacular from his point of view. The Beagle's captain, Robert FitzRoy, would later serve as the second governor of New Zealand. Read more...

Dec

31

Grey leaves NZ after first term as governor

1853 Grey leaves NZ after first term as governor

During his first term as governor, George Grey was praised for ending the Northern War and obtaining land from Māori, but he also angered settlers by delaying the implementation of a constitution that would have given them political power. Read more...