Month Calendar View

Historic NZ events in May

May

1

NZ Railways Magazine launched

1926 NZ Railways Magazine launched

Originally intended as a journal for the Railways Department’s 18,000 staff and their major customers, NZ Railways Magazine evolved into a hugely popular general-interest periodical. Read more...

Richard Seddon becomes premier

1893 Richard Seddon becomes premier

Richard Seddon became the Liberal Party's second premier following the death in office of John Ballance. Immortalised as ‘King Dick’, Seddon would dominate the New Zealand political landscape for the next 13 years. Read more...

RNZAF's first combat strike since Second World War

1955 RNZAF's first combat strike since Second World War

Five Vampire aircraft of No. 14 Squadron carried out the RNZAF’s first combat strike since the Second World War, against targets in the Malayan jungle. Read more...

May

2

NZ's last electric tram trip

1964 NZ's last electric tram trip

Tram no. 252, displaying the message ‘end of the line’, travelled from Thorndon to the zoo in Newtown, Wellington, bringing an end to the use of electric trams in New Zealand. Read more...

First shipment of salmon and trout ova

1868 First shipment of salmon and trout ova

The clipper Celestial Queen arrived at Port Chalmers carrying the first shipment of live fish ova from England. These fish were intended to provide sport for the settlers, but none survived. Read more...

May

3

NZ's first woman doctor registered

1897 NZ's first woman doctor registered

Margaret Cruickshank became the first woman to be registered as a doctor in New Zealand. She practised in Waimate until her death during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Read more...

First European plough used in NZ

1820 First European plough used in NZ

The missionary John Butler turned New Zealand's first furrow at Kerikeri, writing: ‘I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude, and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn.’ Read more...

Controversial ex-mayor killed in Berlin riots

1929 Controversial ex-mayor killed in Berlin riots

Charles Ewing Mackay, the disgraced former mayor of Whanganui, was shot dead by Berlin police during May Day riots in the German capital. Read more...

May

4

Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel

1937 Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel

D.P. Hulse and T.W. Smith were both killed when the second avalanche to hit the Homer tunnel project in less than 12 months struck without warning. Read more...

Marion du Fresne arrives in Bay of Islands

1772 Marion du Fresne arrives in Bay of Islands

The following month the French explorer and 24 of his crew were killed in an act of utu (revenge) by local Ngāti Pou. In the reprisals that followed, the French killed up to 250 Māori. Read more...

May

5

Busby becomes official British Resident

1833 Busby becomes official British Resident

James Busby's arrival in the Bay of Islands marked Britain's first tentative step along a path that led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on the grounds of his house seven years later. Read more...

May

6

Colonial troops invade the Urewera

1869 Colonial troops invade the Urewera

The invasion of the Urewera was intended to punish Tūhoe for supporting Te Kooti Rikirangi, whose ‘rebel’ force it had sheltered after its defeat at Ngatapa, inland from Poverty Bay, in January. Read more...

May

7

Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō

1846 Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō

The Ngāti Tūwharetoa village of Te Rapa on the south-western shore of Lake Taupō was obliterated in this landslide. Sixty people were killed, including the paramount chief Mananui, Te Heuheu Tūkino II Read more...

Anti-Chinese hysteria in Dunedin

1888 Anti-Chinese hysteria in Dunedin

In a climate of widespread hostility towards non-white immigrants, a meeting in Dunedin − presided over by the mayor − unanimously called for a ban on further Chinese migrants Read more...

Henry Sewell becomes the country’s first premier

1856 Henry Sewell becomes the country’s first premier

Sewell held the position for just 14 days before being replaced by his provincialist rival William Fox, whose ministry in turn lasted just over a week. Read more...

May

8

'Cheryl Moana Marie' hits no. 1

1970 'Cheryl Moana Marie' hits no. 1

John Rowles wrote this hit single, which sold a million copies worldwide, about a younger sister. It was lovingly parodied as ‘Share a banana with me’ Read more...

May

9

First <em>School Journal</em> published

1907 First School Journal published

The School Journal was initiated by Inspector-General of Schools George Hogben to provide New Zealand schoolchildren with a free publication containing information on history, geography and civics. Read more...

Kiwi Wimbledon champ killed in battle

1915 Kiwi Wimbledon champ killed in battle

New Zealand's most successful tennis player, Anthony Wilding was one of the stars of the sport in the decade before the First World War. Read more...

NZ celebrates Victory in Europe

1945 NZ celebrates Victory in Europe

Germany surrendered on 7 May, New Zealand time, but acting Prime Minister Walter Nash insisted that celebrations should wait until after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill officially announced peace − at 1 a.m. on 9 May, New Zealand time. Read more...

May

10

NZ's first woman barrister and solicitor appointed

1897 NZ's first woman barrister and solicitor appointed

Following the passage of the Female Law Practitioners Act 1896, on 10 May 1897 Ethel Benjamin became the first woman to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Read more...

Death of William Massey

1925 Death of William Massey

A gruff Ulsterman from South Auckland, William Ferguson Massey, or ‘Farmer Bill’ as he was known to many, is our second-longest-serving prime minister Read more...

All-white All Blacks leave for South Africa

1960 All-white All Blacks leave for South Africa

The slogan ‘No Maoris − No Tour’ fell on deaf ears and this controversial rugby tour went ahead. The issue of sporting ties with South Africa was to split the country in devastating fashion in 1981. Read more...

May

11

Upham presented with VC

1945 Upham presented with VC

New Zealand's most-decorated soldier was recognised for his outstanding gallantry and leadership in Crete in 1941 and Egypt in 1942. He remains the only combat soldier to have been awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross. Read more...

May

12

Anti-Vietnam War protests in Queen Street, Auckland

1971 Anti-Vietnam War protests in Queen Street, Auckland

A civic reception for 161 Battery on its return from Vietnam was disrupted by protesters who accused New Zealand soldiers of being murderers and threw red paint symbolising the Vietnamese blood they had on their hands. Read more...

May

13

NZ wins the America's Cup for the first time

1995 NZ wins the America's Cup for the first time

Who can forget hearing television commentator Peter Montgomery’s famous line - ‘the America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s cup!’ - as New Zealand enjoyed one of its greatest sporting moments. Read more...

Death of Frances Hodgkins

1947 Death of Frances Hodgkins

One of this country's most celebrated artists, Frances Hodgkins spent most of her life overseas. She earned a place among the British avant-garde of the 1930s and 1940s, becoming the first New Zealand-born artist to achieve such stature.  Read more...

Mabel Howard becomes first woman Cabinet minister

1947 Mabel Howard becomes first woman Cabinet minister

When Howard was appointed minister of health and minister in charge of child welfare, she became the first woman to serve as a Cabinet minister in a Commonwealth country. Read more...

NZ National Party founded

1936 NZ National Party founded

Established at a conference in Wellington on 13-14 May 1936, the National Party was to dominate New Zealand politics in the second half of the 20th century. Read more...

May

14

NZ minesweeper sunk off Bream Head

1941 NZ minesweeper sunk off Bream Head

The minesweeper HMS Puriri was the second victim of mines laid off the Northland coast by the German raider Orion. Five of its crew were killed. Read more...

Plunket Society formed

1907 Plunket Society formed

The Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children was founded at a meeting in the Dunedin Town Hall. It became known as the Plunket Society after its first patron, Victoria, Lady Plunket, the wife of the governor. Read more...

Wreck of the <em>General Grant</em>

1866 Wreck of the General Grant

Sailing from Melbourne to London, the General Grant hit cliffs on the west coast of the main island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. Fifteen of the 83 people on board survived the sinking, but only 10 of them were ultimately rescued 18 months later. Read more...

First game of rugby played in NZ

1870 First game of rugby played in NZ

Around 200 people were on hand at Nelson’s Botanic Reserve to watch a new version of rugby football brought to New Zealand by Charles Monro. Read more...

May

15

Whanganui mayor shoots poet

1920 Whanganui mayor shoots poet

Walter D'Arcy Cresswell alleged that Mayor Charles Mackay had made homosexual advances towards him. Mackay was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour. Read more...

Early motoring offence

1901 Early motoring offence

Nicholas Oates appeared in the Christchurch Magistrate's Court charged with driving ‘a motor car within the city at a speed greater than four miles an hour’ on Lincoln Road, Christchurch. Read more...

May

16

All Whites beat Australia on road to Spain

1981 All Whites beat Australia on road to Spain

The New Zealand football team's famous 2-0 victory in Sydney was a defining moment in their epic qualifying campaign for the 1982 World Cup finals. Read more...

Eight killed in attack on Boulcott Farm

1846 Eight killed in attack on Boulcott Farm

Six soldiers were killed and two more Europeans were mortally wounded when Ngāti Haua-te-rangi leader Te Mamaku attacked the British post at Boulcott's Farm in Hutt Valley. Read more...

May

17

George Wilder escapes from prison

1962 George Wilder escapes from prison

Wilder was a burglar who left apology and thank-you notes for his victims. He was at large for 65 days, becoming a renegade folk hero in the process. His second (and longer) period on the run the following year won him even greater notoriety. Read more...

Catholic Bishop found not guilty of sedition

1922 Catholic Bishop found not guilty of sedition

James Liston, the assistant bishop of Auckland, was found not guilty of sedition after it was alleged he had made anti-British remarks in a St Patrick’s Day address. Read more...

May

18

NZ nurses detained on way to Spanish Civil War

1937 NZ nurses detained on way to Spanish Civil War

Most of the handful of New Zealanders who served in the Spanish Civil War made their own way to Spain from Britain and Australia. The only organised New Zealand contingent comprised three nurses: René Shadbolt, Isobel Dodds and Millicent Sharples. Read more...

Death of Māori King Korokī

1966 Death of Māori King Korokī

Korokī Te Rata Mahuta Tāwhiao Pōtatau Te Wherowhero was the fifth head of the Kīngitanga movement that was founded in 1858 in response to European colonisation. Read more...

May

19

Attempted hijacking in Fiji foiled

1987 Attempted hijacking in Fiji foiled

An attempted hijacking of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 at Nadi airport, Fiji, was thwarted when a member of the cabin crew struck the hijacker on the head with a whisky bottle. Read more...

Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy reach Māwhera pā

1846 Brunner, Kehu and Heaphy reach Māwhera pā

This journey was part of Thomas Brunner's epic 1846-48 exploration of the South Island. He was accompanied by Kehu of Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, and Charles Heaphy, a draftsman and artist with the New Zealand Company. Read more...

May

20

German paratroops assault Crete

1941 German paratroops assault Crete

The Battle for Crete raged for 12 days before the Allies were driven off the island. Casualties were high on both sides. More than 650 New Zealanders were killed and 2000 taken prisoner. Read more...

NZ's first sheep released

1773 NZ's first sheep released

During his second voyage to New Zealand, James Cook released a ewe and a ram from the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) in Queen Charlotte Sound. They survived for only a few days, an inauspicious start to this country's long association with sheep. Read more...

Loss of the <em>City of Dunedin</em> with all hands

1865 Loss of the City of Dunedin with all hands

The paddle steamer City of Dunedin left Wellington at around 5 p.m. on Saturday 20 May. It was never heard from again and no trace was ever found of its 25 crew and at least 22 passengers. Read more...

May

21

Hobson proclaims British sovereignty over NZ

1840 Hobson proclaims British sovereignty over NZ

Lieutenant-Governor Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over all of New Zealand: over the North Island on the basis of cession through the Treaty of Waitangi, and over the southern islands by right of discovery. Read more...

May

22

First NZ Rugby team in action

1884 First NZ Rugby team in action

The first representative New Zealand rugby team played its first match, defeating a Wellington XV 9-0 before embarking on a tour of New South Wales. Read more...

Waikato-Tainui sign Deed of Settlement with the Crown

1995 Waikato-Tainui sign Deed of Settlement with the Crown

Waikato–Tainui was the first iwi to reach an historial Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown for injustices going back to the 1860s. The Deed of Settlement included cash and land valued at a total of $170 million. Read more...

May

23

Coronation of first Māori Queen

1966 Coronation of first Māori Queen

Princess Piki, the daughter of King Koroki, was selected as the sixth Maori monarch − and first Queen − during her father's funeral, in accordance with Kingitanga protocol. She assumed her mothers name, Te Atairangikaahu. Read more...

First major gold rush in Otago starts

1861 First major gold rush in Otago starts

Tasmanian Gabriel Read claimed a £1000 reward after finding gold ‘shining like the stars in Orion on a dark, frosty night’ near the Tuapeka River. Read more...

May

24

Turning point in Battle of the Atlantic

1943 Turning point in Battle of the Atlantic

In the Battle of the Atlantic, one of the most important campaigns of the Second World War, 24 May 1943 was a crucial date. Thousands of New Zealanders took part in this long and bitter struggle. Read more...

Parliament's first sitting in Auckland

1854 Parliament's first sitting in Auckland

A 21-gun salute from Fort Britomart marked the opening of New Zealand's first Parliament. The 37 elected members made their oaths of allegiance to the Crown via the acting governor, Colonel R.H. Wynyard. Read more...

May

25

The <em>Press</em> goes to press

1861 The Press goes to press

Published from a cottage in Montreal Street, the first edition was a six-page tabloid which sold for sixpence. Read more...

Three die in Īnangahua earthquake

1968 Three die in Īnangahua earthquake

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred near Īnangahua Junction, 40 km east of Westport, struck at 5.24 a.m., shaking many people from their beds. Read more...

Bastion Point protesters evicted

1978 Bastion Point protesters evicted

Police and army personal removed 218 people from Bastion Point, Auckland, ending an occupation that had begun in January 1977. Ngāti Whātua were protesting against the loss of land in the Ōrakei Block, which had once been declared ‘absolutely inalienable’. Read more...

Scott Dixon wins Indianapolis 500

2008 Scott Dixon wins Indianapolis 500

Dixon's victory at the Brickyard in 2008, the first Indianapolis 500 win by a New Zealander, helped him secure his second Indy Racing League championship. Read more...

May

26

Parihaka ploughing campaign begins

1879 Parihaka ploughing campaign begins

Under the leadership of Te Whiti and Tohu Kākahi, Parihaka Māori began a ploughing campaign in protest against European settlement on land confiscated from Māori. Read more...

May

27

Death of Colin McCahon

1987 Death of Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon was one of New Zealand's greatest painters. A risk-taker and non-conformist, he engaged with questions of religion, faith and the human condition through his art. Read more...

May

28

Fingerprints help convict murderer

1920 Fingerprints help convict murderer

In the Auckland Supreme Court, Dennis Gunn was convicted of the murder of a postmaster and sentenced to death. In what was claimed to be a world first for a capital crime, Gunn's conviction was based almost entirely on fingerprint evidence. Read more...

May

29

Hillary and Tenzing conquer Everest

1953 Hillary and Tenzing conquer Everest

A beekeeper from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary, and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world's tallest peak. Read more...

May

30

Auckland harbour bridge opened

1959 Auckland harbour bridge opened

The four-lane bridge was built across the narrowest part of Auckland Harbour, between St Marys Bay and Northcote Point. It took four years to complete and soon had to be enlarged. Read more...

NZ says no to federation with Australia

1901 NZ says no to federation with Australia

A 10-man Royal Commission reported unanimously that New Zealand should not become a state of the new Commonwealth of Australia. Read more...

New royal honours established

1996 New royal honours established

A totally New Zealand Royal Honours System was established with the institution of the New Zealand Order of Merit, which replaced the various British State Orders of Chivalry. Read more...

May

31

Mona Blades vanishes

1975 Mona Blades vanishes

Eighteen-year-old Mona Blades was last seen sitting in the back seat of an orange Datsun station wagon. Her body was never found and her disappearance has never been explained. Read more...