In the period between the first European landings and the First World War, New Zealand was transformed from an exclusively Māori world into one in which Pākehā dominated numerically, politically, socially and economically.
The Native Land Court was one of the key products of the 1865 Native Lands Act. It converted traditional communal landholdings into individual titles, making it easier for Pākehā to purchase Māori land.
Henry Williams (1792-1864) was a former Royal Navy lieutenant who served in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1823, as an Anglican priest, he was appointed to head CMS's mission in New Zealand. Under his forceful personality, the mission was highly successful, influencing several thousand Maori to convert and spreading its influence through much of the North Island. By the late 1830s, Williams and most missionaries actively supported British annexation, believing it necessary to protect Maori from lawless Europeans.
William Spain was born in England in 1803 and trained in the law. In 1841 he became a Land Claims Commissioner in New Zealand. His task was to investigate the New Zealand Company's claims that it had purchased a total of some 20 million acres (8 million hectares) in 1839. Even though most of these purchases were hotly disputed by Maori, hundreds of settlers had arrived to take up the land.
James Prendergast (1826–1921), arrived in Dunedin in 1862. He had qualified as a lawyer in England, and was admitted to the Otago bar later that year. He arrived at the time of the Otago gold rush, and his practice flourished along with the local economy. One of his first clients was Julius Vogel, a future premier of New Zealand.
An experienced soldier, Bunbury (1791-1861) had fought in the Napoleonic Wars and, in the 1830s, was commandant of Norfolk Island. In March 1840, he was instructed by Governor Gipps to come to New Zealand with 100 men of his 80th Regiment to back up Hobson and, given Hobson's failing health, take over the Lieutenant-Governorship if necessary.
Thomas Buick was born in Oamaru. Between 1890 and 1896 he was the member of Parliament for Wairau (Marlborough)
Although largely self-educated he was an able and intelligent man, best known for his historical writing. He produced a series of local histories and a biography of Te Rauparaha before publishing his best known and most important book, The Treaty of Waitangi, in 1914. This helped re-establish the Treaty of Waitangi as New Zealand's most important historical document. According to Buick the Treaty was 'the foundation of our nationhood'. He died in 1938.
After a lengthy Royal Navy career in which he saw action in the Napoleonic Wars and was twice captured by pirates in the Caribbean, William Hobson (1792-1842) became New Zealand's first Governor. Governor Bourke had already sent him to New Zealand in 1838, and his report so impressed Lord Glenelg that when he decided, in December 1838, to appoint a Consul to New Zealand, he offered the post to Hobson.
Hēnare Mātene Te Whiwhi (?–1881) was of Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa. As a young man he lived through the turmoil of his people's migration to the Cook Strait region. This may have formed the major theme in his life – to preserve peace.
In 1839 he travelled to the Bay of Islands seeking a Christian missionary for his people. As a result Octavius Hadfield later settled at Waikanae. In 1840 Te Whiwhi signed the Treaty of Waitangi, brought south by another missionary, Henry Williams.
Tāraia Ngākuti Te Tumuhuia (?–1872) belonged to the Hauraki tribes Ngāti Tamaterā and Ngāti Maru. Much of his life was taken up with warfare, and he remained a chief of the "old school" - rejecting the intrusion of Europeans in the traditional Māori world. When Thomas Bunbury brought the Treaty of Waitangi to Hauraki, Taraia refused to sign. From then on he claimed the right to resolve disputes in the time-honoured way, by force if necessary.