Point of Interest

New Zealand Maritime Museum and Sir Peter Blake

New Zealand / The Pacific

If you are a New Zealander with a long family history in this land, your ancestors will almost certainly arrived here by sea, often through many perils. The Museum’s Landfall’s and New Beginnings galleries attempt to tell these stories – from the great Pacific migrations to the islands that now form the nations of the Pacific, and the migration to Aotearoa in what is now thought to be the 12th or 13th centuries, through to the early contact of Europeans on these shores and their own 19th century migration, up the last great sea migration to New Zealand in the 1950s. This is a story that many of us can relate to as one that either we or our families experienced, and it applies to people who have immigrated to New Zealand from all parts of the globe. Even today, when those coming to New Zealand travel by air rather than ship, these stories shape the history of this country.Immigration is however only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story of us and the sea in Aotearoa New Zealand. Today, our interaction with our marine environment is generally via trade and industry, even if we are never aware of it. New Zealand is the most remote country in the OECD, and our trade by sea is vital and forms the overwhelming majority of our imports and exports – in 2014, a staggering 99.7% of New Zealand exports and imports travelled by sea – only 0.3% by air. This of course is not a new phenomenon – traders in this country have relied on sea routes for trade from the very beginning, and the search for the most efficient methods of doing this are now in their second century. Maori were well aware of the importance of trade by water, and much contact between iwi was via the sea and waterways of Aotearoa. Maori were also the first New Zealand based national and international traders, using waka and whaleboats to bring timber, firewood and produce to the new settlements. In 1852 traditional craft brought over 1,500 tonnes of goods for sale in Auckland. Next came the so-called ‘schooner mania’, when iwi and hapu, and some individuals, invested in schooners, keeping European shipbuilders busy. The pride of our heritage fleet, the Ted Ashby, is a reconstruction of just such a costal and river trader. By the 1860’s much sail had given way to steam, with international shipping lines setting up business in New Zealand permanently, with our first home grown line, The New Zealand Shipping Company, opening in 1873. Steam gave way to oil in the 20th century, and there was another boom in trade after the advent of containerisation in the 1950s, with the modern industry taking the shape we are familiar with today. Even if you go your whole life in New Zealand without laying eyes on the sea, unlikely as that is in our island county, you will be intimately affected by the ocean through New Zealand’s trade routes.  New Zealand’s most celebrated mariner, Sir Peter Blake was a peerless ocean racer and passionate environmentalist. This stunning permanent exhibition celebrates his remarkable achievements, as well as paying tribute to New Zealand’s world-renowned design and yachting prowess. Learn about the astonishing maritime achievements of a nation, which has at one time or another, held every significant blue-water sailing trophy in the world.

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