Story: History of immigration

Page 4 – The immigrants: 1840 to 1852

Non-British settlers

Not surprisingly, most of the people who moved to New Zealand Company settlements were British. There were two exceptions. First, the French Nanto-Bordelaise Company had grand ideas of a colony in New Zealand. However, their ambitions were thwarted by a lack of enthusiastic support from home, and only a small group of French people – fewer than 100 – settled in Akaroa in 1840. Secondly, 281 Germans, many of them rural labourers, arrived in two shiploads in 1843–44 and settled close to Nelson.

Assisted New Zealand Company passengers

The vast majority of passengers whose fares were paid by the New Zealand Company came out in family groups; there were as many women as men, and almost half of this group were children. Apart from the Otago Association settlers, who were recruited largely in Scotland, most were from England. Fewer than 2% came from Ireland.

Where they came from

Almost two-thirds came from three areas in the south of England – the Home Counties of Kent and Sussex, the far south-west of Cornwall and Devon, and London itself. These were places close to the ports of London and Plymouth from which ships set sail for New Zealand. There were clusters of immigrants from particular locations, often the sites of recruiting agents. Scottish migrants came largely from areas close to Edinburgh and especially Glasgow, which was near the port of Greenock.

Types of work

The company wanted mechanics and agricultural labourers, and this is what they got. A third of the adult men were farm labourers, and another two-fifths were ‘mechanics’ – traditional rural craft workers such as builders or blacksmiths. They were not starving down-and-outs, but people under threat as farm wages fell and the old crafts disappeared. These skilled rural folk looked to New Zealand to fulfil dreams of independence through land ownership. There were few industrial workers or even clerks.

Fare-paying passengers

About a fifth of the New Zealand Company recruits came as paying cabin passengers, often the younger sons of the gentry or ‘remittance men’ – black sheep sent out to the colonies. There were retired military officers, and a few professionals such as doctors aspiring to a higher social status. Many were single males, although there were also spinsters keen to work as governesses or to find a husband. In general the New Zealand Company migrants were a more genteel group than later arrivals.

Auckland settlement

Settlement of Auckland province was more haphazard than in the company settlements. There were three main groups – assisted migrants, individuals and military settlers.

About a fifth of the Auckland settlers in the 1840s came as assisted migrants, sponsored by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in Britain. Among them were 514 who sailed from Paisley near Glasgow in 1842, following acute unemployment among the handloom weavers of that city.

 Not wanted here

In 1842, 98 so-called ‘Parkhurst boys’, aged 11 to 20 and inmates of a reformatory on the Isle of Wight, were given free passage to Auckland. They received a very ambivalent reception in a community seeking to distinguish itself from the ‘convict colony’ across the Tasman.

The majority of the 8,000 people who came to Auckland between 1840 and 1852 paid their own way. Many came from Australia, including some Cornish miners who had first migrated to South Australia and then came across in 1845 on hearing news of Kawau Island’s copper mines.

Many of Auckland’s Irish belonged to the military. As a consequence of conflict with northern Māori in 1845, the Royal New Zealand Fencibles were brought in to garrison the area south of Auckland. The men were described as broken-down old soldiers, and over half were born in Ireland. Together with wives and children, they numbered 2,581; about 30% of Auckland’s immigrants. Another 723 men, also mostly Irish, were soldiers brought to Auckland for the war and then discharged in 1849–50.

Compared to the settlements further south, Auckland’s community included fewer families and more unmarried men, and the balance of nationalities was distinct. Well under half were born in England, and over a third came from Ireland. Many were Catholic, adding a distinct religious and cultural flavour to the town. Further south in New Zealand, there were only a tiny number of Irish.

How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips. 'History of immigration - The immigrants: 1840 to 1852', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 21-Aug-13
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration/page-4