How Much Do You Know About the History of New Zealand?

By: Laura DeFazio

How Much Do You Know About the History of New Zealand?
Image: Matteo Colombo/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Located in the Pacific Ocean southwest of the Polynesian Islands and southeast of Australia, New Zealand is one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries in the world. (So beautiful, in fact, that one of the great blockbuster epics was filmed in its entirety there, but you'll have to take the quiz to find out which one.) New Zealand is home to the Maori, a culture quite unlike any other whose traditions and history you can learn more about as you scroll down and start to answer questions. 

Although the islands that comprise New Zealand don't have a very long human history compared to other regions of the world, that history is chock full of notable happenings. Things kicked off with an epic voyage across the ocean undertaken by the country's original settlers, followed by a bustling colonial history full of alternating bouts of conflict and peacemaking. In modern times, New Zealanders have made significant contributions to science, entertainment, sports, social justice and all other areas of human achievement. 

So, start testing your knowledge! See if you can name New Zealand's capital, its current head of state, the currency used and more! Test your knowledge of Maori culture. You'll be thinking like a kiwi by the time you're through... and you might just be tempted to buy a plane ticket as well.

As a fairly small island nation, New Zealand has to import many products from elsewhere. Can you name its principle import?
Petroleum and related products
Petroleum and petroleum products are New Zealand's primary imports. As of 2011, most of them came from Australia (19 percent), followed by China (15 percent). Other major imports include machinery, vehicles, plastics and electronics.
Dairy, eggs and honey
Furs and fish
Exotic birds and reptiles

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New Zealand was once a territory of this colonial power:
The United States
Great Britain
Britain's Colony of New Zealand existed from 1841 to 1907. New Zealand was granted the right to govern itself in 1852. The country doesn't have an "Independence Day" to celebrate, as independence came about in small steps.
Australia
Denmark

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Do you know which currency is used in New Zealand?
The British pound
The euro
The U.S. dollar
The New Zealand dollar
Before 1967, the currency was the New Zealand pound, but once it was decimalized (divided into 100 cents), it became the New Zealand dollar. In local slang, it's called "the kiwi."

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Sir Edmund Hillary is one of the most famous New Zealanders. Do you know what he was best known for?
His achievements in chemistry
His groundbreaking welfare programs
His achievements in mountaineering
Sir Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper and philanthropist, became known around the world when he and Tenzing Norgay (his Sherpa guide) became the first people to scale Mount Everest in 1953. Afterward, Hillary devoted much of his life to improving health and education programs for Nepal's Sherpa people.
His accomplishments as a jazz musician

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Which box office hit began filming in New Zealand in 1999?
Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone
Jurassic Park 3
The Mummy Returns
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring (as well as the rest of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) was filmed entirely in New Zealand. The Shire was located in the bucolic dairy farmlands around the town of Matamata, and the Elvin city of Rivendell was in Wellington's Kaitoke National Park.

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New Zealand was ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. Which of these did it offer, funded by national taxation, before any other country?
College tuition scholarships
Old age pensions
Germany offered a contributory pension before New Zealand did, but New Zealand's was the first funded by general taxation. It was implemented under liberal Prime Minister Richard Seddon and granted to elderly persons deemed to have good character.
Housing for veterans
Food stamps

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In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to...
ban slavery
grant women the right to vote
New Zealand's women were granted the right to vote in 1893, whereas the U.S.'s women weren't granted that right until 1920. It wasn't until 2011 that Saudi Arabia finally allowed its women to vote.
introduce universal health care
commemorate native chieftains on national postage stamps

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Who is the official head of state in New Zealand?
Jacinda Aldern
David Lange
Queen Elizabeth II
Although New Zealand is almost completely independent from Britain, it is technically a constitutional monarchy and still retains Queen Elizabeth as its official head of state. She acts on the counsel of New Zealand's governing bodies.
Scott Morrison

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Can you name New Zealand's current Prime Minister?
Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern of the Labour Party took office in 2017 at age 37, becoming New Zealand's youngest leader in 150 years. She is New Zealand's third female Prime Minister and has been praised for taking action against racism, sexism, homophobia and violence.
David Lange
Angela Merkel
Scott Morrison

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In March of 2019, a tragic mass shooting took place in Christchurch, New Zealand. Do you know where, specifically, the violence began?
A mosque
Two attacks took place in Christchurch on March 15th, 2019, the first at the Al Noor Mosque and the second at the Linwood Islamic Centre. 51 people in total were killed, making this the deadliest act of terrorism in modern New Zealand history.
A church
A college campus
A protest march

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The New Zealand Wars took place between 1845 and 1872. Can you name the principal combatants?
The British versus the French
The Māori versus the Samoans
The British versus European-New Zealanders seeking independence
The Maori versus the New Zealand government
Various small conflicts sprung up locally over land purchases and eventually escalated into a nationwide conflict in which various Māori peoples and their allies fought against the colonial government and British imperial forces (with some Māori allies). The British/colonial forces came out on top.

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The New Zealand Wars occurred between 1845 and 1872. Do you know which of the following was not one of its major conflicts?
The Flagstaff War
The Wairau Affray
The First Taranaki War
The Battle of Manners Street
The Battle of Manners street was a riot and that took place in Wellington, New Zealand in 1943 during World War II. Brawls broke out between New Zealand servicemen and American servicemen stationed there when some Americans became angry that Māori soldiers were permitted to use the military social club alongside Caucasians.

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In Māori culture, what is Ta Moko?
A tattooing tradition
Ta Moko tattoos appear on various parts of the body, but especially the face and head, as those are considered the most sacred parts of the body. They are inscribed with chisels rather than punctures, which leaves the skin grooved rather than smooth.
A type of sacred war dance
A cooking tradition passed from mother to daughter
A type of "written" language that uses string tied in various types of knots

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The 1981 Springbok rugby tour in New Zealand was extremely controversial. Do you know why?
Several players were caught using steroids.
Many people believed that the referee made an incorrect call at a deciding moment.
Most New Zealanders disagreed with their opposing country's racist policies.
Although South African team Springbok was considered New Zealand's principle rival, South Africa still upheld the severely racially segregated system known as apartheid in 1981. Springbok's New Zealand tour sparked many protests, and afterward, the two countries did not engage in sporting competitions until after apartheid ended in 1994.
Many homeless people were displaced to make room for rugby fields.

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Rugby is wildly popular in New Zealand. Do you know when the first official match took place?
1702
1799
1870
The first rugby match took place on May 14th, 1870 between the Nelson Football Club and a team from Nelson College. It was introduced by Charles Monro, who had played in England while he was studying there.
1904

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Can you name the famous New Zealander who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1908?
Ernest Rutherford
Following the discovery of radioactivity in 1896, Ernest Rutherford made several important discoveries, including the existence of alpha and beta radiation. In 1902, he and Frederick Soddey put out the groundbreaking theory that elements could break down and be transformed into other elements.
Marie Curie
Sir Edmund Hillary
David Lange

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Where does the name "New Zealand" come from?
The country was named after one of its early British governors.
A mispronunciation of the Māori word for "island"
A Dutch province
The first European to sight New Zealand was a Dutch explorer, and it went down on Dutch maps as "Nova Zeelandia," which was later anglicized. Zeeland is a province in the Netherlands that translates roughly to "Sealand".
A German merchant who funded early explorations of the country

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In Māori culture, what is the poi?
A dance, and the equipment used with it
Poi is a type of dance and performing art that involves swinging weights on tethers, also called poi. These were traditionally made by tying a ball of raupo (a type of plant) to a rope made of flax, but now can be constructed of various materials, including fire. Some performances feature extensive choreography; others are done by solo artists.
The church and its congregation
A talking goldfish that appears in many folktales
A formal type of excommunication

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What is currently New Zealand's top export?
Petroleum and petroleum products
Furs and fish
Dairy, eggs and honey
Dairy, eggs and honey make up about 26.5 percent of the country's exports. Meat is second, at 13.5 percent. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, wood and paper products are all significant exports as well.
Exotic birds and reptiles

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Which New Zealander topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with her debut single "Royals" in 2013?
Paula Abdul
Jacinda Ardern
Nancy Wake
Lorde
Born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, Lorde was only 16 years old when she released "Royals" in 2013, making her the youngest number one solo artist the U.S. charts had seen in 26 years. She grew up in Devonport, a seaside suburb inside the city of Auckland, New Zealand.

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In 1931, a devastating natural disaster killed over 250 people in New Zealand. Do you know what it was?
The Hawke's Bay Earthquake
Also called the Napier Earthquake, the Hawke's Bay Earthquake occurred on February 3, 1931, centered about 15km north of the city of Napier. With a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale and lasting two-and-a-half minutes, it killed hundreds, injured thousands and leveled countless buildings in Napier and nearby Hastings.
The Auckland Tsunami
Hurricane James
The Great Fire (of 1931)

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Aotearoa is the contemporary Māori name for New Zealand. What is this usually translated to?
Land of Two Islands
Land of the Kiwi Bird
Land of the Seafaring People
Land of the Long White Cloud
"Land of the Long White Cloud" refers to the clouds that helped Polynesian explorers discover the land mass. Originally, it only referred to North Island, but since the late 1800s, it's referred to the country as a whole.

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Can you name New Zealand's capital?
Wellington
Found on the southwestern tip of New Zealand's North Island, Wellington is the second most populated urban area in the country. (Auckland is the first.) It takes its name from Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington and two-time Prime Minister of Britain in the 19th century. The city is known for its postcard-perfect scenery, high windspeeds and was once dubbed "the coolest little capital in the world."
Auckland
Christchurch
Dunedin

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New Zealanders are often affectionately nicknamed "kiwis." Do you know what the term refers to?
A flightless bird that is a national symbol of New Zealand
The kiwi bird (Latin name: Apteryx, or "wingless") is a ratite, a classification of mostly large, predominantly-flightless birds that also includes ostriches and emus. The kiwi, which is about the size of a chicken, is much smaller and shorter-legged than most of its relatives.
The kiwi fruit, which New Zealanders consume more of per capita than any other nation
It translates roughly to "island people" in Māori
It commemorates Captain Kiwi, who led New Zealand's colonial revolution

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What was New Zealander Neil Finn famous for?
Being the first person in history to climb all three of the world's highest mountains
As a singer-songwriter and iconic rock musician
Finn founded the wildly popular New Zealand rock band Crowded House, and they saw worldwide success in the '80s and '90s. They sold over ten million albums worldwide.
Being an ardent supporter of women's suffrage
Revolutionizing health care

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Te Ruki Kawiti and Hōne Heke Pōkai led Māori forces in which conflict of the New Zealand Wars?
The Northern War
Also known as the Flagstaff War, the Northern War took place in the far north of the country near the Bay of Islands between March of 1845 and January of 1846 between British New Zealanders and Māori peoples who felt that the crown had overstepped its recognized rights.
The Wellington and Whanganui Wars
The Battle of Tauranga
The Battle of Manners Street

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Do you know many islands make up New Zealand?
around 600
It's hard to count 'em all, but 600 is the going estimate. Of these, South Island and North Island make up the vast majority of the country's area (103,733 square miles), at about 56 percent and about 42 percent respectively. The next largest is Stewart Island at just 0.6 percent.
about 50
Three , plus a few tiny ones with no permanent residents
One, plus a few tiny ones with no permanent residents

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When Captain James Cook arrived in New Zealand, he was the second European to do so. How much time had elapsed since his predecessor?
Four days
One year
42 years
127 years
Captain James Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1769, long after the island was first put on European maps in 1642. It would be the first of Cook's three voyages to that region of the Pacific.

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In Māori culture, what is the hangi?
A type of oven
The hangi refers to a type of oven and cooking methodology used by the Māori people, whereupon food is cooked using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. When speaking, be careful not to confuse this with the hongi, which is another important aspect of Maori culture!
A traditional greeting
The term for a bowling alley
A dance with fire

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"Iwi" is a Māori word that translates to "tribe" or "confederation of tribes." Can you name New Zealand's largest iwi?
Waikato
Ngāpuhi
In the 2013 census, 125,601 New Zealand Māori identified with this iwi. Ngāti Porou is the second most populous iwi at 71,049 people. At the time of the census, one in seven people living in New Zealand were of Māori ethnicity.
Tūhoe
Te Arawa

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Europeans didn't reach New Zealand until 1642. Can you name the first European to discover the island?
Ferdinand Magellan
Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer who came upon New Zealand while in the service of the Dutch East India Company. He is also credited as the first European to sight Tasmania, Tonga and the Fiji Islands.
William Hobson
Ibn Battuta

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In 1840, over 500 Māori chiefs signed a treaty with the British Crown. What was the treaty's name?
The Treaty of Waitangi
The treaty was signed five years after the Māori declared independence from the British. It was intended to form a foundation of partnership between the two groups coexisting on the island. The signing of the treaty was a monumental moment in New Zealand's history, although there has been much controversy and debate over the years about how well its spirit has been upheld and how well the Māori have fared in this partnership.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Auckland
The Treaty of Christchurch

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In Māori culture, what is the hongi?
A type of oven
A traditional greeting
The hongi is a traditional and symbolic Māori greeting whereupon two people press their noses and foreheads together and exchange a symbolic "ha." This translates roughly to "breath of life." This can occur between Māori and non-Māori people. U.S. President Obama and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shared a hongi when Obama visited New Zealand in 2018.
A choreographed dance
A collection of oral histories

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According to many Māori traditions, who was the legendary navigator who first reached New Zealand from Polynesia?
Whatahoro
Hono Heke
Kupe
Kupe is a legendary figure in the oral histories of many Māori iwi (tribes). Many have him arriving with the wave of Polynesians that is generally accepted to have first settled New Zealand between 1200 and 1300 AD, but some say he found New Zealand several centuries earlier.
Te Puea Herangi

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It's estimated that New Zealand was first discovered and settled between 1200 and 1300 AD. Do you know by whom?
The Samoans
The Tongans
The Tuvala
The Māori
The Māori are a Polynesian people that arrived in New Zealand in the 13th century. The traveled via waka hourua ("traveling canoe") from Hawaiki, the ancestral Māori homeland that isn't on modern maps, but historians usually identify as Tahiti.

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