Why travel to New Zealand?

Auckland in the 19th century
– Auckland in the 19th century –
(click on image to enlarge)

Between the years 1853-70 the overall non-Maori population of New Zealand increased from about 20,000 to over 250,000. The vast majority of these new arrivals came from Britain, and most of those were from England. From 1871 the New Zealand government (under Julius Vogel) began to offer assisted passages to selected migrants and those who had been nominated by relatives. The peak period of assisted immigration was between December 1873 and February 1874, and by the end of 1875 over 28,500 had arrived under this scheme. After 1880 this selected scheme was phased out.

Why did these people come? Well it can be speculated that the gold boom, military settlers, the wool and the timber industries all provided a draw for prospective immigrants. What brought Robert to New Zealand is still unclear, but it is possible that he travelled as an assisted emigrant to work in one of these areas.

Auckland itself was founded in 1840 and chosen as the new capital by New Zealand’s first governor William Hobson. It was primarily a government town during its early years, cut off from the rest of New Zealand because of poor transport links. In 1868 the discovery of gold at Thames brought an influx of wealth and migrants to the Auckland area. Milling companies were also providing high levels of employment and prosperity as were exports of Kauri gum. In 1883 it was the only province to offer free grants of land to encourage immigration. However an economic crash in the late 1880’s saw land values collapse across the country with many businesses going to the wall, and as a result immigration fell away as New Zealand entered a long depression. The great 19th century era of mass emigration into New Zealand had ended.

So was Robert a passing tourist? or was he employed in one of the aforementioned industries, and if so did Robert stay on in New Zealand at this time? Or did he leave as many did, often to Australia, or perhaps he returned to Britain? These are some of the questions I hope to eventually answer.