European settlers mark forgotten milestone

JAY BOREHAM
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012
Stan and Kath Hansen

RECOGNITION: Stan and Kath Hansen with the volumes recording the 10,000 or so descendants of the first families to arrive in New Zealand in 1814.

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It will be 198 years tomorrow since the first European settlers arrived in New Zealand.

But the anniversary will pass unnoticed because most people know nothing about the milestone.

Even some of the estimated 10,000 or so descendants of Thomas Hansen and his sister Hannah, who was married to missionary John King, don't know of their ancestors' arrival in the Bay of Islands.

All that would change if descendants Kath and Stan Hansen have their way.

The Manurewa couple want official recognition of the day in much the same way as Thanksgiving commemorates the Pilgrim Fathers in America.

The Hansens were among the first non-missionary families who arrived with the Reverend Samuel Marsden aboard the brig Active on December 22, 1814.

The families lived for 10 to 20 years in the tiny settlement of Oihi which paved the way for the future communities of Paihia and Kerikeri, family historian Kath says.

Remains of the first settlement still lie in the Marsden Cross Reserve in Oihi Bay.

It represented the first New Zealand land sale and was the site of the nation's first school.

"Paihia and Kerikeri get a lot of recognition these days but these people here, this settlement, have been overlooked - and they deserve to be better known," she says.

And few New Zealanders realise 2014 will mark the bicentenary of the arrival of the first European settlers, she says.

For that reason the Hansen family have written to Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson saying it's finally time for recognition.

Stan Hansen, a direct descendant of Thomas Hansen, says every schoolchild in the United States can tell the story of the Pilgrim Fathers arriving on board the Mayflower in 1620.

"The festival of Thanksgiving, which commemorates the first successful harvest of the Pilgrim Fathers, is celebrated every November throughout the United States.

"In Australia, almost every schoolchild knows the story about the First Fleet arriving in 1788. That's commemorated by the Australia Day holiday.

"In stark contrast to their American and Australian counterparts, very few New Zealand schoolchildren would know when and where these first settlers arrived or even who they were."

Their arrival is not officially celebrated or recognised in any way.

And the few monuments that do acknowledge the historical turning point were organised and paid for by non-Government organisations, Stan says.

The family is not seeking a public holiday for the commemoration at this stage, just recognition, Stan says.

"Why shouldn't it be - that's the question we should ask - why isn't it recognised?"

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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