Early Dutch Arrivals

A long time after Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand, migrants settled in the country for the first time. Fifty years after James Cook arrived in 1769, fewer than 200 travelers had ended up in New Zealand. In 1843 one of the first recorded Dutch migrants in New Zealand was Hartog ben Tobias, a Jewish settler, born in 1791 with the adopted name of Henry Tobias Keesing. With his wife Rosetta and 8 children he had followed his son Barnet to New Zealand. For many years he ran a successful store, London House in Auckland.

Until 1856 the Dutch were not allowed to have consular representatives in British colonies. Before that date little is known about Dutch migrants. A few Dutch people had settled in New Zealand before the 1850s, most of them sailormen. The 1860s gold-rushes also attracted a few Dutch. In the 1874 census only 127 of the 300.000 settlers recorded were of Dutch birth – 112 men and 15 women.

Some early Dutch settlers stand out, like the painter Petrus van der Velden, gold seeker. Later, Prime Minister Sir Julius Vogel; Wellington’s first rabbi, Herman van Staveren, and the Catholic Mill Hill Fathers, who worked among Māori are famous examples of Dutch settlers. Others made their mark at community level; Gerrit van Asch arrived in Christchurch in 1880 and set up the world’s first government-funded school for the deaf. His grandson Piet van Asch, was one of New Zealand’s aviation pioneers and was the founder of New Zealand Aerial Mapping.

Settlement in 19th century New Zealand was predominantly British. The Dutch authorities did not yet promote emigration with assisted passage and the Netherlands did not experience any big crises that might have led people to leave the country at that time. There were some that migrated from The Netherlands, but most of them were heading westward, to the United States and Canada.

In 1920, New Zealand amended its Immigration Act to make it easier for non-British citizens to settle. However, large scale Dutch migration did not start until after the Second World War. The first time the New Zealand government actively started to promote immigration from anywhere else than Britain was in June 1938. Six months later, an article headed “The Possibilities of Emigration of Hollanders to Australia and New Zealand” was published in the bulletin of The Colonial Institute of Amsterdam. In this feature an Australian academic wrote: New Zealand is suitable for mass settlement has an ideal climate, and its characteristic industries are precisely those in which Holland has excelled. There is a striking physical and temperamental resemblance between the New Zealander and the Hollander.

A few months later, in the summer of 1939, five highly skilled carpenters, selected by the Dutch government were sent to New Zealand. They were described as a fine type, of athletic build and well educated. The idea was to send more skilled workers to New Zealand in the years ahead, but the war stalled these plans. The Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies during World War II and after the war a lot of the Dutch living there wanted to leave. New Zealand opened their borders for these evacuees and they started to arrive there in large numbers.


Continue to Wave of Dutch Migration.

Go back to Abel Tasman.