Historians are rubbishing claims by a Maori leader of an
academic conspiracy around who the first people were to
populate New Zealand.
Ngapuhi elder David Rankin today said based on some research,
there needed to be an investigation into the status of Maori
as the country's indigenous people.
He pointed to books authored by investigative journalist Ian
Wishart and historian Maxwell Hill, which he said revealed
"clear evidence" that some of New Zealand's earliest
residents might have arrived before the Polynesians.
And he said details of much of the country's past were being
concealed by academic historians.
"I would say it's a conspiracy. They are worried that their
own research will be exposed so they have worked hard to
ridicule and suppress any Maori history which disagrees with
Victoria University Professor of New Zealand studies Richard
Hill said theories about people arriving pre-Maori resurfaced
from time to time.
"Not one of them has ever passed any remote academic
He said normally those types of theories were considered in
the academic world to be "colonisation justification myths".
Independent Wellington historian Vincent O'Malley said the
works Mr Rankin referred to were not considered to be
scholarly or credible.
"It's not something I'd take seriously."
He said theories of Greek, Egyptian and other pre-Maori
voyages were not based on scientific evidence - "it's all a
Dr O'Malley said people who published notions that Maori were
not the country's first residents often had a political
"That whole idea of de-legitimising Maori as tangata whenua
or having any rights under the Treaty (of Waitangi)."
Mr Rankin is involved with treaty negotiations at the moment,
but he said if the theories had any merit, that would not put
discussions in peril.
"It will actually just start opening up new chapters in
history. It's about finding out about the truth.
"It could open a Pandora's box."
He pointed to Maori oral histories which referred to people
being here when the first Maori arrived, including
"If we believe our histories, then we as Maori are not the
indigenous people of New Zealand."
Mr Rankin wanted debate around the issue in an attempt to
uncover the truth behind the country's colonisation history.
"To work out whether they're crack-pots or whether they do
have some standing in what they have to say."
Current accepted theory on New Zealand settlement:
* initial settlement occurred about 1280 CE (common era) at
the end of the medieval warm period;
* according to Maori oral history, Kupe was the first to
reach New Zealand, by using stars and ocean currents from his
Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki, in a large waka;
* more waka followed over the next few hundred years;
* there is limited evidence of return, or attempted return
voyages, from archaeological evidence in the Kermadec
* evidence from archaeology, linguistics, and physical
anthropology indicated that the first settlers came from east
Polynesia and became the Maori.
* a book, To the Ends of the Earth, written by Maxwell C Hill
and Gary Cook, with shipwreck explorer Noel Hilliam, detailed
evidence the authors said convinced them that Greek-Egyptians
and others sailed to and settled New Zealand long before the
arrival of Maori;
* it showed ancient maps detailing the coastlines of
Australia and New Zealand and first drawn before the birth of
Christ. Skeletons, rock carvings, stone buildings and
monuments and oral tradition all attest to people of European
origin living here for centuries before the arrival of
* another book, The Great Divide, by investigative journalist
Ian Wishart, said New Zealand may have been settled by humans
between 2000 and 14,000 years ago;
* but a massive comet strike that left a 20km wide crater
with walls 150m high in the seabed near Stewart Island in the
mid 1400s created a 220 metre high tsunami which swept up the
coast, wiping out evidence of early human settlement, and was
the most likely culprit in mass species extinction of moa,
eagles and other animals around the same time;
* it said the early humans left South Island cave paintings
featuring what scientists described as "crocodiles and
pythons" - animals not known in Polynesia.
- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ