Zut! How New Zealanders almost became French

21st April 2004, Comments 0 comments

AUCKLAND, April 21 (AFP) - New Zealanders nearly ended up being French, according to full-page newspaper advertisements taken out by the government Wednesday.

AUCKLAND, April 21 (AFP) - New Zealanders nearly ended up being French, according to full-page newspaper advertisements taken out by the government Wednesday.

Featuring a photo of a key treaty in New Zealand history, the advertisement's headline asks: "Do you know how close you were to being French?"

Rather than trying to cool relations with Paris, it promotes a new government website on the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi (www.treatyofwaitangi.govt.nz) which defined the relationship between the indigenous Maori and Britain's Queen Victoria under which New Zealand became a colony.

Treaty information office director Tia Barrett, who is a Maori and a proud fluent French speaker, said there was no problem with the French.

"This is an eye-catching headline to draw people to the website," he told AFP.

"It really has nothing much to do with the French at all."

If things had gone differently, New Zealand could have become a French possession.

English Captain James Cook in 1769 became the first European to step ashore in New Zealand, closely followed by France's Jean du Surville.

French adventurer Charles de Thierry in 1835 wanted to create an independent state in the far north of the country. De Thierry never made it here but fear at the time over his plans led directly to the Treaty of Waitangi, Barrett said.

A French settlement was created in August 1840 in Akaroa in the South Island but had it been three months earlier some historians believe it could have led to the whole of South Island being annexed by France.

More recently, relations between New Zealand and France were soured by French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, which only ended in 1996.

Relations reached a low point when French spies in 1985 bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, sinking it and killing one man.

France paid reparations and testing stopped, but it took many years before the two nations resumed normal relations again.

Barrett, a former diplomat who served in both France and the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, said relations between Paris and Wellington were excellent now.

© AFP

                                        Subject: French news

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