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Scandinavian Immigration to New Zealand

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Eden Ivatt-Oakley

on 13 October 2014

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Transcript of Scandinavian Immigration to New Zealand

In 1870 New Zealand sent Isaac Featherston to tour Norway, Sweden and Denmark to find potential immigrants. These potential immigrants were given free passage and ten acres of land. In 1871 the first families arrived from these countries, their sections were 40 acres and were situated between Palmerston (Palmerston North) and Foxton. They settled there so a path could be cleared for easier access to Palmerston. This was done because at the time, the only way to travel to Palmerston was through dense bush and it was a long journey. New Zealand also had a very small population at the time and the government was likely trying to increase it for reasons like wanting more farms to make better use of all the forest land. British interest in migration to New Zealand was waning at this time.
During the late 1800's, Palmerston was beginning as a town. However it was very cut off as it was surrounded by the seventy mile bush. This forest was a key part of Scandinavian immigration because the government wanted paths to be cleared through the bush for railways and tracks for better access to places like Palmerston which were developing as settlements. Although there was much hard work, these immigrants were likely drawn to the prospect of a free 40 acres of land. New Zealand has always been a rugged place and at this time over 100 years ago much of the country was still covered in dense bush. The government needed people to clear this bush for railways and roads particularly between Foxton (a small town in the lower west coast of the north island) and Palmerston (Palmerston North). Life was very hard for the immigrants as the governments promises were not always kept, poverty was common and the long hours and hard physical labour meant only minimal time was left to work on their own land. Nevertheless they persevered.
In the early 1800s there were several wars in Europe, the major war being between England and France. Scandinavia was divided with alliances to these two countries. The cold climate in Scandinavia was largely unsuitable for farming and in these times when the majority of food had to be produced locally this may have proved a challenge to those who did not own large amounts of land or were not wealthy. I believe that while motives of migration vary from place to place on specific points, all migration will have largely have the same driving factors, namely the hope of improvement, in all things from money to family situations to a war in the home nation. "The scarcity of fertile land had made the people frugal, the climate had made them hardy. They were mainly farmers and many were experienced in bushwork."(Norsewood NZ, Dane Print Dannevirke).
Because immigration to New Zealand was free and land was offered at either 1 pound per acre or free in exchange for clearing forests anyone who came through the assisted migration instantly owned a piece of land in New Zealand. This land could be made suitable for agriculture because the government at the time wanted paths cleared for roads and railways from Foxton to Palmerston and so were allocating land to migrants. The Scandinavian immigrants had a very limited idea of what New Zealand would be like though they were told there were plenty of opportunities in this new land. Most of them had heard negative tales of the Maori, but they were assured that they were a civilized and pleasant race. When they arrived they become good friends with the Maori and interacted harmoniously, even when the land wars were at their peak they did not fight each other. "In the 1860s there was a decline in the number of British migrants coming to New Zealand so the government decided to offer assisted migration to the Scandinavians as they were considered good settlers and were known to be hard workers." (Norsewood NZ, Dane Print Dannevirke). Overall I believe the assisted migration program was a success, the towns were built along with railways, roads and paths and the descendants of the immigrants are still here today.
Scandinavians have been venturing to New Zealand for many years, there were several individuals on Abel Tasman's ship such as Peder Pederson of Copenhagen making them some of the first Europeans to see New Zealand. In 1768-1771 on Captain Cooks first voyage to New Zealand there were two Scandinavians, drafter Herman Spöring and botanist Daniel Solander. They were some of the first Europeans to land and Cook honoured them both by naming offshore island after them. Since then there have been various waves of Scandinavian immigration such as the assisted migration 100 years later in the 1870s. This was the main wave and one of the only large waves of Scandinavian immigration so I will be largely focusing on that time period.
Lee's push and pull migration model
Lee's migration model is a visual representation of factors involved in deciding to migrate. On the left there is a circle with all the good aspects of the current place represented as plus symbols with all the negative aspects of a place shown as minus symbols. A line between them represents obstacles such as cost and family.
The Celaeno was built in 1863. This ship made 11 voyages to New Zealand and in 1871 brought the first Scandinavian assisted migrants to NZ. it was built in Aberdeen and was one of a few ships that carried migrants from Scandinavia. Life on these ships was often not pleasant though. This true account of a swedish migrant shows the conditions they had to endure. "Sven had high hopes for a good voyage, but things went from bad to worse. The passengers were seriously overcrowded below decks, they couldn’t exercise on the upper deck because there were too many pigsties and sheep pens and there were numerous other problems, such as water leaking into the sleeping apartments. Measles broke out in the English Channel among the Danish children and they weren’t halfway through the voyage before a woman came down with typhoid pneumonia. Both diseases raged through the ship, leaving 28 dead." (from teara.govt.nz, a scandinavian story) This particular story took place on a ship called the Punjab. The conditions on these ships are comparable today to the illegal migrants that flee their countries on boats, these boats are also very overcrowded and the food is terrible, the main difference is that while the earlier migrants were helped by the government, today the illegal migrants are often hunted down, caught and prosecuted by the governments of their countries.
Seventy Mile Bush
The main reason the Scandinavians were recruited was to clear the Seventy Mile Bush. The Seventy mile bush stretched from Norsewood in the north to Masterton in the south, a distance which taking the shortest possible route if driven today would take nearly two hours and is 142 kilometres long. All that remains today is Pukaha Mount Bruce National Park. The Seventy Mile Bush is a very important reason that Scandinavian towns such as Norsewood and Dannevirke exist, both of these towns have long histories and were the result of half a centuries hard work logging the forest. When these original hard working settlers died the Scandinavian languages went with them. The Scandi wheel was a valuable invention by the scandinavian immigrants, it was invented when all the conventional spoked wheels where breaking under the heavy loads and rough tracks, the Scandi wheel has only four spokes but they are very solid as the centre of the wheel is square. This wheel has become a symbol of Norsewood.
The Celaeno
How has the New Zealand culture been enriched by Scandinavian immigrants
Dannevirke was known as the 'sleeper town' as the towns purpose was to provide totara sleepers for the Napier-Wellington railway line, the long toil of the Norwegians built our railway which at the time was an essential connection between major cities. In earlier times the culture was far more obvious, with annual event was the ringriderfest which was a competition where riders tried to pick rings off posts with lances. There was also the game of fugleskydning which is a game where players took shots at an iron bird on a post in the middle of a field.Although the languages are all but gone there are still remnants of the traditions, they can be seen in the street names in places like Norsewood and Dannevirke (Odin, Thor, Eric, Viking streets). There are still celebrations like the Norsewood centennial banquet which last took place in 1972 and involved traditional ceremonies such as the burning of a Norse galley named Mjölnir, the name of Thor's hammer. Over the course of time many Scandinavian traditions have been abandoned in New Zealand, The last time Norwegian was widely spoken in Norsewood being in the 1920s and Danish not being widely spoken in Dannevirke since the 1900s.

In 1927 New Zealand hit economic trouble and in 1929 became a full depression. There was no longer any reasons to migrate to NZ. In 1932 the immigration office was closed and in 1935 there was only one assisted migrant. New Zealand was no longer a favorable destination.
When the first Scandinavian assisted migrants arrived they instantly started work labouring in the forest, slowly clearing swathes mostly with nothing but axe and saw. In the times before towns like Norsewood they lived in rough houses that they built themselves from what they had around them. During the week they would work long hours in the seventy mile bush clearing paths and when the weekend finally came they would spend that clearing their own sections to make it suitable for farming. They would have faced social challenges as well as many if not most of these immigrants could not speak English although because the Scandinavian languages are all very similar all the workers could understand each other and would often socialise around a fire at night. Later on in the early 1900s when the wairarapa became mainly focused on dairy the farmers could not process their milk so every morning it was taken to the factory, this also became an important social gathering. Migration today also has its own social challenges, most of them have not changed, learning a countries language would be a massive challenge that is still just as relevant in the modern society as it was 100 years ago, the way people migrate is now different and the transport used to get from A to B is more advanced, but at a fundamental level, all migrants face similar problems.
The Høvding was a Norweigan ship which made two trips to New Zealand, on the first voyage there were 372 Norwegians and 11 Swedes aboard the ship, it landed at Napier on September 15 1872 on the same day that another ship, the Ballarat landed at the same place. It was normal for one of these voyages to last over 100 days, this trip today takes around 22.47 hours by plane, when these settlers came their trip was around 2592 hours in poor conditions with substandard food and often leaky sleeping compartments to name a few problems.
hovding (Tararua district Council)
The Ballarat was an English ship that along with the Hovding and the Celaeno brought the original settlers of Norsewood and Dannevirke. There 77 Danish immigrants on board, some joined with the original settlers of Norsewood but the majority went to found Dannevirke. While the men from these ships went ahead to begin the settlement the women and children stayed behind in Napier for a few weeks until they were ready to journey to the new towns.
The Ballarat
The rural North Island townships of Norsewood and Dannevirke (one hour inland from North Islands east coast, midway between Napier and Wellington) retain a unique character. Norways constitution day is celerated by the locals. "There are many groups still around like the Dannevirke Viking Choir, and the Scandinavian club. In the schools the kids are taught traditional scandinavian dances"(Gay Castles, Dannevirke local historian). Tourist attractions such as the troll stroll, Johannas world, Norsewood cemetery and ancestral searches, and the Norsewood pioneer cottage museum are popular. displayed in a glass boathouse is a viking galley that was gifted to the town by the norwegian government in 1972, 100 years from the towns founding. New Zealand is a country composed of many different races, and our culture is made of all the other cultures that reside here. Because of this it is very important to preserve the individual cultures. Having the above groups and places allows the Scandinavian people the opportunity to recognise their roots.
The Scandinavians are a minority group of migrants confined to a specific area of New Zealand. They came for a special purpose and once they had fulfilled that they have remained in that area for over a century. This interests me because of my own Scandinavian heritage, whilst unrelated to NZ migration of 1872, my great grandmother hailed from Trondheim. I believe that this is of interest to New Zealanders as this topic is not one that is commonly known.
NZ Herald: New Zealand's Latest News, Business, Sport, Weather, Travel, Technology, Entertainment, Politics, Finance, Health, Environment and Science. (n.d.). The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/wairarapa-times-age/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503414&objectid=11096686
Norsewood, New Zealand. (n.d.). Norsewood, New Zealand. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from http://www.norsewood.co.nz/default.asp
Palmerston North - Google Maps. (n.d.). Palmerston North - Google Maps. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from https://www.google.co.nz/maps/place/Palmerston+North/@-40.3532495,175.6300296,12z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x6d41ad9fbda34483:0x500ef6143a29915

Samfunnskunnskap.no. (n.d.). Kort om Norges historie. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from http://www.samfunnskunnskap.no/?page_id=815&lang=en
(2012, February 26). Spectrum for Sunday, 26 February 2012 [Radio broadcast]. wellington: Radio New Zealand.

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). Forty Mile Bush in the 1870s – Scandinavians –. Retrieved September 9, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/287/forty-mile-bush-in-the-1870s

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). 1. 1642–1870: first arrivals – Scandinavians –. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/scandinavians/page-1

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). 1. Overview – Wairarapa region –. Retrieved September 8, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/wairarapa-region/page-1

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). A Scandinavian story – The voyage out –. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/community-contribution/4302/a-scandinavian-story

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). Immigrant ship the Celaeno – Scandinavians –. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/artwork/284/immigrant-ship-the-celaeno

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). 2. 1870s: assisted migration – Scandinavians –. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/scandinavians/page-2

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). 12. Between the wars – History of immigration –. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration/page-12

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). 3. Culture – Scandinavians –. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/scandinavians/page-3

dannevirke's-history. (n.d.). dannevirke's-history. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from http://www.dannevirke.net.nz/dannevirke's-history.html

settler and migrant peoples of new zealand (pp. 236-240). (2006). scandinavians . Auckland: bateman.

Gay Castles. Retired Historian at Dannevirke. Interviewed 18/9/2014

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