Since humans first arrived in New Zealand, we have had a significant impact on the environment - affecting and protecting the natural world around us. How have we left our mark on our land, our air and our water?

Find out more about some of the impacts we have made on our environment in this timeline.

13th century - Māori arrive in New Zealand

Polynesian (who were to become the Māori) settle in New Zealand. They bring with them the kiore (pacific rat) and kurī (dog), which was to mark the beginning of a series of species extinctions. Burn-offs by Māori lead to the loss of 30% of New Zealand forests.

1840 - Treaty of Waitangi signed

50% of New Zealand covered by forest. The European settlers cleared the forest for farmland, logged those that were unsuitable for farming and drained wetlands, making the land vulnerable to erosion.

1858 - Population over 100,000

Human population of New Zealand is 115,462.

1880s - Mustelids, weasels, stoats and ferrets introduced

Mustelids, weasels, stoats and ferrets are introduced to control rabbits. Unfortunately, they end up killing New Zealand birds instead.

1898 - First car in NZ

First car imported into New Zealand.

1901 - Population reaches 815,862

Transport is dominated by steam, including steamships, trains and trams. Steam is produced by burning wood and coal.

1930 - Widespread deforestation

Large scale erosion and degradation of soils due to deforestation.

1950 - Car numbers growing

400,518 licensed motor vehicles on the road in New Zealand.

1951 - Population nears 2 million

Population of New Zealand reaches 1,939,472.

1960 - Manukau Sewage Purification Works open in Auckland

Wastewater is now treated in large oxidation ponds. Previously, 25 million litres of trade waste and 675,000 litres of raw sewage were discharged into the estuary every day.

1975 - 1.5 million cars on the road

1,589,827 licensed motor vehicles on the road in New Zealand.

1985 - Hole in the ozone

Announcement of discovery of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

1987 - Unleaded petrol arrives

Unleaded petrol introduced into New Zealand, made mandatory in 1996.

1987 - Montreal Protocol

New Zealand signs the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out CFCs.

1988 - Pesticide bans

The manufacture of the pesticide 2,4,5-T is stopped. The use of pentachlorophenol, a pesticide used to treat timber, is banned.

1994 - PCBs banned

The use of polychlorinated biphenols is stopped.

1997 - Kyoto Protocol

Concern that global warming is caused by human emission of greenhouse gases leads to the creation of the Kyoto Protocol designed to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases.

2001 - Dioxin levels lowered

Research conducted by the Ministry for the Environment reports that New Zealand’s levels of the toxin dioxin in our food are among the lowest recorded in the world. Steps are being undertaken to reduce this level even further.

2003 - Energy demand increases

Household energy demand increases by 40% in the previous 5 years. CO2 emissions increase by 60%. The demand for fossil fuel increases by 17%.

2003 - Canterbury Clean Heat project launched

The project is designed to encourage people to install insulation and less polluting heat sources into their homes.

2006 - Forest coverage declining

Only 30% (8 million hectares) of New Zealand is now covered by forests.

2014 – 4.5 million and counting

Population of New Zealand is estimated to be 4,554,000. For a running total, see the Population clock on the Statistics New Zealand website.

    Published 18 June 2008