In areas where it was possible to grow taro and kūmara, horticulture became more important.
This was not possible in the south of the South Island, but wild plants such as fernroot were often available and cabbage trees were harvested and cultivated for food.
The descendants of these settlers became known as the Māori, forming a distinct culture of their own.
The separate settlement of the tiny Chatham Islands in the east of New Zealand about 1500 CE produced the Moriori; linguistic evidence indicates that the Moriori were mainland Māori who ventured eastward.
Arts included whaikōrero (oratory), song composition in multiple genres, dance forms including haka, as well as weaving, highly developed wood carving, and tā moko (tattoo).
New Zealand was originally settled by Polynesians from Eastern Polynesia.
Genetic and archaeological evidence suggests that humans emigrated from Taiwan to Melanesia and then travelled east through to the Society Islands; after a pause of 70 to 265 years, a new wave of exploration led to the discovery and settlement of New Zealand.
Previous dating of some Kiore (Polynesian rat) bones at 50 – 150 CE has now been shown to have been unreliable; new samples of bone (and now also of unequivocally rat-gnawed woody seed cases) match the 1280 CE date of the earliest archaeological sites and the beginning of sustained, anthropogenic deforestation.
The country remained an enthusiastic member of the British Empire, and 110,000 men fought in World War I (see New Zealand Expeditionary Force).
After the war New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles (1919), joined the League of Nations, and pursued an independent foreign policy, while its defence was still controlled by Britain.