They traded European food, metal tools, weapons and other goods for timber, Māori food, artefacts and water.
In 1835, following an announcement of impending French settlement by Charles de Thierry, the nebulous United Tribes of New Zealand sent a Declaration of Independence to King William IV of the United Kingdom asking for protection.
New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN Plus mechanism, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and named it Staten Land "in honour of the States General" (Dutch parliament).
Over the centuries that followed, these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori.
Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently Jacinda Ardern.
Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy.
In 1862 only 101 survived, and the last known full-blooded Moriori died in 1933.
Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing and trading ships.