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About | NationDatesNZ


Q. What was the inspiration for Nation Dates?

A. Nation Dates is a book founded on our belief that, to understand where we are heading, we need to know where we have been. History cannot be separated from the future and this idea of threads running through time is central to our work. Accordingly, the book is actually the result of several years of research trying to answer the question ‘where is New Zealand going?’. We first put a timeline together when working on Project 2058 and soon appreciated the value in linking similar events through time with what we have called ‘threads’. Mark Twain’s famous line ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme’ continues to resonate, so Nation Dates lists the rhymes that have occurred in the past, and are likely to propel us into the future.

Q. What are ‘threads’ and how do they work?

A. Each event in the timeline is allocated to one of 65 threads. Each thread indicates a key theme or pattern that runs through the timeline and has been central to our development as a nation. The threads allow the reader to access the timeline in three ways: by reading the timeline start to finish in Chapter 1, by tracking individual threads through the timeline using the square brackets at the end of each entry, and by simply reading through the threads in Chapter 8, while being able to flick to the timeline to find out more about specific entries.

Q. How were dates for the timeline selected?

A. Selecting the dates for inclusion was not always an easy task. Sometimes a significant date was determined by the establishment of a committee, a royal commission, a publication, a national tragedy or triumph, and sometimes just a moment of interest. There are also events that have a ripple effect, and at times we have noted both prior and subsequent dates within a single entry in order to be concise. While writing the first edition, we distributed the first draft to the participants, consultants and speakers at our StrategyNZ: Mapping our Future event. We got quite a bit of feedback and suggestions for inclusions. It was great because people came from such varied professional and academic backgrounds, so a lot of dates of significance to particular groups of New Zealanders emerged that we may not necessarily have picked up on ourselves.

Q. Why does the timeline begin at 1769?

A. Although New Zealand has a rich history that predates 1769, this date was selected for the beginning of the timeline as the symbolic birth of New Zealand as a bicultural nation. The date is the first recorded meeting between Māori and Pākehā when James Cook landed the Endeavour at Tūranganui River. This meeting marked the beginning of the relationship between the British Crown and Māori that would later be formalised by the Treaty of Waitangi. The 250th anniversary of this meeting will be commemorated in 2019 with celebrations in Gisborne/Tairāwhiti organised by the Te Hā sestercentennial trust.

Q. What else is in the book besides the timeline?

A. As well as the timeline, the book contains a few short chapters listing key information on subjects like Heads of State, Governors and Governor-Generals, Royal Commissions and more. We have included this information because we think it is an important record of our nation’s history and is not all readily accessible in one place.

Q. How are macrons used in Nation Dates?

A. We follow the example of the Māori Language Commission, which was established by the Māori Language Act 1987 to act as the authority on Māori spelling and orthography. The Māori Language Commission favours the use of macrons to stress long vowels in the Māori language. However, we have not introduced macrons where they were clearly not used in the original text such as in historical quotes and the titles of Acts and Ministries.

Q. What sources are used Nation Dates?

A. We endeavoured to find up to three sources that all verified the same information, then we would only use the best source in the references. In selecting the best source, we privileged NZ History online and Te Ara; these are both Ministry of Culture and Heritage (MCH) sites. We found MCH to be an invaluable independent body for verifying facts, providing consistent and concise references and we wish to support this valuable resource and encourage our readers to use it.

We also used the James Duncan Reference Library, which is owned and operated by the McGuinness Institute. Just like Nation Dates, our library is designed to preserve a record of the past in order to set the context for thinking about New Zealand’s long-term future.

Q. What symbolism has been significant for the book?

A. The first edition was published in 2011, an election year. This is why we chose orange for the cover design; orange is the colour of the overarching elections campaign and is not associated with a specific New Zealand political party. As the McGuinness Institute is a non-partisan think-tank, this is very important. The first edition was launched 6 September 2011 to commemorate the passing of the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948. It was this act that established New Zealand citizenship and we wanted to recognise this date as a turning point in New Zealand’s journey towards becoming an independent nation.

Q. Who will this book appeal to?

A. The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in New Zealand’s rich history. There is evidence that thinking about our ancestors increases not only our expectations of our capabilities but also our actual intelligence. Scientists call this ‘the ancestor effect’ and it aligns with the Māori principle of whakapapa, acknowledging genealogies and stories from the past. With this in mind, we hope Nation Dates will be a reference for schools and libraries and other academic institutions. The book is data heavy, but is designed to be easy to digest and dip in and out of, highlighting linkages and patterns.

Q. What have people said about the book?

A. Professor Sir Mason Durie, Dame Dr Claudia Orange, Professor Philip Joseph and Dr Carwyn Jones have all contributed endorsements for Nation Dates and we can’t thank them enough for their support. Dame Claudia Orange, who spoke at the launch of the first edition, contributed the following kind words for the back cover:

‘This meticulously researched book embodies the commitment and passion of Wendy McGuinness’s work through the [McGuinness Institute, formerly the] Sustainable Future Institute. Nation Dates includes events of real significance to New Zealand’s past and will become a key text for libraries, schools, universities and anyone with an interest in this country’s past and future.’ – Dame Claudia Orange

Q. What are proceeds from the book used for?

A. The Institute is a not-for-profit organisation and money from the sale of the books goes toward covering the research and printing costs. There are other costs associated with the production of the book that we will not recover but these are absorbed by the Institute. I believe this is an important reference for New Zealanders and our priority is to make it as widely available as possible.

Q. Will there be more editions?

A. Yes. The third edition was published in October 2017, and the first and second in 2011 and 2012 respectively. We anticipate publishing a fourth edition in 2020. We will continue to update the book with new editions to reflect events as they take place, as well as to capture any historical events that are brought to our attention after print.

Q. How can people suggest dates to be added to future editions?

A. Please email us at We would love if people engaged with us to include dates of significance to groups of New Zealanders that we may not have been aware of.