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Over the centuries that followed, these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori.
Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy.
The Moriori population was all but wiped out between 18, largely because of Taranaki Māori invasion and enslavement in the 1830s, although European diseases also contributed.
In 1862 only 101 survived, and the last known full-blooded Moriori died in 1933.
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.
Ongoing unrest, the proposed settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Company (which had already sent its first ship of surveyors to buy land from Māori) and the dubious legal standing of the Declaration of Independence prompted the Colonial Office to send Captain William Hobson to claim sovereignty for the United Kingdom and negotiate a treaty with the Māori.