2015 marked the 175 year celebrations for Akaroa making it the oldest European settlement in Canterbury. Local Maori's were already residing in Akaroa before Captain Cook sighted Akaroa Harbour in the 1770's however it was the French that established the township in 1840. As the North Island was already populated with British colonists, the French moved quickly to ensure that the South Island would become a French colony. Akaroa was deemed perfect for the French with whaling ships making regular crossings between France and New Zealand for the lurcative whale oil trade.
First European Settlement in Akaroa
Captain Lavaud Commander of the whaling ship 'Cachalot' 1837 - 1839 whaling off the coast of New Zealand and Australia felt that Akaroa would make an excellent French base and began making plans to take the South Island for France.
In 1838 he obtained signatures from 12 Ngai-Tahu Maori chiefs where he place a deposit and purchased most of Banks Peninsula with the intention to pay the remainder on his return.
In May 1839 Langlois returned to France and gathered together businessmen who were interested in colonising the South Island of New Zealand for France with the intent to have a naval base in the Pacific.
A vessel of 501 tones called the 'Le Mahé' was sent to Rochefort to be refitted for the voyage to New Zealand and was renamed "Comte de Paris". Unfortunately just one month before the "Comte de Paris" left France, the British signed the Treaty of Waitangi on the 6 February 1840 with New Zealand's first British Governor William Hobson declaring British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand. Unknowing to the French they arrived back in Akaroa in August 1840 to discover they had been pipped at the post and would be settling in a British colony.
The Akaroa Museum runs a series of exhibitions, both temporary and permanent and is devoted to the history of Banks Peninsula. The Museum is open 7 days a week. 10.30am until 4.30 pm. Entrance is free.