Diplomatic ties between New Zealand and the Netherlands go back to the 19th century. From 1867 onwards three Dutch consular posts were established in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin. In 1896 H. Featherston Johnston became Vice-Consul for the Netherlands in Wellington. The first Consul for the Netherlands (and Belgium) in Wellington two years later was Charles J. Johnston. At the same time Edward Bowes Cargill was Vice-Consul in Dunedin and Ambrose Millar was Vice-Consul in Auckland. They were all Kiwis, answerable to their Dutch Consul-General in Australia.
It was not until the start of the 20th century that the Dutch government actively began promoting trade between the two countries. The Dutch Consul-General in Australia, Willem Lodewyk Bosschart, made an official visit to New Zealand in 1913 to encourage trade. He referred to the Dutch interest in the very progressive and humane legislation of New Zealand, which according to him formed a bond between the two countries. Bosschart was the first Dutch representative to investigate the possibility of Dutch migration to New Zealand. He later initiated a fund called the Koningin Wilhelmina-Ondersteuningsfonds to assist Dutch migrants.
In 1914 a Vice-Consulate was created in Christchurch. The Dutch connection was established and in 1915 the first shipments of Dutch gin (jenever), electric lamps and superphosphates were imported in New Zealand.
Maurits Felix Vigeveno was Dutch Consul between 1937 and 1945. He reported on the frank discussions he had had with Commodore Horan, the Chief of Staff of the Royal New-Zealand Navy (RNZN). Horan strongly emphasized the need for Dutch co-operation in the defense of the Pacific and therefore stressed the importance of Dutch naval representation. This started the military co-operation between the Dominions and the Netherlands.
In 1942, during the celebration of Abel Tasman’s tercentenary, a Netherlands Delegation visited Nelson and the West Coast. The main occasion of this trip was the unveiling of the Tasman Memorial at Ligar Bay, overlooking Golden Bay on 18 December, and the official opening of the Abel Tasman National Park on 19 December of that year. Because of the war Governor General Dr. C. O. van der Plas represented Queen Wilhelmina, who had accepted to be Patron of the park. Van der Pas was president of the Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand in Jakarta, but was at that time in exile in Melbourne.
In 1950 New Zealand and the Netherlands started working together on migration of Dutch citizens to New Zealand. As pointed out in an earlier chapter this Assisted Passage Scheme was profitable for both countries and a significant number of Dutch migrants settled in New Zealand as a result of the arrangement.
In 1965 the Netherlands Legation became an Embassy with E.F.M. van Hal the first ambassador from 1965 to 1967. At the same time Dick Hutchens was appointed the first New Zealand ambassador to the Netherlands. In 1972 the Netherlands Embassy was accredited to Fiji.
The presence of a large Dutch community in New Zealand is one of the reasons that relations between the two countries are very close. Relations focus primarily on agriculture, science, technology and culture. At present the Netherlands is the second largest European investor in New Zealand, reflecting its strong agricultural tradition as well as the presence in New Zealand of important Dutch multinationals like Shell, Unilever and Rabobank.
The two countries are like-minded when it comes to political and socio-economic issues and often work together closely in the international arena.
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