Dutch navigator Abel Tasman becomes the first European explorer to sight the South Pacific island group now known as New Zealand. In his sole attempt to land, several of Tasman's crew were killed by warriors from a South Island tribe, who interpreted the Europeans' exchange of trumpet signals as a prelude to battle. A few weeks earlier, Tasman had discovered Tasmania, off the southeast coast of Australia. Tasman had named the island Van Diemen's Land, but, like the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia, it was later renamed Tasmania in the explorer's honor.
New Zealand, named after the Dutch province of Zeeland, did not attract much additional European attention until the late 18th century, when English explorer Captain James Cook traveled through the area and wrote detailed accounts of the islands. Whalers, missionaries, and traders followed, and in 1840 Britain formally annexed the islands and established New Zealand's first permanent European settlement at Wellington.
Taken from: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/tasman-discovers-new-zealand [13.12.2013]