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They were in turn subjugated by the Ngāi Tahu tribe, who remained in control until the arrival of European settlers.

Following the purchase of land at Putaringamotu (modern Riccarton) by the Weller brothers, whalers of Otago and Sydney, a party of European settlers led by Herriott and Mc Gillivray established themselves in what is now Christchurch, early in 1840.

The name of "Christchurch" was agreed on at the first meeting of the Canterbury Association on 27 March 1848.

It was suggested by founder John Robert Godley, whose alma mater was Christ Church, Oxford.

The last explanation is the one generally accepted.

Captain Joseph Thomas, the Canterbury Association's Chief Surveyor, surveyed the surrounding area.

Goods that were too heavy or bulky to be transported by pack horse over the Bridle Path were shipped by small sailing vessels some eight miles (13 km) by water around the coast and up the estuary to Ferrymead.

The Canterbury Pilgrims had aspirations of building a city around a cathedral and college, on the model of Christ Church in Oxford.

The name "Christ Church" was decided prior to the ships' arrival, at the Association's first meeting, on 27 March 1848. It has been suggested that it is named for Christchurch, in Dorset, England; for Canterbury Cathedral; or in honour of Christ Church, Oxford.

At the request of the Deans brothers—whose farm was the earliest settlement in the area—the river was named after the River Avon in Scotland, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near to where their grandfather's farm was located.

Archaeological evidence has indicated that the Christchurch area was first settled by humans about 1250.

Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.

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