Terrorism, natural catastrophes, sporting moments and political events spring to mind, but technology has arguably been the defining aspect of the decade. Chris Ormond looks at the first 10 years of the third millennium

In any 10-year time span things become obsolete and habits change, but the extent to which that has happened since 2000 has made the 1990s seem like the dark ages.

Hardly any teenagers owned a cellphone in the 1990s, but these days they all walk the streets holding them out in front of them like a hand of cards.

As with computers and the internet, cellphones became essential for teens and many others, creating monthly bills that households and individuals never had to contend with in the old days.

Younger generations also use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as staple communications tools and, for many, emailing must seem like the modern-day equivalent of writing a letter using paper and ink.

Websites such as YouTube and MySpace quickly became global phenomena, with the latter capitalising on the digital music age to make a large section of the traditional music industry redundant.

Corporate record labels had to scramble to downsize and adjust to change, and compact discs now appear to be heading down the road of vinyl or cassettes.

While it seems there is always likely to be a place for books, libraries, newspapers and magazines, many businesses linked to those media have taken direct hits because of the accessibility on the internet of almost any information one seeks.

The extent to which computer technology has changed modern society in 10 years makes for an interesting next 10, but the overall newsmakers of the past decade might have been more easily predicted.

Perhaps the most determined and notable terrorist attacks in history unfolded on September 11, 2001, when four passenger planes were hijacked in the United States - two of them slamming into the World Trade Centre complex in New York.

Organised by al Qaeda, the attacks saw a third plane crash into the Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania paddock.

More than 3000 people of 90 different nationalities were killed and United States President George W. Bush launched the "war on terrorism".

Over the next few years he became one of the most polarising leaders his country had seen, and many breathed a sigh of relief when the Democrats, led by Barack Obama, were voted into power in 2008.

Terrorists also detonated bombs in Bali in 2002, killing more than 200 people, including three New Zealanders. London's public transport system was targeted three years later with the loss of 56 lives. Those who wished for world peace as they entered the new millennium were sorely disappointed.

While New Zealanders felt the repercussions of violence happening thousands of kilometres away, most had other things to think about - such as smoking bans, smacking laws, leaky homes and whether their country was becoming a nanny state.

By 2008, the Labour Party was into its ninth year in power. National leader Bill English's attempt to lead his party to victory in 2002 was a disaster, and while Don Brash's attempt three years later was an improvement, it took another three years and another leader - John Key - to unseat Helen Clark. His party's message that New Zealand had indeed become an overblown, bureaucratic nanny state appeared to have struck a few chords.

There were the usual political sideshows, including prison terms for MPs (Donna Awatere Huata, Phillip Field) over corrupt dealings, and disgraceful behaviour allegations (David Benson-Pope, Richard Worth).

Winston Peters courted controversy for most of the decade, but a combination of cat-like cunning and a hard-core loyal following ensured he not only remained in Parliament, but also stayed relevant.

His ninth life was snuffed out in the 2008 election, but his absence has given him time to plot a 2011 comeback.

On the sports front, the decade started on a high with New Zealand winning the America's Cup, and in 2003 the country prepared to celebrate the All Blacks winning the rugby World Cup. But the forgone conclusion unravelled in the semifinal with an Australian victory. The George Gregan sledge "four more years" late in the match was motivation not to let it happen again.

Four years later, thousands of New Zealanders, feeling either hopeful, confident or arrogant, booked semifinal and final tickets for the French tournament, only to watch in disbelief as the hosts bundled them out in the quarter-final stage.

Some of those ticket holders sold up and returned home early, others hadn't even packed their bags to leave New Zealand in the first place.

On a brighter note, there were huge achievements by sporting teams and individuals on the international stage - rowing twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell and Mahe Drysdale, shot-put champion Valerie Vili, race car driver Scott Dixon and golfer Michael Campbell were among those who reached the top, while the Kiwis rugby league team pulled off their first World Cup win in 2008. Daniel Vettori, Irene van Dyk, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter became sporting legends.

No news wrap is complete without references to mother nature, and she had a ruthless start to the 21st century.

The "Boxing Day tsunami" in 2004, caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean, was the most devastating event, with more than 200,000 lives claimed, while closer to home last year's Samoan tsunami left 180 people dead and thousands of New Zealand families in mourning.

More earthquakes and tsunamis, heatwaves, crippling droughts, melting glaciers and flooding occurred around the world, and it was the latter which occurred most frequently here.

Flooding has become an annual headache in many parts of the country and caused more than $100 million worth of damage in the Manawatu-Wanganui region in 2004 - the same year parts of the Bay of Plenty were devastated by flooding and a swarm of destabilising earthquakes.

In parts of Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula residents grew used to having their lives disrupted by flooding.

Flash flooding caught a school group off-guard in the central North Island in 2008, with six students and a teacher being swept to their deaths in a swollen stream.

While the west coast - Taranaki in particular - has become a tornado zone, those living on the country's east coast have had droughts to deal with and it seems no district is immune from the occasional snow storm.

Film-maker Peter Jackson wins hands down as New Zealand's entertainment industry figure of the decade, while in business there were too many success stories to list.

Packaging magnate Graeme Hart came from nowhere to become the country's richest man, Stephen Tindall put Warehouse stores everywhere and Sam Morgan quickly achieved domination of the buy and sell industry through Trade Me.

The trial of the decade - a retrial - involved one of the country's most intriguing cases and ended with David Bain being found not guilty of killing five of his family members.

Among the prominent to die in the decade were Peter Blake, Possum Bourne, David Lange and Sir Edmund Hillary.

* Events of the noughties
2000

Private Leonard Manning killed in East Timor in what was New Zealand's first combat death in 30 years.

Team New Zealand beats Prada 5-0 to win America's Cup in Auckland, but skipper Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth defect to Alinghi.

New Zealand's 151-strong Olympics team disappoints in Sydney with a haul of only one gold and three bronze medals.

Champion NZ race mare Sunline wins Cox Plate in Australia for the second time, while another NZ horse, Brew, wins Melbourne Cup.

Christine and daughter Amber Lundy bludgeoned to death in their Palmerston North home. Husband and father Mark Lundy later convicted and jailed.

* * *

2001

Al Qaeda terrorists fly planes into World Trade Centre - "September 11" becomes story of the decade and Osama bin Laden public enemy No 1.

National Party ousts Jenny Shipley.

Merger of Kiwi Dairies and New Zealand Dairy Group creates NZ's biggest company - Fonterra.

Champion yachtsman Sir Peter Blake murdered during a robbery on his yacht in Brazil.

First of three Lord of the Rings films screens.

* * *

2002

Labour obliterates National to win a second term in Government.

"Paintergate" erupts when PM Helen Clark signs auctioned painting which she hadn't painted.

"Corngate" erupts when government admits 30 tonnes of maize planted around the country was GE contaminated.

Leaky homes scandal hits building industry.

Nearly 200 people, including three New Zealanders, killed when terrorists detonate bombs in Bali.

* * *

2003

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein captured by US troops after being found hiding in a hole.

Sporting disaster strikes when Team NZ lose the America's Cup and the All Blacks get bundled out of World Cup in semifinals.

NZ rally ace Possum Bourne killed in race practice.

National Party leader Bill English rolled by Don Brash.

* * *

2004

Earthquake in the Indian Ocean sparks tsunami that claims more than 200,000 lives, mainly in Indonesia.

One in 100-year floods cause more than $100 million of damage in Manawatu-Wanganui, and huge damage also caused by flooding and quakes in Bay of Plenty.

Lord of the Rings dominates the Oscars with 11 gongs.

Louise Nicholas goes public with allegations of pack rape at the hands of police officers.

Deaths of noted writers Janet Frame, Michael King and Maurice Shadbolt, and great athletics coach Arthur Lydiard.

* * *

2005

NZ First leader Winston Peters loses Tauranga to Bob Clarkson, but strikes a deal to help Labour win the election, becoming foreign minister in the process.

Golfer Michael Campbell wins the US Open.

NZ comes from nowhere to win hosting rights to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Popular Green Party co-leader Rod Donald and former PM David Lange die.

Terrorist attacks on London's public transport system claims 56 lives.

* * *

2006

National leader Don Brash makes way for John Key.

Fishing boat Kotuku sinks off Bluff with the loss of six lives.

Baby twins Chris and Cru Kahui die from head injuries - father Chris Kahui later acquitted of their murder.

Former Navy diver Robert Hewitt makes global news, surviving 75 hours at sea after disappearing from a Kapiti Coast dive trip.

Double amputee Mark Inglis climbs Mt Everest.

Saddam Hussein hanged for crimes against humanity.

* * *

2007

Sports fans mourn again as All Blacks exit rugby World Cup in quarter-finals and Team New Zealand fail to secure America's Cup.

Assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards resigns in the wake of Louise Nicholas scandal.

SAS soldier Willie Apiata wins Victoria Cross for bravery in Afghanistan.

National uproar follows theft of precious war medals from Waiouru Army Museum.

Police make string of arrests in "terror raids" after alleging weapons training camps were being held in Ureweras. Charges later dropped or downgraded.

* * *

2008

Labour's nine-year reign in power comes to an end at the hands of National, prompting leader Helen Clark to resign from Parliament.

Sir Edmund Hillary dies.

"Super Saturday" sees New Zealand scoop five medals, including golds to rowing's Evers-Swindell twins and Valerie Vili (shot-put), in one day at the Beijing Olympics.

More finance companies fold, and impact of the recession spreads globally.

Air NZ plane crashes into sea off France while on test flight, killing five New Zealanders and two Germans.

Kiwis stun Australia by winning rugby league World Cup.

* * *

2009

Princess Ashika ferry sinks off Tonga and 74 people perish.

Another blow for the islands as tsunami follows quake near Samoa, killing 180 and devastating island communities, many with close NZ ties.

Swine flu sweeps the country, killing 19 and affecting thousands.

Government closes the public wallet and at the same time taxpayers discover the large extent to which many MPs have been claiming personal expenses.

Another chapter closes in one of NZ's most famous whodunnits as David Bain is found not guilty in a retrial of killing five of his family.

Tiger Woods falls from grace.

All Whites qualify for soccer World Cup.

- NZPA