A Northland settlement where Māori and Pākehā first lived side-by-side has inspired a new board game designed to teach New Zealanders about their history.

The game, Hohi 1816, is named after a mission station established at what is now Rangihoua Heritage Park in the northern Bay of Islands.

Ngāpuhi chief Ruatara invited missionaries led by Samuel Marsden to live below his pā in 1814.

Hohi was the first European settlement in New Zealand and the site of the first European-style school, which opened in 1816.

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Ruth Lemon, of Auckland University's Faculty of Education, said she created the game after seeing her first-year Bachelor of Education students struggling with the version of history they'd been taught at school.

She wanted an interesting and accurate way of teaching them about pre-Treaty engagement between Māori and Pākehā, focusing on the period 1793-1816.

Lemon worked on the game in her spare time, drawing on the scholarship of professors Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins.

Lemon said Māori and Pākehā leaders were establishing strategic relationships from 1793, earlier than many people realised, and a number of rangatira travelled to Australia at the start of the 19th century to explore European society and reinforce those contacts.

At first she designed the game in Trivial Pursuit style but realised the question-and-answer format didn't fit her aim of getting students to form their own questions, so learning designer Richard Durham made it more story-based to encourage exploration, collaboration and critical thinking.

The game involves co-operating players who have to reach the story's final objective in the shortest time possible while collecting as much knowledge as they can along the way.

It is aimed at teacher trainees with each chapter taking 40-50 minutes.

"It's a non-threatening way to initiate discussions about historical events between Māori and Pākehā. It also provides a practical way for students to transfer this knowledge into their teaching careers, and potentially other career paths as well," Lemon said.

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The game will be used in the university's teacher trainee classrooms but could be distributed more widely in future.