The rapid migration to the east and south of the Pacific was helped by a climate change in the year 800, according to new research.
The research by Macquarie University in Sydney, is consistent with other evidence that New Zealand was colonised between 1100 and 1300AD.
It looked at the expansion of the tropics and changes in the Pacific Ocean's wind patterns in 20-year periods from 800 to 1600.
The wind patterns show that New Zealand was potentially colonised by people voyaging from Tonga, Fiji, the Southern Cook Islands and the Austral Islands.
Lead researcher Ian Goodwin said the research matches Polynesian folklore, which refers to multiple migrations and provides fantastic insights into pre-historic maritime migration.