A new study has carbon-dated the arrival of Māori settlers to as early as the 13th century.
Mātauranga histories and current archaeological work are estimates only - thought to be some time between the 12th and 14th centuries.
Today's study, published in the journal PNAS, used updated radiocarbon technology at 436 archaeological sites in the North Island and 145 in the South.
Dr Magdalena Bunbury from Australia's James Cook University, who led the study, said the estimated timeline of when Māori arrived in Aotearoa was initially between the 12th and 14th centuries.
"This study has narrowed that down and shown that early Māori settlement happened in the North Island between AD 1250 and AD 1275," Bunbury said.
She said Māori reached the South Island a decade later between 1280AD and 1295AD where the population rapidly grew during a time when they hunted the flightless moa bird.
But the Māori population in the South Island shrank over time when the moa went extinct and the cooler weather known as the Little Ice Age set in between 1380AD and 1420AD.
"Population growth in the South Island appears to have levelled off around AD 1340 and declined between AD 1380 and 1420 with the onset of the Little Ice Age and the extinction of the moa. The population continued to grow in the north, where conditions for agriculture were optimal," Bunbury said.
The first European settlers did not arrive in New Zealand until the 1800s.
Bunbury said the research shows differences than previously thought on human settlement in both the North and South Islands of Aotearoa.
"The results demonstrate connections between climate, resources, and population and will help us understand how human populations developed in other island nations," said Bunbury.