Dating initial colonisation and environmental impacts by Polynesians in New Zealand is controversial. A key horizon is provided by the Kaharoa Tephra, deposited from an eruption of Mt Tarawera, because just underneath this layer are the first signs of forest clearance which imply human settlement. The authors used a log of celery pine from within Kaharoa deposits to derive a new precise date for the eruption via “wiggle-matching” – matching the radiocarbon dates of a sequence of samples from the log with the Southern Hemisphere calibration curve. The date obtained was 1314 ± 12 AD (2σ error), and the first environmental impacts and human occupation are argued to have occurred in the previous 50 years, i.e. in the late 13 th – early 14 th centuries AD. This date is contemporary with earliest settlement dates determined from archaeological sites in the New Zealand archipelago.