Beginning in 1874 S.N. Haskell began planning a mission trip to Australia. More than ten years later in 1885, he led a small team of missionaries to Australia to establish a Seventh-Day Adventist presence down under. On their way to Australia, the missionaries stopped in New Zealand for four or five days and Haskell was deeply impressed by the warmth of the people. He also noticed the number of libraries in the town and commented that it was an indication of the intellectual interests of the population.
After settling down in Melbourne, Haskell returned to the United States for a short visit and spent some time in New Zealand en route. While he was there he heard of a group of Sunday keeping Adventists. He was hosted by Edward and Elizabeth Hare who were Sunday keeping Adventists themselves and they introduced him to other Sunday keeping Adventists within their circle. In his enthusiasm, he presented the Sabbath to them the first night he met them and the second coming the second night.
Cancelling his plans to travel to the United States he decided to stay with the Hare family in Kaeo which is about 250 kilometres north of Auckland. During this time he met the patriarch of the family, Joseph Hare who was an Irish Orangeman. He also met his son Robert Hare. Both Joseph and Robert Hare were preachers and they invited Haskell to preach to their congregations. Haskell preached for three Sundays in addition to preaching the remaining nights of the week in a local hall and giving in-home Bible studies during the day.
The Hare family was convinced and decided to keep the Sabbath. However, Robert Hare was faced with a difficult decision at this juncture. He was engaged to be married and had already constructed a new home and fully furnished it in anticipation. However, his bride to be refused to accept his new beliefs. Faced with a choice between marriage or the Sabbath Robert Hare refused to compromise and his fiancee refused to bend. They called off the engagement and Robert left for the United States shortly thereafter to study for the ministry.
When Haskell returned in 1886 he ran a two week long evangelistic series and before he left he organised the Kaeo Seventh-Day Adventist church on the 23rd of March, 1886. It was the first Seventh-Day Adventists Church to be organised in New Zealand. When Haskell presented his report regarding the work in New Zealand to the General Conference he also requested that an evangelist be sent into the field to assist with the progress of the work. The General Conference sent 28-year-old Arthur G. Daniells who would later go on to be the longest serving General Conference president in the denomination.
Daniells brought a 15 square meter marquee with him from the United States and pitched it in Auckland. He managed to squeeze a pedal organ into the tent and then along with his wife lived in a smaller tent on site. This first evangelistic series of tent meetings that were held in Auckland drew large crowds and ran for 17 long and fruitful weeks. At the end of it a Sabbath school with 78 members was launched and later a small wooden church was constructed on MacKelvie St with 67 charter members. The first church service was held on the 15th of October 1887. Today it is known as the Ponsonby Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Robert Hare returned to New Zealand after his training accompanied by his American bride Henrietta Johnson and he poured himself into the work in the field. Soon a conference was formed and the work would progress into the South Island led by Haskell. The work expanded to include a college which was established at Longbourne in the southern part of the North Island. Ellen White visited New Zealand and spoke at the New Zealand camp meeting in Napier and began to write her book on the Life of Christ while she was in New Zealand.