New Zealand's earliest written history is recorded by travellers, sea captains and missionaries.
The missionaries were a tough lot, dedicated to their task of converting the heathen, spreading God's word and bringing to light their mission to others of standing in their society. Anybody would think that the missionaries were the only decent people to live in New Zealand pre Treaty.
They had help in that they had servants who accompanied them and material help from various sources. They were supported by stores sent by ship, sometimes chartered expressly for the task, they frequently travelled backwards and forwards to Sydney and London, they sent their children to school in Sydney. Politicians liked them which opened doors for their task to proceed, they had a public face.
The background of society in those times was one of class distinction. There were the poor people, the middle artisans and the top echelon and everyone was desperate to move up a rank or hang on to a current position by their nails if they had to. One way to do this was to exploit others and they went about that with a dedication which we today would consider shocking. The missionaries were no exception. They supported the system.
The 'Hell Hole of the South Pacific' was a constructed thing. NSW taxed incoming ships. Ships needing repairs, those which hadn't attained a profit for the their owners were provisioned and repaired in the Bay of Islands instead. There must have been upwards of 500 ships travelling the South Pacific chasing whales and moving passengers and goods. Yes, there were escaped convicts here, the poor desperate humans attempting to escape their captors and yes, alcohol was their medication and the principle traded item. But look at the other cities overseas at that time including Australian ones and you will see that New Zealand was no worse and no better than these. There were the artisans here to repair the ships, trade with Maori, servants of all kinds, a mix not very different to other cities. So why the hue and cry from the missionaries and gentry about the conditions in the Bay of Islands?
IMHO: The hue and cry was because the gentry didn't have the means to cream the milk of moving money. They needed the law and British army to back the law up so they could take their cut and boost this young economy with more imported cheap labour, free land etc. But this won't be discussed, New Zealand's history is too young and even now too politcally important for truth to prevail.