The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. It takes its name from the place in the Bay of Islands where it was first signed, on 6 February 1840. This day is now a public holiday in New Zealand. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs).
The Treaty is a broad statement of principles on which the British and Māori made a political compact to found a nation state and build a government in New Zealand. The document has three articles. In the English version, Māori cede the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain; Māori give the Crown an exclusive right to buy lands they wish to sell, and, in return, are guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions; and Māori are given the rights and privileges of British subjects.
The Treaty in Māori was deemed to convey the meaning of the English version, but there are important differences. Most significantly, the word ‘sovereignty’ was translated as ‘kawanatanga’ (governance). Some Māori believed they were giving up government over their lands but retaining the right to manage their own affairs. The English version guaranteed ‘undisturbed possession’ of all their ‘properties’, but the Māori version guaranteed ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (full authority) over ‘taonga’ (treasures, which may be intangible).
Different understandings of the Treaty have long been the subject of debate. From the 1970s especially, many Māori have called for the terms of the Treaty to be honoured. Some have protested – by marching on Parliament and by occupying land. There have been studies of the Treaty and a growing awareness of its meaning in modern New Zealand.
Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage resources
Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund
Each year, the Ministry offers the Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund which supports events that commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and promote nation and community building. The fund aims to encourage a wider mix of communities to take part in Waitangi Day events. Applications are generally called for during the middle of each year. Local government and community organisations can apply for grants, which in the past have ranged from $200 to $10,000, with the average being $3,000.
The Treaty of Waitangi on NZHistory.net.nz
The Treaty of Waitangi section includes material originally found on www.treatyofwaitangi.govt.nz, a site developed by the Treaty Information Unit in the State Services Commission. Material from that site is now combined with other topics on www.nzhistory.net.nz to provide a range of features about the Treaty of Waitangi and Waitangi Day.
Te Tiriti - The Treaty of Waitangi on Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Te Ara's section on the Treaty of Waitangi was written by eminent historian Dame Claudia Orange. It explains how people have come to know more about the treaty, and efforts to honour the treaty and its principles expanded.
Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories
Te Taiwhakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories will produce a comprehensive account of the recent history of Treaty of Waitangi settlements from all perspectives. It will provide historical narratives that combine scholarly rigour with popular appeal.
Ngā Tohu – Treaty Signatories
In 1840 more than 500 rangatira (chiefs) signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, which was an agreement between Māori and the British Crown.
When complete, Ngā Tohu – Treaty Signatories will include biographical information on every signatory of the Treaty of Waitangi that can be identified. Some of those who signed are well-known, while about others we know almost nothing, other than that they signed the treaty.
We are keen to expand the information about signatories of Ngā Tohu over time. So if you have further information about any of the signatories, especially those about whom we have little information, please get in touch by either leaving a comment on a biography page, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2015 the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place. It was granted Tier 1 status in the government’s commemoration programme for 2014-2020, which led to a whole of government approach to the Treaty of Waitangi 175th commemorations (Waitangi 175 commemorations).
Learn more about the activities of Waitangi 175 on our completed projects page.
Where can I obtain booklets, CDs and posters about the Treaty?
A series of booklets about the Treaty and a children’s book, The tree house Treaty, were published by the State Services Commission, along with an educational CD-Rom and posters. Unfortunately these are now out of print and are no longer available.
Below are links to pdfs of the booklets, which you are free to use:
- All about the Treaty (pdf, 1.1mb)
- Journey of the Treaty (pdf, 700k)
- The Story of the Treaty Part 1 (pdf, 1.1mb)
- The Story of the Treaty Part 2 (pdf, 870k)
- Treaty timeline (pdf, 820k)