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 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, in the Māori version the word ‘sovereignty’ was translated as ‘kawanatanga’ (governance). Some Māori believed that the governor would have authority over the settlers alone; others thought that were giving up the government over their lands but retaining the right to manage their own affairs. The English version guaranteed ‘undisturbed possession’ of all properties, but the Māori version guaranteed ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (full authority) over ‘taonga’ (treasures, which can be intangible).
Different understandings of the Treaty have long been the subject of debate. There is however a growing awareness of its meaning in modern New Zealand with it now being common to refer to the intention, spirit or principles of the Treaty.
Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund
The Ministry administers 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. More details about this annual fund are available on our funding page.
Applications for the 2015 Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund are now closed.
The Treaty of Waitangi section on NZHistory.net 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.
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)
You can find resources related to the TREATY 2 U exhibition online at www.treaty2u.govt.nz.
You can also obtain copies of the Treaty as high resolution digital files from Archives New Zealand.
Treaty Settlement Histories Project
The Ministry’s Treaty Settlement Histories Project will produce a comprehensive account of the recent history of Treaty of Waitangi settlements from all perspectives. Read more about this work on our current projects page.
Treaty of Waitangi resources on NZHistory.net
Te Tiriti - The Treaty on Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Updated on 7th October 2019