The Waitangi flagstaff marks the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on 6 February 1840. The flags that fly today are the three official flags New Zealand has had since 1834 – Te Kara, the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (from 1834-present), the Union flag (from 1840-1902), and the New Zealand flag (from 1902-present).
The first flagstaff was gifted to James Busby by Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke Pōkai. This was later shifted to Kororāreka (now known as the township of Russell, across the bay). In 1934 a flagstaff was erected by the Royal New Zealand Navy, replaced in 1947, and the Navy remains the caretaker of the current flagstaff to this day.
New Zealand’s first flag was chosen at a meeting of chiefs at Waitangi on 20 March 1834, to ensure that ships built and owned by people in New Zealand would be recognised by other nations. British resident James Busby invited Māori leaders to choose one of three designs for the flag. This flag, known as the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (Te Kara o Te Whakaminenga o Ngā Hapū o Niu Tireni), now flies on the northern yardarm of the flagstaff.
Britain’s acceptance of this flag showed the country was now internationally regarded as an independent nation and triggered a drive from James Busby to form a government in New Zealand. The Declaration of Independence was created in 1835, followed by the Treaty of Waitangi five years later in 1840.
The current flagstaff is 34 metres tall and was erected by the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1947. The flagstaff carries The United Tribes of New Zealand flag to the north, the British Union flag to the south and New Zealand’s current national flag in the centre.