The Treaty House.'The Residency'
The Treaty House, or Busby House as it is sometimes known, was the site of some of the most important events in New Zealand’s history. The first flag for the nation was chosen here in 1834; the 1835 Declaration of Independence was drafted in the house by James Busby and presented to the northern chiefs; and the Treaty of Waitangi was given its finishing touches here before being read to the chiefs on 5th February 1840.
New Zealand's first residence for British Government officials
The original Treaty House was pre-cut in Sydney out of Australian hardwood and shipped to New Zealand for assembly on site in 1834. The building provided a home for the official representative of the British Government in New Zealand. In 1840 the house consisted of a parlour, or living room, one large bedroom, a central hall, and a small dressing room. A separate building housed the kitchen, storeroom and servants’ room. In 1841 three bedrooms were added to accommodate James Busby’s growing family.
The house and its associated farm remained in the family’s possession until 1882 when the estate was sold. Over the next 50 years, the house was neglected and became almost derelict. However, during a visit to Waitangi in 1932, Governor-General Lord Bledisloe and Lady Bledisloe were struck by the significance of the site. They purchased the house and surrounding lands and gifted the whole estate to the people of New Zealand as a national memorial for the Treaty. It underwent major restoration work, first in 1933 when it was named the Treaty House, and again in 1989.
Today you can see several themed rooms with the entrance providing a welcome area, as it did in 1834 when it was the first British Residency in New Zealand, and which doubled as James Busby’s office. Two rooms are dedicated to the Busby family story and what life must have been like for James, Agnes, and their children. The parlour where the finishing touches were made to the Treaty of Waitangi explores Busby’s influence on the English version and his final touches to Rev Henry Williams’ Māori version.
Busby: entrepreneur, diplomat, pioneer, gardener and family man
The Treaty House is as much a memorial to New Zealand’s past as it is to James Busby, described as an entrepreneur, diplomat, pioneer, viticulturist, gardener, and a person dedicated to his family. In May 1833 Busby gave a speech to the Northern Chiefs in Paihia, in which he said of the Residency: “It is my wish when I have erected my house, that all the Chiefs shall visit me and be my friends. We shall then consult together by what means they can make their country flourishing, and their people rich and wise, like the people of Great Britain”.
The restored Treaty House includes a modern audiovisual experience that encourages visitors to think about the momentous events which took place in each room of the house. Visualise the scene leading up to the meeting with northern chiefs on 5th February 1840, and the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the following day.