The Treaty House

'The Residency'

The Treaty House at Waitangi is the former house of the first British Resident in New Zealand, James Busby. The Treaty House was originally known as ‘the Residency’ or ‘Busby House’, and is where James Busby conducted much of his official business as the British government’s representative in New Zealand from 1833 to 1840.

It was also home for James, his wife Agnes and their six children. The building is named after the Treaty of Waitangi, the document that established the British Colony of New Zealand and which was signed in the grounds of the Treaty House on 6 February 1840.

New Zealand's first residence for British Government officials

The original Treaty House was pre-cut in Sydney of Australian hardwood and shipped to New Zealand for assembly on site in 1834 to provide 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, store room and servants’ room. As his family grew older, James Busby added three bedrooms at the back in 1841.

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, much 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.

Treaty House_Lloyd Macomber (2017)_5

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”.

In the now restored Treaty House, a modern audio visual experience encourages visitors to think about the momentous events that took place in each room of the house, and to take in the view outside the house and 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.