Connect with the land, people and history at Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important historic site

An absolute must-do for all visitors to New Zealand, the award-winning Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a national treasure and tells our nation’s history of two peoples coming together under the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Waitangi is a place of cultural, spiritual and historical significance for Aotearoa New Zealand, and has been a place of gathering for hundreds of years.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a place for all New Zealanders, the place where much of New Zealand’s history was shaped. Often called the ‘Birthplace of our Nation’, Waitangi weaves together the strands and stories of many peoples, events and places to reveal the rich cultural history of our nation, offering an inspiring and meaningful experience for every visitor. Today, Waitangi can be seen as a tūrangawaewae for all those who call New Zealand home – a place where they can stand and feel they belong.

The history of Waitangi

Waitangi was traditionally a meeting ground for the many tribes of the Bay of Islands, so when James Busby, the first British Resident, asked to build a home here in 1833, the location of Waitangi was supported by local Māori.

Prior to Busby’s appointment, New Zealand had been witness to occasions of tension as European explorers such as Abel Tasman, James Cook and Marion du Fresne arrived and attempted to stake their claim to this new land.

Visits that started well and initially proved to be mutually beneficial could end in conflict as Europeans remained ignorant to Māori customs and protocol, and in some instances caused irreparable offence to Tangata Whenua (people of the land). However, as the benefits of trade strengthened, there was a growing desire from both Māori and Europeans to improve mutual understanding of language, culture and ways of life.

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The signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi

A growing desire for international recognition of New Zealand (and its governance) led to a meeting of Māori chiefs in 1835 at Waitangi. Concerned about the intentions of the growing number of Europeans, the chiefs put their signatures to a document that declared New Zealand’s independence. This Declaration of Independence (He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni) was acknowledged and supported by the British Government. However, overseas interests continued to arrive, with the United States and France competing for influence in New Zealand, as well as private British and French companies planning settlements.

Over time, British ties proved to be stronger than all others, with Māori and British becoming interdependent through business, marriage, children and religion. As a result, the Treaty of Waitangi was drafted by Captain William Hobson, and translated by Reverend Henry Williams into Māori before being presented to local rangatira (chiefs). The Māori version of the Treaty was signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840 by about 40 chiefs following extensive discussion and debate. By September 1840 over 500 leaders from throughout New Zealand had signed Māori versions of the document while only 39 signed the English version.

Most rangatira signed the Māori version (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and by 1845 there was much discontent stemming from different translations of key terms in the two versions, particularly relating to sovereignty and possession of lands and other properties.

A story of two peoples, of strength and resilience

By 1867 Māori, now outnumbered by Europeans in New Zealand and dispossessed of much of their land, were granted four seats in Parliament. From this small beginning the political strength of Māori grew, both inside and outside the system. After more than 100 years, the endurance of Māori resulted in the Treaty of Waitangi Act of 1975, and Act of Parliament which now governs and guides all Treaty-related issues and claims in New Zealand.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds tells a story of challenge, resilience and acceptance – of two peoples coming together under the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the people of New Zealand are continuing to explore what the Treaty means, for today and the future.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds offers a unique and engaging experience, allowing visitors to connect through the stories, the people, the taonga (treasures) and the events that have shaped our nation’s history. The story of Waitangi begins the story of modern Aotearoa New Zealand.