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The Treaty of Waitangi


The Treaty of Waitangi is an agreement between Maori hapu (subtribes of Maori people) and the New Zealand Government.

The Treaty of Waitangi:

  • was signed on the 6th of February 1840 at Waitangi
  • was signed by Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown
  • is a starting place of discussion for Maori and Government
  • safeguards the development of Maori culture, resources and way of life
  • maintains Maori as the ancestral people of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand).


    Maori are a tribal people indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand and make up approximately 14% of the total population.
    Maori societal structure is composed of basically three levels: the individual whanau or family, which is connected to the hapu or subtribe, which in turn is connected to the iwi or main tribe and then back to the ancestral waka or canoe.

    Hapu and iwi connection is important to Maori as it:
  • is a source of Maori identity
  • confirms family relationships
  • connects Maori with the land
  • is the traditional base of decision-making
  • is the heart of Maori culture.


    The Treaty is recognised as the first immigration agreement between Maori and Pakeha (European settlers). The
    Treaty originally allowed settlers to immigrate peacefully to New Zealand under the British flag. The Treaty was important, firstly, to control the thousands of future emigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand, and secondly, to protect the rights of Maori people. The benefits to both parties were clear – settlement rights for Pakeha and the natural right of the tangata whenua (the people of the land) would be respected and affirmed.


    When you come to live in Aotearoa New Zealand, it will be useful for you to know about the Treaty, as it will help you to:
  • understand the nature of society within Aotearoa New Zealand
  • realise the significance of the Treaty within every aspect of life in Aotearoa New Zealand.


    The Treaty of Waitangi was written in Maori and English. The Government has established three main points:
  • Article One Government makes law.
  • Article Two Maori resources and way of life are protected.
  • Article Three

    The basic rights of all people within Aotearoa New Zealand are protected. However, the English and Maori text are not an exact translation of each other. Also, it was only the Maori version of the Treaty that was signed by most Maori signatories.

    Article The First

    The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and the separate and Independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation, cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England, absolutely and without reservation, all the rights and powers of sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or possess over their respective territories as the sole Sovereigns thereof.

    Article The Second

    Her Majesty, the Queen of England, confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand, and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess, so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the Individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of pre-emption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate, at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.

    Article The Third

    In consideration thereof Her Majesty, the Queen of England, extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her Royal protection and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects.

    W. Hobson
    Consul and Lieutenant-Governor
    Now, therefore, we the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand, being assembled in congress at Victoria, in Waitangi, and we the separate and Independent Chiefs of New Zealand, claiming authority over the Tribes and territories which are specified after our respective names, having being made fully to understand the provisions of the foregoing Treaty, accept and enter into the same in the full spirit and meaning thereof; in witness of which we have attached our signatures or marks at the places and the dates respectively specified.


    The New Zealand Government has been responsible for all immigration matters from 1852 until today. It recognises that the Treaty is a 'living' agreement which must grow and develop with time. Therefore, it has formed 'principles' to aid and help in furthering the understanding of the Treaty. This means that when the Government deals with Maori, they must act with regard to the following principles: the principle of government (the Government has the right to govern and to make laws); the principle of self-management (iwi Maori have the right to organise themselves, and, under the law to control the resources they own); the principle of equality (all New Zealanders are equal under the law); the principle of reasonable co-operation (the Crown must act reasonably and in good faith towards its Treaty partner); the principle of redress (the Crown is responsible for providing effective processes for the resolution of grievances in the expectation that reconciliation can occur). Maori political demonstration has kept the Treaty debate alive. Although it has been a struggle for the political demonstrators, and the following generation, we are now beginning to see the rewards within mainstream society. And even though the gap between Maori and the Government in relation to the Treaty continues, it is through the valid efforts of many people that the dialogue has truly begun.


    When looking for work in mainstream employment, you may (in addition to relevant experience and qualifications) also find knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi useful when:
  • working alongside Maori
  • working on issues that affect Maori
  • Maori protocol is recognised within your workplace
  • Maori health, economics and politics are points for discussion
  • applying for a job, especially in the public service.
    In most cases, showing some regard for the Treaty relationship in employment is encouraged.


    Te reo Maori (the Maori language) is an important aspect of the education system and society within Aotearoa New Zealand. Although English is primarily spoken, it is highly likely your children will be exposed to Maori language, culture and customs while attending schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. However, the levels of awareness regarding Maori culture will vary from place to place, so it is important that you anticipate Maori language, culture, and its values in the education system.

    An alternative to mainstream education is 'immersion'. This uses the Maori language as the primary source of communication, and is available through Kohanga Reo (similar to Kindergarten, but taught in Maori language and immersed in Maori culture), Kura Kaupapa (Maori secondary school), and Whare Wananga (tertiary education in Maori).
    This option is favoured by over 10% of the current population within Aotearoa New Zealand today.


  • New Zealand/Maori history To view Maori treasures and learn more of Maori culture and history, visit New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa/Our Place, in Wellington.

  • Maori claims Contact The Waitangi Tribunal Information Service

  • Maori and Government
    Contact Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Maori Development) for the latest information on Maori issues.

  • Maori Television Something for all age groups from children's programming to news, sport and documentaries – mostly broadcast in te reo Maori (the Maori language).
    The following websites are worth visiting if you require further information on the Treaty of Waitangi and the past and present history of Aotearoa New Zealand:

  • New Zealand Government Online Official government portal; provides comprehensive information on Maori culture, history and society.

  • Ministry of Maori Development Run by the Ministry of Maori Affairs; provides comprehensive information on Maori issues.

  • National Library Information on Maori holdings in New Zealand's national library.

  • Te Papa Information on Maori treasures held in the national museum, Te Papa.

  • National Archives Information on the Maori holdings in the New Zealand national archives.

  • New Zealand History
    Popular guide to New Zealand history and culture.

  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds
    Specialist site dealing with the Treaty of Waitangi.

  • New Zealand Encyclopaedia
    Online encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

    Maori website providing links to iwi organisations.

  • Maori Language Commission
    Bi-lingual Maori Language Commission site.

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