Waitangi Day: A Historical New Zealand Public Holiday
On 6-February every year, New Zealanders celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi with a national public holiday. While the laws in New Zealand mean this is a public holiday yay, a day off work! it is also a time of reflection for the controversy that surrounded the document and how this has affected the society New Zealand lives in today.
Waitangi Day gets its name from the name of the treaty document, which in turn got its name from the location in the Bay of Islands where the treaty was signed, which is only a mere 3-minute drive from Paihia.
Although you can celebrate Waitangi Day throughout the country, a great place to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi any time of the year is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds itself. Have a look at the 5 Great Things to Do at Waitangi.
Waitangi Day Fast Facts
- The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed 6-February 1840
- 500 Maori chiefs signed the treaty by the end of 1840
- Waitangi Day became a national public holiday in 1974
- The name has alternated between Waitangi Day and New Zealand Day a couple of times
- The house where the treaty was signed can still be visited today in the Bay of Islands.
What is the Treaty of Waitangi?
Often described as New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi outlines the principles to which Maori chiefs and British officials made a political agreement to form a nation-state and establish a government. It was made and signed to deal with the quickly changing circumstances in New Zealand: that more and more Europeans were acquiring land from the Maori to establish commercial operations. The settling population was rapidly growing, bringing along uncontrolled crime and violence. Plus, the British were feeling the threat of a possible French or USA colonisation in New Zealand. So, essentially, the British wanted to get there first.
The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed 6-February-1840 by representatives of the British Crown and more than 40 Maori chiefs. By September 1840, a further 500 Maori chiefs had signed copies of the treaty, which were sent around New Zealand.
Because of the different understandings of the treaty, which was inaccurately translated from English to te reo Maori, there has been much conflict over the treaty in terms of land possession.
The Treaty was the initial agreement that established British authority, an authority that later moved into the New Zealand Parliament. This is a move that the nation has recognised the importance of ever since, which is currently under investigation under the Waitangi Tribunal.