News And Events
Waitangi Day 20226 February 2022
Every year on 6 February, New Zealand marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. In that year, representatives of the British Crown and over 500 Māori chiefs signed what is often considered to be New Zealand’s founding document. The day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and it has been a public holiday since 1974.
In 1932 Governor-General Lord Bledisloe gifted the Treaty House and grounds at Waitangi to the nation. He hoped that the site would become a national memorial, symbolising that the Treaty of Waitangi had initiated a unique relationship between the indigenous and the colonising peoples.
This partnership was reflected in the membership of a trust board set up to develop the property, which would include representatives of descendants of those involved in making the Treaty in 1840. The first board included Kirihi Te Riri Maihi Kawiti as a representative of ther descendants of the northern chiefs of 1840. The partnership was also marked by a decision to build a whare rūnanga to stand near the Treaty House. Northern chief Tau Henare took a leading role in both the trust board and the building project.
In February 1934 Bledisloe's gift was marked by celebrations. A pattern for subsequent events was set. It involved two sites – the Treaty House grounds (where the whare rūnanga would be built) and Te Tii marae close by – several organising bodies (Māori, Pākehā and government), and Bledisloe's prayer that 'the sacred compact made in these waters may be faithfully and honourably kept for all time to come'. A second prayer hoped that the two races might unite as one nation through Christianity – Bledisloe's interpretation of Lieutenant-Governor Hobson's words at the 1840 signing, ‘He iwi tahi tātou’ (Now we are one people).
Up to 10,000 Māori attended the 1934 celebrations. The events had special meaning for many as they looked back to their independent status before the signing of the Treaty: 1834, when northern tribes chose a national flag at Waitangi, and 1835 when they issued a Declaration of Independence.
Moves to commemorate Waitangi Day across New Zealand have expanded in the early 21st century. Functions and events are now held throughout the country. The government has made available funding to assist events and activities that acknowledge the signing of the Treaty.
The Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund has supported dozens of events, ranging from a commemoration of Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson's journey from the Bay of Islands to Mangungu, where the Hokianga signing of the Treaty was held, to community tree planting, hāngi and kapa haka performances on the West Coast. Events supported by the fund celebrate the positive aspects of Waitangi Day – the coming together of the peoples of New Zealand in a Treaty partnership.
Information from www.nzhistory.govt.nz