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Treaty of Waitangi
|Date:||6 February 1840|
|Sub Category:||Treaty (International)|
|Location:||Waitangi, Aotearoa - New Zealand|
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|The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. The Treaty was initially signed by Captain William Hobson and several English residents, on behalf of the Crown, and approximately 45 Maori chiefs. The document was then taken to other Northland locations to obtain additional Maori signatures and was later copied and distributed throughout the country to collect further signatures. The process took approximately six months. Of the 579 chiefs who signed, only 39 signed the English version of the Treaty.|
The purposes of the Treaty were to 'protect Maori interests, to promote the settlers' interests in acquiring land and to secure the Crown's position in New Zealand' (Nettheim, Meyers and Craig, 123).
The Treaty was brief and was prepared in both English and Maori. Translated by a missionary, Henry Williams and his son, it was believed that there was no exact Maori equivalent of some of the English words. Consequently, discrepancies existed between the meanings of the two versions of the Treaty. These semantic differences have resulted in considerable controversy in the interpretation of the Treaty and application of the treaty principles (Nettheim, Meyers and Craig, 123). Many believe that Maori understanding of the Treaty was at odds with what they were actually signing.
The Treaty was intended by the Maori to require the British Crown to fulfill the function of governorship to preserve law and order between Maori and Pakeha (European Settlers), to protect Maori trade, and to guarantee Maori control of land and other resources. These intentions were made clear in the Maori text of the Treaty which gave limited rights of governorship to the Crown. In contrast, the English version gave full sovereignty to the British Crown.
Settlers became prominent in New Zealand from 1800. Until the 1830s the official British policy towards New Zealand was one of reluctance to formally intervene. However, in 1831, a petition was sent to King William IV from 13 Maori chiefs and the missionary, Samuel Marsden, requesting that he become a 'friend and guardian of these islands'. The petition outlined their concerns of takeovers from other nations and asked that Maori people be protected from the misconduct of the British people who had come to New Zealand. The lawlessness of the British subjects was becoming distressing and included the murders of a Maori chief and his family in the South Island. Partly for humanitarian reasons, but primarily to protect British trade interests, the British Government appointed James Busby to act as British Resident in New Zealand. He arrived in May 1833 and set up residency at Waitangi, with the idea of establishing an Independent Maori government.
In 1835, Busby called the Maori chiefs together to sign the Declaration of Independence which stated that sovereign power and authority would reside in the hereditary chiefs, and that Britain would be the parent of their independent state, protecting it from all threats to its independence.
By the late 1830s the misconduct of the British settlers was still out of control, and speculative land purchases of dubious legality were taking place around the country. In 1838, the more law-abiding settlers, traders and missionaries petitioned the Crown for more effective government in New Zealand. Primarily to protect their trade and economic interest in New Zealand, the British finally accepted calls for colonisation and sent Lieutenant Governor William Hobson to New Zealand with instructions to acquire sovereignty. However, because Britain had recognised Maori rights in the Declaration of Independence, and this was binding on the faith of the Crown, no claim could be made on New Zealand without Maori agreement. Consequently, the Treaty of Waitangi was conceived.
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