Waitangi Day is celebrated every year on the 6 February. It was on this date in 1840 that the first signatures, both British and Māori, were put on the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi).
Following this, the Treaty was taken around New Zealand to be signed by other Māori iwi (tribes) and hapū (sub-tribes) and by September 1840 more than 500 signatures were obtained.
What is the Treaty of Waitangi?
The Treaty is a broad agreement of principles on which to found a new nation state and build a government.
In the English version of the Treaty;
- Māori cede the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain;
- Māori give the Crown an exclusive right to buy lands they wish to sell, and, in return, are guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions;
- and Māori are given the rights and privileges of British subjects.
The Māori version was meant to have the same meaning, however the translation of key words was not correct and there were differences between the understanding of those signing and those negotiating. These differences have led to much debate.
The Treaty of Waitangi takes its name from the place it was first signed – Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands.
Things to do on Waitangi Day
Although Waitangi Day is a public holiday, it wasn’t until 2014 that it was ‘Mondayised’; if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday the following Monday is treated as a public holiday.
There are any number of ways people choose to spend Waitangi Day. Some like to attend an organised event, watch the proceedings from Waitangi on TV, while others just enjoy the day off by relaxing at home, having a BBQ with family and friends, or go to the beach or the marae.