Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day - New Zealand's National Day?

New Zealand's Waitangi Day celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British settlers and the Maori, in 1840, at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Over 500 Maori chiefs signed what is now considered to be New Zealand's founding document. The Treaty is supposed to have granted Maori citizenship and land rights in return for their acceptance of British sovereignty. Unfortunately ever since that historic date the Treaty has been both ignored and argued about. There is considerable variation between the English and Maori versions of the Treaty, and entire academic and political debate has developed what the, relatively short, document means. To this day the New Zealand Parliament has never ratified the Treaty itself, however, it did pass a Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975 which sought to honour the terms of the agreement

Treaty House, Waitangi, New Zealand
Treaty House, Waitangi, New Zealand
Inside the Treaty House, Waitangi
Inside the Treaty House, Waitangi

History of Waitangi Day

The signing of the Treaty was not even commemorated until 1934. Two years earlier the then Governor General, Lord Bledisloe purchased the then run-down Treaty House and gave it to the nation. There were no annual celebrations. It, wasn't until 1972 the Labour government introduced "New Zealand Day" public holiday on the 6 February as New Zealand's National Day. A change of government in 1975 led to the change of name to Waitangi Day, in 1976. To this day the public holiday is not Mondayised if the date falls on a weekend the public holiday is lost by most workers. Waitangi Day has been the focus of many protests by Maori in recent years. The traditional debate at the meeting house is often disrupted and the flag pole has been attacked more than once. For some people, Waitangi Day is a holiday; for many, and especially for Maori, it is the occasion for reflecting on the Treaty. Since the 1970s the style and mood of the commemorations on Waitangi Day have been influenced by the increasingly intense debate surrounding the place of the Treaty in modern New Zealand.

Celebrations of Waitangi Day

Due to the controversy surrounding the Treaty celebrations are not always focussed on Waitangi, Bay of Islands. The Waitangi Marae is controlled by the local iwi (tribe) and debate has raged over issues such as the conflict between female Governor General and Prime Minister and the traditional non-speaking role of women on that marae.

Celebrations at Waitangi often commence the previous day, February 5, at the nearby Te Tii marae, where political dignitaries are welcomed onto the marae and hear speeches from the local iwi. These speeches often deal with the issues of the day, and vigorous and robust debate occurs.

At dawn on Waitangi Day, the Royal New Zealand Navy raises the New Zealand Flag, Union Flag and White Ensign on the flagstaff in the treaty grounds. The ceremonies during the day generally include a church service and cultural displays such as dance and song. Several waka (traditional canoe) and a navy ship also re-enact the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the treaty.

The day closes with the flags being lowered by the Navy in a traditional ceremony. In contrast to celebrations in many other countries, and probably because of the still divisive debate on the relevance of the Treaty, the whole country does not appear to stop and take part in the celebrations - many see it as marred by not just the activists protests, but the media's coverage of events. However given the likelihood of good weather for the day families often celebrate on the beach or the water with a BBQ.

Overseas Celebrations

Kiwis form a great diaspora, thanks to NZ's relatively low pay rates, and the number and variety of working holiday schemes available to them as ex-British colonists. In London, United Kingdom, which has one of the largest New Zealand expatriate populations, a tradition has arisen in recent years to celebrate Waitangi Day. On the closest Saturday to February 6, Kiwis participate in a pub crawl using the London Underground's Circle Line. Although the stated aim is to consume one drink at each of the 27 stops, most participants stop at a handful of stations, usually beginning at Paddington and moving anti-clockwise towards Temple. At 4 p.m., a large-scale haka is performed at Parliament Square as Big Ben marks the hour. Participants wear costumes and sing songs such as "God Defend New Zealand", all of which is in stark contrast to the much more subdued observance of the day in New Zealand itself.

The Haka and the All Blacks

The Author

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since age 7, and has so far,visited over 55 countries. She firmly believes that traveling is too good to be left to the young and you are never too late to start traveling A New Zealander, Lis currently lives in Perth, Australia.

Comments 15 comments

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

We had a caravan park (managers) in norseman and then managed shell service station and sponsered the rugby team. from this garage. We had a ball there having hungi's etc. with the maori's and  the puk....brain gone dead.  Anyway it was the best part of being in norseman.. We travelled to kambalda and Kalgoorlie for games.  It was really great.  I have a lot of time for them.

Like all cultures there are good and bad in all.  Great hub by the way thanks for sharing this with us.


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

Yes there are a heap of NZers in Perth so I imagine even more in the mines! (The towns Eileen mentions are in remote Western Australia for non-Ozzies) As a Pakeha white NZer) if I am overseas at a NZ do we always end up singing Pokarekareana (in Maori) - its the only Maori I know !


eaglegordon profile image

eaglegordon 8 years ago

Kalgoorlie - ah the memories. This is from someone who is a non-Ozzie. I know where it is, been there.

Took the time to visit the Land of Oz for two months. Thinking of starting a hub based on my travels to see the Kiwi and Oz.


Caregiver-007 profile image

Caregiver-007 8 years ago from Florida

Interesting history. I learned some of it with incredible interest from the unique perspective of the man I was told was the spiritual leader of the Maoris. It was late-1990's when he was visiting in Atlanta at my friend's office. Fascinating!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

Lissie

What an informative article on this Holiday. One of my very close friends is a Maori woman who married a white missionary who came to her country in the late 1970's. They migrated soon after their marriage to the US and have lived locally ever since. I have only been educated on their culture through her and her extended family (we are all "cuzzies" you know). I also have a missing relative that migrated from England to New Zealand in the mid-1800's. I plan on posting an article about that soon.... anyway, thanks for all the additional information I learned from your post.


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

ROTFL Doghouse - yes the cuzzie-bro's get all around the place -for those who don't speak "NZild" a cuzzzi-bro is probably related but not necessarily but definitly a good friend - its's a useful term which even the Australian's dont' understand unless they have been hanging with a lot of NZers. I believe there is a large Mormon community in NZ especially amongst Maori.


Miz Molly profile image

Miz Molly 8 years ago from Australia

Kia Ora from Outback NSW!

As a Kiwi, married to a 'True Blue' Aussie farmer, our family celebration of Waitangi Day is sadly non-existent! Your hub was an interesting reminder of my roots.My children love to perform the haka with me, whenever there is a Rugby Union game between the All Blacks & the Wallabies - much to my husband's disgust.At the moment, we are getting ready to celebrate the very larrikin Australia Day, on January 26th. We'll have the bbq, beer, and yabby races. Lots of good cheer and laughs. I'm proud to be an Aus-iwi!


mandybeau profile image

mandybeau 7 years ago

I do not celebrate it, as I view it as blatant racism, racism against the Europeans. You do n ot mention, the usual bad behaviour by admittedly a few maori radicals. Insulting Government etc. Most maoris don't want a bar of it.

Frankly the thing is a digrace, we owe them nothing, they have been settled well and truly, and I keep wondering Where are the Guns Beads and weapons, Now antiques. That the English swapped their so called land for. The ate the original indigenous people along with the moas a huge beautiful bird now extinct.. they are no less european than I am, I have no maori blood whatsoever happily.


JOSH 7 years ago

that was really good info


Tilly Holiday profile image

Tilly Holiday 7 years ago

Waitiangi Day is a grea public holiday, but there is so much controversy around it these days!


Lissie profile image

Lissie 7 years ago from New Zealand Author

Yup the how controversy thing is real old as far as I am concerned - get over it people - white and brown!


Rachel 7 years ago

HI, am on net trying to find out if there are any celebrations happening around Perth for Matariki, (Maori new year) the new moon is around 24th June....haven't found anything yet, maybe you know something I dont!

cheers


Pat 6 years ago

"Over 500 Maori chiefs signed what is now considered to be New Zealand's founding document. The Treaty is supposed to have granted Maori citizenship and land rights in return for their acceptance of British sovereignty."

This statement is utterly wrong and I get very angry when people promote it as accurate, there were 2 treaties signed, one written in English and the other in Maori, the one in Maori was signed by the 500 chiefs and DID NOT CEDE SOVEREIGNTY TO THE BRITISH CROWN. The British cxrown recognized Maori sovereignty over there domains and people, this is the true Treaty!!!!!

The one in English was signed only by 5 chiefs and they were willing to accept the Pakeha terms but when they found out what a pack of liars they were dealing with they went to war...IE Hone Heke!!!!

So please don't perpetrate lies by posting such blatant misinformation!!!


Linkage 6 years ago

regardless where you from Aotearoa weather you Maori or Non Maori the common factor is in most cases you a KIWI as we are known by.

I wasn't around when the treaty was signed by my fore fathers I enjoy the benefits to have the freedom of choice & not subject of what happen in the past I respect of what took place & be liberated of what took place in 1840 We cannot change the Past we can shape our future to have a impacts on others


MOSPEED 5 years ago

woteva da treaty represent it represent da bringing of different cultures an freedom an a democracy for all people to live an enjoy being proud 2 b called a KIWI...like miself wit samoan orgin but a true kiwiiii

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