Treaty of Waitangi: New Zealand’s Founding Instrument

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 by the British Crown (the colonising power) and Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand). The colonial authorities had insisted that the Crown would not acquire New Zealand as a British territory without the free consent of Maori. The pact entered into at Waitangi established a bicultural State that gave legitimacy to the British Crown in New Zealand. The Treaty has remained in the national consciousness. It has not been consigned to history but is a living instrument, symbolising the struggles that shape the national character. This paper records the changing attitudes towards the Treaty since 1840. From its inception, it was solemnly upheld. Then, it was dismissed as a “mere nullity” and languished for over 100 years. From there, It underwent a renaissance; it now stands at the forefront of national life,directing dialogue between Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders.