The Declaration of Independence

New Zealand flag 1834
Flag chosen in March 1834 by 25 chiefs

February 6, Waitangi Day 2011  is the day that representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, Northland. The Treaty formed the foundation of a new nation and saw New Zealand become part of the British Empire.

Part of the lead-up to the signing of the Treaty was a document that was circulated and signed five years prior. That document was called the Declaration of Independence and was commissioned by James Busby (who was appointed by the British Government to his position in order to protect British trade interests) in reaction to activity from other countries on New Zealand shores, notably France and America. It was at this time that Maori chose the British to negotiate with – in response to French brutality – as a way of managing the newcomers and ensuring that they to behave according to tikanga.

The Declaration maintained that full sovereign power was with rangatira (chiefs). It was signed at Waitangi with northern rangatira and this was later extended to southern rangatira. The Declaration was made an official document in 1846 and outlines the legislative authority request of the rangatira which was also implicit in the Treaty.

For more information on the Declaration and the Treaty, a really helpful website to look at is Network Waitangi Otautahi. They are a non-profit organisation dedicated to education around the Treaty. You can also read the declaration in English and Maori on

Brush up on your NZ history skills and read what the library website has on Waitangi Day events.
Read our Waitangi Factsheet for a quick refresher of our National day.
See what is happening locally to celebrate Waitangi Day.
At your local library you will see more information and images  on display about Waitangi day.

2 thoughts on “The Declaration of Independence

  1. Richard Greenaway 4 February 2011 / 5:41 pm

    Could you be precise about the French brutality?

  2. CharlieBean 6 February 2011 / 8:18 pm

    There was a massacre of 250 Maori in 1772 in retaliation for the killing of Captain Marion du Fresne and his crew.

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