Home‎ > ‎

1 Treaty of Waitangi simplified

Treaty of Waitangi timeline, drafts, sovereignty

(Colour coded to make it easy to follow the sequence of drafts)

January 30, 1840.
Lieutenant Governor William Hobson arrives in the Bay of Islands and proclaims that no existing land titles in New Zealand would be recognized as valid unless confirmed by the British Government.

February 1.

Hobson begins to draft the Treaty of Waitangi based on instructions from Lord Normanby and texts he had seen in Sydney.

February 2.
Hobson suffers a stroke and is paralysed.

February 3

British Resident James Busby takes over treaty drafting, and creates a draft dated February 3 that has the phrases “lands and estates forests fisheries” and “right of pre-emption”.

February 4
After consultation with Hobson, Busby creates another treaty draft dated February 4 that has no reference to “lands and estates forests fisheries” and “right of pre-emption”. Reverend Henry Williams and his son Edward translate this final draft into the Maori language. The Tiriti o Waitangi (The Maori text) was the only Treaty authorised by Hobson to be signed by the chiefs.

February 5.
Hobson reads the treaty in English and Henry Williams reads the treaty in Maori to the gathering of 2000 people. The chiefs discuss it with Hobson for five hours then well into the night with the missionaries and decide it is to their advantage to sign the next morning.

February 6
Forty-three chiefs sign the Tiriti o Waitangi at Waitangi. In total, 512 chief sign the treaty between February 6 and June 3, 1840.

February 8

Hobson’s secretary James Stuart Freeman sends an ornate-style treaty text that resembles the February 3 draft (above), including the phrases “lands and estates forests fisheries” and “right of pre-emption” to New South Wales governor Sir George Gipps. (This text is misleadingly called the official English text.) The differences between the two texts have been exploited to use treaty “principles” instead of the exact text of the treaty as authority to transfer wealth, assets and rights to Maori, and in doing so is dividing New Zealand along racial faultlines.)

February 20
U.S. Consul James Clendon sends to the United States a transcription of the Busby February 4 document plus a copy of Te Tiriti with a covering letter that mentioned the word “translation”.

39 chiefs signed the 'Freeman' official English text at Port Waikato and Manukau as an overflow because the Tiriti o Waitangi at Waitangi was full and no other copies available.

May 21

Hobson proclaimed sovereignty over the North Island on May 21, 1840, on the grounds of cession by treaty.

June 5.

Major Thomas Bunbury and Captain Joseph Nias R.N. proclaimed sovereignty over Stewart Island on the basis of Cook’s discovery

June 17

Major Thomas Bunbury and Captain Joseph Nias R.N. proclaimed sovereignty over the South Island on June 17, at Port Underwood, on the basis of cession

July 20.

France accepts British Sovereignty

August 7

The New South Wales Continuance Act, which pronounced the Islands of New Zealand to be a British Colony, was passed in Britain.

November 16.
Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter enacted the Colony of New Zealand, established a legislative council, an executive council and the courts, and granted certain powers and authority to the Governor. New Zealand became independent of New South Wales under the watchful eye of the British Parliament.

May 24, 1841

Hobson presides over the first sitting of the Legislative Council. He cites the Charter dated November 16 as the authority for him to assume the position of governor and commander in chief and to appoint an executive council.

February 27, 1989

Littlewood draft/document was found in South Auckland. This text is either the original draft or a copy of the original February 4 draft and is in Busby's handwriting. There are just three words and a date in this text that differ from the Maori language text that was signed by 473 chiefs. Only 39 signed an English text and that was because no Maori texts were available at the time.

Read full Littlewood text here


David Round, a law lecturer at the University of Canterbury and author of Truth or Treaty? Commonsense Questions about the Treaty of Waitangi , notes that “all the treaty actually says is that the Queen is sovereign and Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects , including possession of property. That is all, in both English and Maori versions. Since then, moreover, the Queen and her successors have exercised sovereignty for over one and a half centuries”.