Treaty of Waitangi 

What is the Treaty of Waitangi?

What is the Waitangi Tribunal?
What is the deadline for new historical Treaty claims?

What is the Treaty of Waitangi?

The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) is an important agreement that was signed by representatives of the British Crown and Māori in 1840. The purpose of the Treaty was to enable the British settlers and the Māori people to live together in New Zealand under a common set of laws or agreements. The Treaty aimed to protect the rights of Māori to keep their land, forests, fisheries and treasures while handing over sovereignty to the English.

The document
  • recognises that Māori occupied New Zealand before British settlement
  • promises to protect Māori culture and to enable Māori to continue living in New Zealand as Māori
  • gives the Crown the right to govern and establish laws in the interests of all New Zealanders and to develop British settlement
  • gives Māori the same rights and status as British citizens
One version of the Treaty was written in Māori and one in English and these two versions of the Treaty can be interpreted to mean different things.  There is still debate to this day over how to interpret the documents.

The Treaty of Waitangi is considered to be the country’s founding document and central to New Zealand law.

Go to the website of the Waitangi Tribunal for more information about the Treaty of Waitangi, including the meaning and principles of the Treaty. You'll also find the Māori and English language versions of the Treaty text.

What is the Waitangi Tribunal?

The Waitangi Tribunal was established by Parliament in 1975.  The Tribunal provides Māori with a legal process for the investigation of their claims as Māori to their rights under the Treaty of Waitangi – such as their rights to natural resources like land and forests.  Once the Tribunal has investigated a claim, it then makes recommendations for how the claim could be resolved.  In this way, the Tribunal process is an important part of the reconciliation of outstanding issues between Māori and non-Māori (or Pakeha).     

The Waitangi Tribunal is made up of a chairperson and up to 20 other people.  Members of the Tribunal are chosen for their knowledge and experience.  Approximately half of the members are Māori and half are non-Māori.  They are appointed by the Governor-General (What does the Governor-General do?) on the recommendation of the Minister of Māori Affairs and in consultation with the Minister of Justice.  Members are appointed for terms of up to three years.    

Source: Waitangi Tribunal website.

What is the deadline for Treaty claims?

A deadline of 1 September 2008 for historical claims was established in 2006. Since this deadline has now passed, the Tribunal cannot register any new historical Treaty claims or any historical amendments to current claims.  Historical claims are claims which relate to events that happened before 21 September 1992.  For more information, go to the Waitangi Tribunal website.