We might be a very peaceful country now but back in our early years New Zealand was a lawless nation, so much so that the capital at that time, Russell (up in the Bay of Islands) was known as “the hell hole of the Pacific.” These days it’s a pretty seaside village of charming colonial buildings and historical sites (we would even go so far as to say it’s one of our favourite places in the country; and many of our tours go there!)
But, back then, a group of Maori tribes had become sick of being cheated and stolen from by large numbers of immigrants, so their chiefs lobbied King William IV to start protecting and recognizing their tribes. After talks between Maori and British, a treaty was written in English and then translated to Maori. The treaty gave the British crown rule over New Zealand, and, in return, let the Maori keep their land, titles and right to sell their land. It also made Maori and British equal citizens. On 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the Queen’s representatives and 500 Maori chiefs in total went on to sign the treaty.
Plenty of controversy, due to a heap of translation issues, has broken out since then: the brutal land wars of the 1840s resulted in a massive loss of lives for both the Maori and British. They also meant most of the country’s most breath-taking New Zealand scenery fell into British hands. In 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was created and a number of crimes against Maori tribes have now been compensated, with a number still being disputed to this day.
Today, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds - the place where the most important document in New Zealand history was signed – is an awesome place to visit. It is also a piece of prime real estate with million dollar views over the Bay of Islands. We reckon you would be missing out if you came to New Zealand but didn’t visit Waitangi, so plenty of our tours visit this place as well.