On 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands by representatives of the British Crown and over 40 Māori rangatira (chiefs).
This became New Zealand's founding document built on three key principles:
1. Māori cede governance and sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain.
2. Māori give the Crown the right to buy land, and in return are guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions.
3. Māori have the same rights as British citizens.
The two versions of the Treaty text - English and Māori - differed in interpretation on the principles, and in 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was set up to look at breaches of the Treaty by the Crown. This has since led to significant settlements and the return of assets to Māori by the Crown.
Some of the larger Treaty settlements include Ngāi Tahu, Waikato-Tainui, Sealord (as a part of fisheries settlement) and Central North Island Iwi (forestry). These assets are managed commercially and dividends provide education, social, economic and cultural outcomes for Māori, who make up 15 percent of New Zealand’s population.
Read more about the Treaty of Waitangi on the Waitangi Tribunal website.
6 February is known as 'Waitangi Day' and is celebrated as New Zealand national day.