Treaty of Waitangi

What migrants should know about the Treaty of Waitangi

Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand known as tangata whenua) agreed to share their country – Aotearoa”/New Zealand – with all other people who wish to come and settle in New Zealand. 

The Agreement known as Treaty of Waitangi was the 1st immigration document that provides for the lawful migration and settlement of all other people at New Zealand.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands in the North Island of New Zealand. It was signed by tribal chiefs on behalf of Maori and by representatives of the Queen of England. The Treaty contained provisions protecting the rights and interests of Maori and those who later on would come to New Zealand.

These people from all over the world who later arrived in New Zealand are “US”, Migrants- the ultimate beneficiaries of the Treaty.

To commemorate the signing of the Treaty, 6th February of every year is a national holiday.

The Treaty is in English and Maori but there are differing interpretations of what the Treaty means. To date, the controversy remains and the Treaty is a major item for intellectual and academic discussion.

As migrants we have the responsibility to know, to value and appreciate Maori history, culture, language, traditions and keep them alive as these People of the Land shared their country with us, allowed our participation in the economic development and entitlement to the benefits of their land. 


More reading about the Treaty of Waitangi 

Key Maori Terms

  • Aotearoa  - Maori term for New Zealand
  • Kia Ora  - Informal way of saying welcome and means Hi
  • Haere Mai – Formal way of saying welcome
  • Te Tiriti – the Treaty
  • Tangata Whenua- people of the land (the Maori)
  • Maori – indigenous people of New Zealand which means “common or ordinary”
  • Pakeha – non Maori or the Europeans (white people or the White New Zealanders) 

Also see 100 Maori words every New Zealander should know at

Our responsibility as New Zealanders

From Shanti Patel (New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils)

“Our greatest responsibility as New Zealanders, old and new, is that we should not let the Maori language and culture die or be marginalised in any way. We should know and treat history of New Zealand and the people who settled here before us with dignity and humility, and celebrate this opportunity to share this beautiful country, which we call home.”