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Waitangi Day Commemorations

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 6 February 1980

The Honourable Duncan MacIntyre; The Right Honourable Mr Rowling; The Right Honourable Michael Somare; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; Sir James Henare; Sir Hepi te Heu Heu; the Reverend Browning; Ministers of the Crown and Members of Parliament; members of the Diplomatic Corps; chiefs and elders of our Mori people; officers and men of the Navy; the haka party and entertainers; ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.

Waitangi Day commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6th February 1840 - 140 years ago.

Today is also New Zealand's national day. Probably no other annual event in New Zealand rivals the pageantry, spectacle and historic significance of this occasion.

One hundred and forty years ago 46 Mori chiefs gathered in this place to discuss their future. They decided to accept British law, British rule and protection and the rights and privileges of British subjects.

By that act they declared their hopes and aspirations for the future way of life in New Zealand.

This great Treaty was signed by Captain William Hobson for the Crown and eventually by 512 Mori chiefs.

With the signing of this Treaty, a far reaching decision was made. New Zealand became a nation, and entered the British Empire - or as it is now known - the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Treaty of Waitangi has been the basis of the subsequent sound development of our country.

Let us always remember that the real significance of Waitangi Day lies, not so much in its commemoration of the declaration of British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand, as in its symbolising the equality between Mori and Pakeha living side by side, with each respecting the contributions the other is making towards the enrichment of our nation.

Generally speaking, New Zealand is internationally well regarded for the harmony between its two peoples. This union has been fostered by the tradition of respect and admiration that Mori and Pakeha have for each other.

A union fostered in schools, work, on sporting fields, and in war. We all know that the progress of race relations in New Zealand has at times encountered periods of difficulty and stress. In the early years of New Zealand's history there were many differences which led to local wars and much mis-understanding.

Some traces of these differences still exist today and this leaves no room for complacency in our approach to race relationship in the future.

We remember that the spirit of Waitangi which was nearly lost during this time was re-established in 1932.

[Lord Bledisloe] wanted it to remain as a hallowed place, as the birthplace of our nation.

In this year, 1980, there are some who would criticise the Treaty and the celebration of this day. Some, both Mori and Pakeha, say that the Waitangi Treaty is not relevant to people today.

It is a matter for us all to regret that the worthy principles laid down 140 years ago have not always been lived up to.

Indeed, there are always likely to be some problems to work through in an effort to bring greater understanding and cohesion to Mori and Pakeha relationships, but it would be a tragedy for the Treaty of Waitangi to be tarnished by differences that we may hold today, - differences which often can so easily be settled by a little common sense.

As we look into the future we must realise afresh that it is up to all New Zealanders - both Mori and Pakeha - to make sure that our relations are based on the principles of Justice, Equality and Racial Harmony, the seeds of which were sewn here 140 years ago.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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