Understanding the Treaty of Waitangi 101

Hinemoa Elder: We should all be familiar with the Treaty of Waitangi, here’s a 101

Much has been made of knowledge of the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. How many of us can recite the preamble and all the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi? I’m thinking not many, if any. How many can recall these in Te Reo Māori, and English, and talk about the differences in interpretation and the inherent cultural clashes?

To manifest a rigorous and mature capacity for fostering a strong, healthy, national identity we need to fully embrace these foundational aspects of our history. The critical thing for me is that, yes it is necessary – but not sufficient – to know the wording of each part of our Treaty.

I don’t think it is necessary to be able to recite the Treaty word for word, but understanding it better is worthwhile.

Treaty of Waitangi – Preamble

English version – British intentions were to:

  • Protect Māori interests from the encroaching British settlement;
  • Provide for British settlement; and
  • Establish a government to maintain peace and order.

Māori version – the Queen’s main promises to Māori were to:

  • Provide a government while securing tribal rangatiratanga and Māori land ownership for as long as they wished to retain it.

Te Tuatahi, article one

Ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa hoki ki hai i uru ki taua wakaminenga ka tuku rawa atu ki te Kuini o Ingarani ake tonu atu – te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua.

The chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or to possess over their respective Territories as the sole sovereigns thereof.

Kawanatanga – Article 1 provides for the Government to govern, though not in isolation from other provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi. The right to govern is qualified by an obligation to protect Māori interests. This aspect of the agreement is further established within the other articles of the Treaty.

Te Tuarua, article two:  

Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangitira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. Otiia ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa atu ka tuku ki te Kuini te hokonga o era wahi wenua e pai ai te tangata nona te Wenua – ki te ritenga o te utu e wakaritea ai e ratou ko te kai hoko e meatia nei e te Kuini hei kai hoko mona.

Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates forests fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.

Tino Rangatiratanga – Article 2 provides for iwi to exercise authority in respect of their own affairs. To some extent, tino rangatiratanga denoted the prerogatives of iwi/hapu in controlling their own affairs including their physical, social cultural resources, within a tribal development context. A characteristic of tino rangatiratanga is iwi autonomy.

Te Tuatoru, article three:  

Hei wakaritenga mai hoki tenei mo te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini – Ka tiakina e te Kuini o Ingarani nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.

In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects.

Oritetanga – Article 3 contains a provision which guarantees equality between Māori individuals and other New Zealanders. As long as socio-economic disparities remain, the provision is not fulfilled.

Additional source: Introduction to the Treaty of Waitangi


  1. Patu

     /  10th February 2019

    In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects.

    Oritetanga – Article 3 contains a provision which guarantees equality between Māori individuals and other New Zealanders. As long as socio-economic disparities remain, the provision is not fulfilled.

    Really? IMHO, that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s illegal in this country to pay someone less for doing the same work based upon their ethnicity or gender. The ‘Jobseekers allowance’ does not vary based upon ethnicity either.

    • Fair point. I think that as long as there is a separate Maori identity then some sort of socio-economic disparities will be able to be found.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  10th February 2019

        I think to suggest that socio-economic disparities mean non-fulfilment of the Treaty is a very big stretch. All societies including so called socialist ones have marked socio-economic ethedisparities.It is quite feasible to argue, for example that a failure by Māori to take advantage of opportunities means they cannot claim such non-fulfilment.

        Taking this argument, to an absurd extreme, you could argue that by nationalisng all property and making everyone have exactly the same housing, incomes, clothing etc you have ensured no disparity. However, such a society if it ever came to pass would quickly disintegrate.
        IMHO arguments such as socio-economic disparity between those claiming Māori ethnicity and the rest of the population is in many,not all, cases used to justify evermore claims often on spurious grounds.
        In addition, within the various Māori iwi there appear to be socio-economic disparities between the tribal leaders and many of the members of the tribe. Therefore, for the above and many other reasons, I find the socio-economic argument without any merit.

    • Griff.

       /  10th February 2019

      The equal rights bestowed by the treaty also include an equal right to fail.

      • PartisanZ

         /  10th February 2019

        I’m going to have to agree with you for once on this minor point …

        Presumably this ‘oritetanga’ or afterthought is Elder’s own, almost like a standard MSM requirement to make an otherwise informative though unremarkable commentary controversial and polarizing …

        “You’ll need to include something to rile up some element of the readership … That’s how you get paid around here Hine”

  2. Ben Waimata

     /  10th February 2019

    Possibly I’m just a bit slow but TOW was a treaty between the reigning Monarch of Britain and the Maori population of a country that was at that time governed from the colony of New South Wales. What was the constitutional change that changed the TOW from it’s original terms to one between the democratic government of NZ and anyone with any Maori DNA? Why is the ‘crown’ part of the deal now the current NZ govt., rather than the current British monarch, or even the state of NSW (who governed NZ at the time?). It seems to me the parties defined in the terms of the TOW as written are being ignored in favour of quite different entities.

    I’m descended from an original TOW signee on the Crowns side (an incompetent fool it appears from his later history), and also have some Maori DNA so I’m not pushing an agenda. This is a genuine question.

    • PartisanZ

       /  10th February 2019

      You’ve got some extensive reading to do Ben …

      Good luck … and God Bless.

      • Ben Waimata

         /  10th February 2019

        Thanks Parti, I’m sure you’re right. I haven’t looked into this since stage 2 history at Otago 30 years ago, and whatever I might have learned then seems to be long gone now. Unfortunately studying it up now doesn’t seem a high priority with other things to do…. Would be nice if someone could do a super-short answer summary of the couple points I mentioned though.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  11th February 2019

      You won’t get an answer, Ben. None of the parties to the sacred Treaty still exist since as soon as it took effect chiefs no longer had the right to speak for and control Maori who had become free British subjects.

  3. Chuck Bird

     /  10th February 2019

    Pete, The heading in the Herald was misleading. I doubt if HDA expected Cindy to recite the Treaty word for word. However, she should have been able to paraphrase its meaning. For example, Article 1 is about sovereignty. Article 2 is about land and property rights. Article 3 is about equality. Her response with prompting was a disgrace. HDA was right. It was GDP all over again. She is an accidental Prime Minister.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th February 2019

    What’s the point of reciting the English version when according to our woke agenda the only one that matters is the Maori version and the only interpretation of that that matters is the most favourable possible to Maori?

    All prostrate before the sacred Treaty.

  5. Chuck Bird

     /  10th February 2019

    Would [Deleted. Use proper names, not derogatory terms – PG] need any prompts to sing the Internationale?

  6. sorethumb

     /  10th February 2019

    Understanding the TOW 101. 1840 100,000 Maori 2000 Europeans.
    1858 parity
    2000’s 15% (including mixed ancestry).
    Forget the TOW. Anything other than equal citizenship is unjust.

  7. David in aus

     /  10th February 2019

    Equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity is communism.