Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Waitangi Treaty Grounds information
Occupying a headland draped in lawns and bush, this is NZ's most significant historic site. Here, on 6 February 1840, the first 43 Maori chiefs, after much discussion, signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown; eventually, over 500 chiefs would sign it.
The Treaty House was built in 1832 as the four-room home of British resident James Busby. It's now preserved as a memorial and museum containing displays, including a copy of the treaty. Just across the lawn, the magnificently detailed whare runanga (meeting house) was completed in 1940 to mark the centenary of the treaty. The fine carvings represent the major Maori tribes. Near the cove is the 35m waka taua (war canoe), also built for the centenary. A photographic exhibit details how it was fashioned from gigantic kauri logs.
The importance of the treaty is well understood by a NZ audience, but visitors might find it surprising that there's not more information displayed here about the role it has played in the nation's history: the long litany of breaches by the Crown, the wars and land confiscations that followed, and the protest movement that led to the current process of redress for historic injustices.
International visitors will get more out of what is already quite a pricy admission fee if they pay extra for a guided tour ($10) or cultural performance ($15). The 30-minute performance (11am and 1pm) demonstrates traditional Maori song and dance, including the haka (war dance). The Ultimate Combo (adult/child $40/free) is a combined ticket including tour and performance. Other options include a Maori Cultural Workshop (adult/child $60/35), and a hangi and concert (adult/child $105/50, Wednesday and Saturday December to March) at the Treaty Ground's Whare Waka cafe.
Entry is free to NZ citizens upon presentation of a passport or drivers licence.