02-06 NEW ZEALAND - ‘WAITANGI DAY’
1840-02-06 TREATY of WAITANGI
WAITANGI DAY (named after Waitangi, where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed) commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand. It is observed as a public holiday each year on 6 February to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, on that date in 1840. In recent legislation, if 6 February falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the Monday that immediately follows becomes a public holiday.
The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on 6 February 1840, in a marquee in the grounds of James Busby's house (now known as the Treaty house) at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands by representatives acting on behalf of the British Crown and initially, more than 40 Māori chiefs. During the next seven months, copies of the treaty were carried around the country to give other chiefs the opportunity to sign. The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British subjects. There are differences between the English version and the Māori translation of the Treaty, and since 1840 this has led to debate over exactly what was agreed to at Waitangi. Māori have generally seen the Treaty as a sacred pact, while for many years Pākehā (the Māori word for New Zealanders of predominantly European ancestry) ignored it. By the early twentieth century, however, some Pākehā were beginning to see the Treaty as their nation's founding document and a symbol of British humanitarianism. Unlike Māori, Pākehā have generally not seen the Treaty as a document with binding power over the country and its inhabitants. In 1877 Chief Justice James Prendergast declared it to be a 'legal nullity', a position it held until the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, when it regained significant legal standing.
“New Zealand Day”
In 1971 the Labour shadow minister of Māori Affairs, Matiu Rata, introduced a private member's bill to make Waitangi Day a national holiday, to be called New Zealand Day. This was not passed into law. After the 1972 election of the third Labour government under Norman Kirk, it was announced that from 1974 Waitangi Day would be a national holiday known as New Zealand Day. The New Zealand Day Act 1973 was passed in 1973.
For Norman Kirk, the change was simply an acceptance that New Zealand was ready to move towards a broader concept of nationhood. Diplomatic posts had for some years marked the day, and it seemed timely in view of the country's increasing role on the international stage that the national day be known as New Zealand Day. At the 1974 celebrations, the Flag of New Zealand was flown for the first time at the top of the flagstaff at Waitangi, rather than the Union Flag, and a replica of the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand was also flown.
The election of the third National government in 1975 led to the day being renamed Waitangi Day because the new Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, did not like the name "New Zealand Day" and many Māori felt the new name debased the Treaty of Waitangi. Another Waitangi Day Act was passed in 1976 to change the name of the day back to Waitangi Day.