Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Posted by Ruth Atherley on June 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

I had a chance to learn more about the Waitangi Treaty Grounds at TRENZ. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds overlook the Bay of Islands and it is New Zealand’s pre-eminent historic site.

It was here on February 6th, 1840, that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori and the British Crown. The Treaty Grounds are part of the 404-hectare (1000-acre) Waitangi National Trust estate, which was gifted to the nation by Lord and Lady Bledisloe in 1932. In the deed of gift, Lord Bledisloe stipulated that the estate was never to be a burden on the taxpayer, and in keeping with this, it is not government funded. The estate is administered by the Waitangi National Trust Board, whose members represent various sections of New Zealand people.

Features of the Treaty Grounds include:

  • The Treaty House – Built for the first British Resident, James Busby and his family. It is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most visited historic homes.
  • Te Whare Runanga – Fully carved Maori Meeting House, which is representative of all Iwi (regional tribes) in New Zealand.
  • Ngatokimatawhaorua – One of the world’s largest Maori ceremonial war canoes.
  • The Naval Flagstaff – Marks the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed.
  • Waitangi Visitor Centre – Houses an audio visual show outlining the history of Waitangi and the Bay of Islands. It also showcases live cultural performances.
  • Gift Shop.
  • Artifacts Gallery.

There are a range of activities here, which include guided tours that are most often led by descendants of the people involved in creating and signing the treaty. There are cultural performances, as well as specialized expert guided tours of the Treaty House and garden and historical curator guided tours of the taonga (treasures) of the estate. I have also heard from several people that the Waikokopu Café has fabulous food and seriously good coffee (along with lovely New Zealand wines).

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