Happy Waitangi Day to all New Zealanders!
Waitangi Day is New Zealand’s national day. It is a holiday held annually on February 6th to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – New Zealand’s founding document – on February 6th 1840.
The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British citizens.
The treaty was signed in Waitangi, a town in the Bay of Islands, by a group of Maori chiefs and the British Government, as represented by Lieutenant-Governor Hobson.
The day was first officially commemorated in 1934 and in 1957, Waitangi Day was proposed as a public holiday by the New Zealand Labour Party in their party manifesto. After Labour won the election they were reluctant to create a new public holiday. Instead, the Waitangi Day Act was passed in 1960 which made it possible for a local region to substitute Waitangi Day as an alternative to an existing public holiday.
The Treaty governs the relationship between Māori – the tangata whenua (indigenous people) – and everyone else, and ensures the rights of both Māori and Pakeha (non-Māori) are protected. It does that by:
- Accepting that Māori iwi (tribes) have the right to organize themselves, protect their way of life and to control the resources they own
- Requiring the Government to act reasonably and in good faith towards Māori
- Making the Government responsible for helping to address grievances
- Establishing equality and the principle that all New Zealanders are equal under the law.
The Māori language – Te Reo – is now an official language alongside English and New Zealand Sign Language. Increasingly, the names of places and organisations (particularly government departments) are written in both English and Māori. You will hear Te Reo all around you, including on television and radio and in the workplace.
Waitangi Day 2021
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern helps cook breakfast on the national holiday, which celebrates the signing of the treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 by Māori chiefs and the British Crown.
This years Dawn Service was a little different from previous years, due to concerns around Covid-19. Around 2500 people joined the service which was held outside the Whare Runanga on the marae atea at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. There were a lower than expected number of attendees at the dawn service this year, but it was filled with karakia, korero, and katakata. So what is the significance of the timing of such as service – why is it held at dawn? We spoke to the Bishop of Te Taitokerau, the Right Reverand Te Kitohi Pikaahu.
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