Wellington, 7 February 2022 (TDI): Waitangi Day is the national day of New Zealand. It is a nationwide holiday observed annually on February 6th. The day is celebrated to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand on 6th February 1840. However, ever since the change in the Holiday Act in January 2014, if Waitangi Day falls on a weekend, the following Monday will be observed as a holiday.

History of Waitangi Day

The Treaty of Waitangi made New Zealand a part of the British Empire. Besides, it assured Māori rights to their land along with giving the Māori the rights of British citizens.

Waitangi is a town in the Bay of Islands. It is there that the treaty was signed by the British Government and a group of Maori chiefs. Lieutenant-Governor Hobson represented the British Government.

It was at Te Tii marae in February 1840, where Ngāpuhi, the largest Māori iwi tribe hosted roughly 10,000 Māori to discuss the contract for several days. Finally, on February 6th, Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed by about 40 Māori Rangatiras (chiefs) along with the representatives of the British Crown outside the house of the British Government Representative James Busby.

This is the reason that James Busby’s house is now known as Treaty House. Subsequently, 500 Māori chiefs in various locations throughout the country signed the treaty.

The Māori are indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māoris call New Zealand as Aotearoa which means the land of the long white cloud. It is believed that the indigenous people arrived from Polynesian islands sometime before 1300 AD.

Waitangi Day was first proposed as a national holiday by the Labour Party of New Zealand as their manifesto. However, legislation was passed in 1973 to recognize the day as a nationwide public holiday.

Waitangi Day is also known as New Zealand Day. To commemorate the day, the Prime Minister of New Zealand usually visits Waitangi as well as the Treaty House where the Treaty was signed.