Treaty of Waitangi
(6 February 1840)
A treaty between Maori chiefs and the British government signed at Waitangi, New Zealand. Some 500 local Maori chiefs of the North Island were present and 46 Head Chiefs signed the document drawn up by the governor, recognizing Queen Victoria's sovereignty over New Zealand in return for recognition of the Maori's rangatiratanga (chieftainship) and land rights, and their rights as British subjects. The treaty cleared the way for a declaration of sovereignty on 21 May 1840. Subsequent encroachment on their lands led to the Anglo‐Maori Wars of 1860–72, in which Maori independence was overcome. Since its recognition by New Zealand statutes the treaty has since 1975 assumed new importance as a basis of relations between Maori and non‐Maori New Zealanders. The Waitangi Tribunal was reconvened in 1975 to consider Maori land claims and in 1985 was given authority to settle claims dating from 1840. In 1994 and 1995 the government agreed to pay compensation to certain Maori tribes whose land was seized illegally by settlers.