Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand
|Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand|
He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni
The first page of the Declaration.
|Created||28 October 1835|
|Author(s)||James Busby and 35 northern Māori chiefs (including Tāmati Wāka Nene and Bay of Islands brothers; Te Wharerahi, Rewa, and Moka Te Kainga-mataa)|
|Signatories||United Tribes of New Zealand|
|Purpose||Proclaimed the sovereign independence of New Zealand|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
The Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand (Māori: He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni), signed by a number of Māori chiefs in 1835, proclaimed the sovereign independence of New Zealand prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Background and signing
In 1834, James Busby, the official British Resident in New Zealand, drafted a document known as the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, which he and 34 northern Māori chiefs—including Tāmati Wāka Nene, Tītore and Bay of Islands brothers; Te Wharerahi, Rewa, and Moka Te Kainga-mataa—signed at Waitangi on 28 October 1835. By 1839, 52 chiefs had signed.
In the process of signing, the chiefs established themselves as representing a confederation under the title of the "United Tribes of New Zealand". Missionaries Henry Williams and George Clarke translated the Declaration and signed as witnesses; merchants James Clendon and Gilbert Mair also signed as witnesses.
The Declaration arose in response to concerns over the lawlessness of British subjects in New Zealand, and in response to a fear that France would declare sovereignty over the islands. At this time a Frenchman, Charles de Thierry—who titled himself 'Charles, Baron de Tierry, Sovereign Chief of New Zealand and King of Nuku Hiva' (in the Marquesas Islands)—was seeking to establish a colony on a 16,000-hectare (40,000-acre) plot of land he claimed to have purchased in the Hokianga. The document also arose from movements in Māori society. From 1816 onwards, a number of Northern Māori chiefs had made visits to the colonies in New South Wales and Norfolk Island, as well as to England, leading to discussions about unifying the tribes and the formation of a Māori government. Māori had become involved in international trade and owned trading ships. In 1834, the chiefs had selected a flag for use on ships originating from New Zealand.
The need for a flag of New Zealand first became clear when the merchant ship the Sir George Murray, built in the Hokianga, was seized by customs officials in the port of Sydney. The ship had been sailing without a flag—a violation of British navigation laws. New Zealand was not a colony at the time and had no flag. The ship's detainment reportedly aroused indignation among the Māori population. Unless a flag was selected, ships would continue to be seized. The flag, amended slightly when officially gazetted, became the first distinctively New Zealand flag. As late as 1900 it was still being used to depict New Zealand, and it appeared on the South African War Medal which was issued to New Zealand soldiers of the Boer War and was inscribed with the phrase "Success to New Zealand Contingent 1899–1900". The unamended version of the flag, with eight-pointed stars and black fimbriation, is still widely used by Māori groups.
The hereditary chiefs and heads of the tribes of the northern parts of New Zealand declared the constitution of an independent state. They agreed to meet in Waitangi each year to frame laws, and invited the southern tribes of New Zealand to "lay aside their private animosities" and join them.
Explanation of the Māori text
The Māori text of the Declaration was made by the tino rangatira (hereditary chiefs) of the northern part of New Zealand and uses the term Rangatiratanga to mean independence, declaring the country a whenua Rangatira (independent state) to be known as The United Tribes of New Zealand (Te Wakaminenga o nga Hapu o Nu Tireni).[note 1]
The translation of the second paragraph is "that all sovereign power and authority in the land" ("Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana i te w[h]enua") should "reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary chiefs and heads of tribes in their collective capacity", expressed as the United Tribes of New Zealand.
The terms Kingitanga and mana were used in claiming sovereignty of the state to the assembly of the hereditary chiefs, and it was also declared that no government (kawanatanga) would exist except by persons appointed by the assembly of hereditary chiefs.
The impacts of the Declaration
The signatories sent a copy of the document to King William IV (who reigned from 1830 to 1837), asking him to act as the protector of the new state. The King had previously acknowledged the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and now recognised the Declaration in a letter from Lord Glenelg (British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies), following consideration of the Declaration by the House of Lords, dated 25 May 1836.
It read, in part:
|“||I have received a letter from Mr. Busby, enclosing a copy of a Declaration made by the chiefs of the Northern parts of New Zealand, setting forth the Independence of their country, and declaring the Union of their respective tribes into one State, under the designation of The United Tribes of New Zealand.
I perceive that the chiefs at the same time came to the resolution to send a copy of their Declaration to His Majesty, to thank him for his acknowledgment of their Flag, and to entreat that, in return for the friendship and protection which they have shown, and are prepared to show, to such British subjects as have settled in their country or resorted to its shores for the purposes of trade, His Majesty will continue to be the parent of their infant State, and its Protector from all attempts on its independence.
With reference to the desire which the chiefs have expressed on this occasion to maintain a good understanding with His Majesty's subjects, it will be proper that they should be assured, in His Majesty's name, that He will not fail to avail himself of every opportunity of showing his goodwill, and of affording to those chiefs such support and protection as may be consistent with a due regard to the just rights of others, and to the interests of His Majesty's subjects.
|— Lord Glenelg, in a letter to Major-General Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales, 25 May 1836.|
The Declaration was not well received by the Colonial Office, and it was decided that a new policy for New Zealand was needed as a corrective.
It is notable that the Treaty of Waitangi was made between the British Crown and "the chiefs of the United Tribes of New Zealand" in recognition of their independent sovereignty.
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There is some debate as to whether the Declaration had any legal effect in New Zealand. Most legal commentators argue that the claim to independence lasted only until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. In 2010 the Ngāpuhi iwi (tribe) in Northland requested that the Waitangi Tribunal rule on whether the tribe had in fact relinquished sovereignty in 1840 when they signed the Treaty. Historian Paul Moon has stated that the tribe is unlikely to be able to take the claim much further because "the tribe has misunderstood how treaties work."
Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi guarantees to the chiefs their continued chieftainship, and ownership of their lands and treasures (taonga). It also specifies that Māori could sell land only to the Crown. Most New Zealanders consider the Treaty of Waitangi to be the nation's founding document, with formal sovereignty vested in the British Crown (the Crown in Right of New Zealand from 1947), but the existence of different versions of the Treaty, in both Māori and English, and its brevity, leave this subject to arguments over the preferred interpretation.
But de facto, the federation of independent tribes became subsumed into a new political body after 1840, regardless of the legality or legitimacy of this process. Thus, the Treaty of Waitangi voided the Declaration for all practical purposes; it is the Treaty, rather than the Declaration, that provides the legal foundation of claims for the redress of historical wrongs. For this reason, constitutional lawyers regard the Declaration as a historical document that no longer has legal force.
Ngāpuhi Waitangi Tribunal claim (Te Paparahi o te Raki inquiry)
In 2010 the Waitangi Tribunal began hearing Ngāpuhi's claim that sovereignty was not ceded in their signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tribunal, in their Te Paparahi o te Raki inquiry (Wai 1040) is in the process of considering the Māori and Crown understandings of the Declaration and the Treaty. This aspect of the inquiry raises issues as to the nature of sovereignty and whether the Māori signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi intended to transfer sovereignty.
Many of the arguments used are outlined in Paul Moon's book Te Ara Ki Te Tiriti: The Path to the Treaty of Waitangi (2003), which argued that not only did the Māori signatories have no intention of transferring sovereignty, but that at the time the British government and James Busby did not wish to acquire it and that the developments and justifications leading to the present state were later developments. It is estimated that the hearings will last between 4 and 6 years, and may stand as a precedent for all iwi if the Tribunal recognises Ngāpuhi sovereignty. A common Ngāpuhi interpretation of the Declaration of the United Tribes is that the British government was simply recognising Māori independence and putting the world on notice, merely re-asserting sovereignty that had existed "from time immemorial".
The first stage of the report was released in November 2014, and found that Māori chiefs never agreed to give up their sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Tribunal manager Julie Tangaere said at the report's release to the Ngapuhi claimants:
|“||"Your tupuna [ancestors] did not give away their mana at Waitangi, at Waimate, at Mangungu. They did not cede their sovereignty. This is the truth you have been waiting a long time to hear."||”|
The second stage of the report will be written up after final submissions are received in May 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand.|
- It should be noted that throughout the document the usual use of "wh" is largely replaced by "w" — a spelling indicative of the document having been largely created by iwi from the western North Island. This is most notable in the use of the term "wakaputanga" (rather than the more common "whakaputanga") in the title.
- Scholefield, G. (1930). Captain William Hobson. pp. 202–203.(Instructions from Lord Normanby to Captain Hobson – dated 14 August 1839).
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- Biography of chief Moka Te Kainga-mataa, signatory to the Declaration