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Treaty trail

The Treaty hits the road

Over forty rangatira (chiefs) signed the Treaty at Waitangi, among them many who had signed the Declaration of Independence. Their agreement was important, but Hobson wanted a lot more signatures so he could confidently claim British sovereignty over New Zealand.

To get those signatures, he took the Treaty on the road.

First to the north

Hobson headed to Hokianga, where most of the rangatira were experienced at negotiating business agreements with timber traders and settlers. Many there were suspicious of Hobson and his Treaty.

Some were concerned about how the Treaty would affect trade and commerce with settlers. Others, like Te Taonui, had visited Sydney and seen how badly the Aborigines fared from British treatment. But, after much debate, many Hokianga rangatira signed. And over the following months other rangatira in the Bay of Islands and at Kaitaia signed.

Then to the south

Hobson now travelled south. However, in March he had a stroke at Waitemata Harbour and returned to the north to recover.

One of his officials, two army men, and several missionaries now took over the task of getting signatures. Several copies of the Treaty were written out. Each negotiator took a different copy, and a different path. Some rangatira signed quickly, others took a while to be convinced, and a number refused to sign.

Enlarge image Rangi Topeora, who was one of around twelve women to sign the Treaty

Oil on canvas by Gottfried Lindauer, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr H E Partridge 1915

Women who signed

Rangi Topeora, who signed the Treaty at Kapiti in May 1840, was one of around twelve women to sign. The British missionaries circulating the Treaty accepted some senior women's signatures, including Ereonora at Kaitaia and Ana Hamu at the Bay of Islands.

Enlarge image Taraia Ngakuti Te Tumuhuia was one of several rangatira who declined to sign the Treaty

Photograph 186072, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: PA2-2820)

Saying 'no'

Taraia Ngakuti Te Tumuhuia, a Ngāti Tamaterā leader in the Thames area, was one of several rangatira who declined to sign the Treaty. Others included Ngāi Te Rangi leader Tupaea of Tauranga, Te Wherowhero of Waikato-Tainui, and Mananui Te Heuheu of Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Some were not prepared to compromise their independence, while others could see no benefit in the Treaty.

Enlarge image Proclamation of sovereignty, 1840

Proclamation of sovereignty, 1840. Hobson proclaimed sovereignty over all of New Zealand on 21 May, while copies of the Treaty were still circulating. New Zealand was a dependency of New South Wales until November 1840, when it became a separate colony. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: F81956 1/20)

Jumping the gun?

While the Treaty was still making the rounds of the country, the newly arrived English settlers at Port Nicholson – today Wellington – started setting up their own, unauthorised government.

William Hobson, the only person with the right to set up a British colony in New Zealand, was alarmed. As Lieutenant Governor, he quickly proclaimed British sovereignty over the whole country in May.

That month, he sent Police Magistrate Willoughby Shortland to the Port Nicholson settlement to read the proclamation, and demand allegiance to the Crown.

Enlarge image A sketch of the feast in Hokianga

A haka of fifteen hundred men opened a massive feast to celebrate the Treaty signing in the Hokianga. Around three thousand Māori feasted on pork, potatoes, rice, and sugar. Gifts of blankets and tobacco were distributed. Sketch by Richard Taylor, 1840, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington , (Ref:E-296-Q-169-3)

Gifts given at Treaty signings in the Bay of Plenty

Date Chief Goods Price
Bill of 1 July 1840
28 May Opotiki 8lbs tobacco @ 3/- 1.4.0
    12 pipes @ 1/2d .6
15 June Te Kaha 5 fancy pipes @ 2/6 12.6
    1/2lb tobacco 1.6
12 June Torere 2 fancy pipes @ 2/6 5.0
    l/2lb tobacco 1.6
17 June Whakatane 11 fancy pipes 1.17.6
    4 ditto boxes 8.0
    3 looking glasses 4.6
    51bs tobacco 15.0
    4 rows beads 2.0
    1 slate 2.0
      5.4.0

James Fedarb requested payment from Hobson for this bill. It shows the gifts he gave to chiefs who agreed to sign a Treaty copy he took down the Bay of Plenty coast. Freeman to Colenso, 1 July 1840, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington , (Ref: MS COL. 1833-63,IV)

Enlarge image HMS Herald in Sylvan Cove

HMS Herald in Sylvan Cove, Stewart Island, carrying Major Thomas Bunbury who was seeking signatures to a copy of the Treaty in May and June 1840. Drawing by Edward Marsh Williams, 1840, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington , (Ref: A-083-005)

The end of the road

On 3 September 1840 near Kawhia, the last signature was put on a copy of the Treaty. Altogether, over 500 chiefs had signed. Hobson sent the British government copies of the Treaty in Māori and English.

Hobson did not have the signatures of every Māori leader in the country. While some had refused to sign, others hadn't even had the chance – the Treaty hadn't been taken to their region. Hobson, however, didn't draw attention to these shortcomings.

E kore e puta te whanaunga ka rau ngā mahara, rakuraku noa ana.
The relative who considers many thoughts will be left scratching his head.