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New Zealand Law

Treaty of Waitangi 


The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. It was an agreement between the British Crown and a large number of Māori chiefs. Today the Treaty is widely accepted to be a constitutional document that establishes and guides the relationship between the Crown (the Government of New Zealand) and Māori.

The Treaty promised to protect Māori culture and to enable Māori to continue to live in New Zealand as Māori. At the same time, the Treaty gave the Crown the right to govern New Zealand and to represent the interests of all New Zealanders.

Status of the Treaty in New Zealand law is not settled. Currently, Treaty rights can only be judicially enforced if legislation explicitly refers to the Treaty. See more on the Treaty on the Ministry of Justice Treaty of Waitangi website.

An image of the orginal Treaty of Waitangi first signed by the British and Māori on 6 February 1840.

See also:


Waitangi Tribunal 

The Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975 by the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. The Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry charged with making recommendations on claims brought by Māori relating to actions or omissions of the Crown that potentially breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi.

The website of the Tribunal includes:

  •  Reports: the Tribunal's findings and recommendations on claims. The Reports are available in full text from Report 1 in 1978. The database can be searched or browsed.
  • Inquiries: Documents relating to Tribunal inquiries - including statements of claim, briefs of evidence, research reports, directions, and submissions. Completed inquiries can be searched. Current inquiries can be browsed. 

The Te Kāhui Whakatau (Treaty Settlements) negotiates the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, and administers the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. Settlement documents are publicly available on this website.

For more information about Treaty of Waitangi claims and the settlement process, including useful historical information, and the status of the Treaty today, see The Red Book: Healing the Past, Building a Future: a Guide to Treaty of Waitangi claims and Negotiations with the Crown  (2015), available on open access on the Te Kāhui Whakatau (Treaty Settlements) website. 

The following 2013 article on the Waitangi Tribunal is available on open access on SSRN:

SSRN open access articles on the Treaty of Waitangi

Love, Toni, 'Questions Concerning Consultation with Maori: What is Required from a Treaty Perspective?' (2016) Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper.  

Ludbrook, Julian, 'The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi: Their Nature, Their Limits and Their Future' (2014) Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series No. 117/2015. 

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