The Treaty of Waitangi trail

Over 40 rangatira 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.

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.

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.

Wahine 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.

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.

Jumping the gun?

Text of the proclamation



IN the Name of Her Majesty VICTORIA, Queen
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland. By WILLIAM HOBSON, Esquire, a
Captain in the Royal Navy, Lieutenant-
Governor in NEW-ZEALAND.

WHEREAS I have it in Command from
Her Majesty Queen VICTORIA, through Her
principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, to assert
the Sovereign Rights of Her Majesty over the
Southern Islands of New-Zealand, commonly called
“The Middle Island” and “Stewart’s Island”;
and, also, the Island, commonly called “The Northern
Island”, the same having been ceded in
Sovereignty to Her Majesty.

Now, therefore, I, WILLIAM HOBSON,
Lieutenant-Governor of New-Zealand, do hereby
proclaim and declare to all men, that from and after
the Date of these Presents, the full Sovereignty of
the Islands of New-Zealand, extending from
Thirty-four Degrees Thirty Minutes North to
Forty-seven Degrees Ten Minutes South Latitude, and
between One Hundred and Sixty-six Degrees Five
Minutes to One Hundred and Seventy-nine Degrees
of East Longitude, vests in Her Majesty
Queen VICTORIA, Her Heirs and Successors
for ever.

Given under my Hand at Government-House, RUSSELL, Bay of Islands, this
Twenty-first day of May, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and



By His Excellency’s Command,

(Signed,) WILLOUGHBY SHORTLAND, Colonial Secretary.


PAIHIA : Printed at the Press of the Church Missionary Society.

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.

Richard Taylor, A view of the feast given by the Governor to the natives at the Huarake Hokianga Capt Macdonalds station Horeke, 1840, pencil and ink. Alexander Turnbull Library (E-296-Q-169-3)

Gifts given at Treaty signings in the Bay of Plenty

Bill of 1 July 1840. 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)

28 MayOpotoki8lbs tobacco @ 3/-
12 pipes @1/2d
15 JuneTe Kaha5 fancy pipes @ 2/6
1/2lb tobacco
12 JuneTorere2 fancy pipes @ 2/6
1/2lb tobacco
17 JuneWhakatane11 fancy pipes
4 ditto boxes
3 looking glasses
51lbs tobacco
4 rows beads
1 slate

The end of the road

Edward Marsh Williams, H.M.S Herald in Sylvan Cove, Stewarts Island, 1840, pencil drawing. Alexander Turnbull Library (A-083-005)

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.


This content was originally written for the Treaty2U website in partnership with National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa and Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o Te Kāwanatanga in 2008, and reviewed in 2020.