Historic Place Category 1
Te Ti A Pt Allots 8-13 16 18 21 23 Waitangi Psh Blks III IV
Far North District
The Treaty House is one of the most symbolically important buildings in New Zealand, being closely associated with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi - New Zealand's founding document. It was originally constructed in 1833-1834 as a family dwelling for James Busby (1801-1871), who had arrived from New South Wales with responsibility for overseeing official British interests in the Bay of Islands region. Largely prefabricated in Australia, the modest timber building was erected in an elevated spot, from where trade and other activity in the Bay of Islands could be surveyed. Waitangi, which had been suggested as a suitable location for Busby's residency by northern Maori chiefs at a meeting in May 1833, was located a short distance from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) station at Paihia as well as several Maori settlements. The house saw important negotiations between Maori and the British Crown, including early attempts to establish an independent Maori government. The Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand first raised a flag on the residency lawn in 1834, and issued a Declaration of Independence there the following year. With the decision of the British government to become more formally involved in New Zealand affairs, Busby was instrumental in drafting an agreement between Maori and the Crown, which became known as the Treaty of Waitangi. Maori from around the region discussed the Treaty extensively on the grounds of the residency before a signing ceremony was held in front of the house on 6 February 1840. The Treaty was subsequently taken around the country for other Maori to sign, formally establishing New Zealand as a British colony.
The dwelling has been significantly altered over the years, but was originally a single-storeyed structure of Georgian style. It was designed by the Colonial Architect of New South Wales, Ambrose Hallen, who modified plans for a more ambitious structure commissioned by Busby from the fashionable Sydney architect, John Verge. Made largely from Australian hardwoods, the house contained two moderate-sized rooms, a wide central hall and a front verandah, while a detached block to the rear incorporated a kitchen and servants' room made of native timber. Although Busby considered the house to be small for someone of his station, it was of better quality than most other Pakeha dwellings in the region. The building contained further rooms in a rear lean-to, constructed prior to 1840, and was considerably enlarged in the following decade with the addition of two wings. It was part of a changing landscape that included plantings of early vines. The house was occupied by British officers during the first New Zealand - or Northern - War (1845-1846), and eventually sold by the Busby family in 1882. Its importance as a national symbol dates largely from 1932, when Lord Bledisloe (1867-1958), then Governor-General of New Zealand, and his wife gifted the house and its grounds to the country. This event affirmed colonial links with Britain as well as a growing sense of national identity. The structure was heavily modified in 1933 by the architect W. H. Gummer, during one of the earliest major state restorations of a historic building in the country. It was altered to more accurately reflect aspects of its early form in 1989-1990, in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the Treaty.
The Treaty House is of national and international importance for its connections with New Zealand's creation as a nation state. It is particularly significant for its association with many of the major political events in early colonial New Zealand history, leading up to and including the Treaty of Waitangi. It is symbolically valuable to both Maori and Pakeha for its links with the aims and aspirations of the Treaty, including bicultural rights. The Treaty itself is internationally significant as a compact between indigenous peoples and the major colonial power of its day. The structure is significant as one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Zealand and its earliest imported dwelling. It embodies early colonial ties with Britain and New South Wales, and has links with a range of prominent personalities in New Zealand and Australasian history, including James Busby, Hone Heke (?-1850), Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Lord Bledisloe. The building is significant for being the first house purchased as a state monument in New Zealand, and its associations with New Zealand's perceptions of nationhood continue. It is important for its connections with early introductions of new flora and fauna, particularly with the history of viticulture. The building has considerable value for its association with a broader historical and archaeological landscape, which includes Maori settlements, early colonial plantings and wahi tapu sites. Its importance is enhanced by its proximity to other places of great historical and cultural importance, including the Whare Rununga at Waitangi, and the Waitangi Treaty Monument at nearby Paihia.
Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building is associated with buried archaeological deposits and other elements in the cultural landscape, including historic plantings.
- Original Construction: 1833 (circa) - 1834 (circa)
- Addition - Lean-to at rear, either an addition or original: pre-1840
- Addition: 1840 (circa) - 1841 (circa)
- Addition: 1846 - 1847
- Modification: 1905
- Addition - Lean-to on north front: post-1912
- Addition: 1933 (circa)
- Modification: 1989 (circa) - 1990 (circa)
- Aidan Challis, 'The Waitangi Treaty House: A Preliminary Analysis', Wellington, 1988 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
- Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners, 'The Treaty House, Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand: Conservation Analysis and Draft Conservation Policy', Sydney, 1989 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
- R. McComb, 'Restoration of the Treaty House, Waitangi, B.O.I., 1933', Papatoetoe, 1965
- Martin McLean, 'The Garden Of New Zealand': A History of the Waitangi Treaty House and Grounds from Pre-European Times to the Present', D.O.C. Science and Research Report No.76, Wellington, 1990
- Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, Wellington, 1987
- Frances Porter (ed.) Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island (2nd edn.), Auckland, 1983
- Peter Shaw, Waitangi, Napier 1992
The Treaty House is part of a cultural site considered to be a high priority for immediate world heritage listing and which has been included on New Zealand's Tentative World Heritage List.
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