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The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are situated at Waitangi, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand.
The Waitangi Treaty complex is New Zealand's pre-eminent historic site. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi (The Treaty) was first signed between Maori and the British Crown on 6 February 1840, and has been the site of subsequent annual commemorations of the signing.
The Waitangi National Trust Estate comprises 507 hectares, lying between the lower tidal reaches of the Waitangi River and the coastline running north to Wairoa Bay. The Estate was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the then Governor-General Lord Bledisloe and Lady Bledisloe in 1932. It is administered by the Waitangi National Trust Board whose members represent various sections of New Zealand people. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds historical precinct itself occupies 4.8 hectares within the eastern end of the estate, and includes the Treaty House, the Whare Runanga and the historic naval flagstaff. The Maori waka, Ngatoki Matawhaorua is situated close by. There are extensive park-like grounds containing native birdlife, trees and heritage gardens.
The key cultural heritage elements of the proposed Waitangi World Heritage site are:
The Treaty House: The original British Residency was erected in 1833-34 for Resident James Busby and his family. It was the scene of meetings to set up an independent Maori government, resulting in a Declaration of Independence in 1835. In 1840 the grounds in front of the house were the scene of discussions leading to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Most of the Residency was pre-cut in Sydney of Australian hardwood, and then shipped to the Bay of Islands. It is New Zealand's very earliest pre-cut building. The house underwent various additions and alterations over time, including a major restoration in 1933 and more recent conservation work in 1989/90.
Te Whare Runanga: The Whare Runanga was built in 1939 and opened during the Treaty of Waitangi Centennial Celebrations in 1940.
Waitangi flagstaff: The flagstaff marks the approximate spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840.
Ngatoki Matawhaorua: This 35-m Maori waka (canoe), built for the New Zealand centennial in 1940, bears the name of the voyaging waka in which the legendary explorer Kupe visited Aotearoa. (The waka house is situated just outside the core heritage precinct but is closely linked with it.)
The main historical features of the precinct area have a high degree of integrity and authenticity even though some have been modified over time. The overall setting and character of the precinct are very evocative of the crucial 1840s period. The Treaty House has undergone a series of alterations over many years. The original dwelling was a single-storey Georgian style building. It was altered and enlarged in the 1840s.
Prior to 1932 the grounds and Treaty House had fallen into disrepair. However, after the purchase of the house and grounds and the establishment of the Waitangi National Trust Board, the site was progressively rehabilitated and the Treaty House restored and extended.
The 1933 restoration added new elements that were not fully authentic. Nevertheless, the basic style and character of the house remained.
During the 1989 restoration project, the 1930's interior restoration materials were removed and all the surviving original 1833 structure uncovered. The Whare Runanga remains as built in 1939 and is entirely original.
The historic precinct has a high degree of protection through its governing legislation, the Waitangi National Trust Board Act 1932 and its status as a National Reserve under the Reserves Act 1977.
Waitangi is unique among New Zealand's key historic sites. Its protection and management arrangements also give it a unique status.