Take in a major site in New Zealand's history at the northern end of Paihia. Inside the visitor center a 23-minute video (shown from 9 to 10, noon to 1, and 3 to 6) sketches the events that led to the Treaty of Waitangi. Interspersed between the three rounds of video screenings is a half-hour kapa haka, a live Māori cultural performance. The center also displays Māori artifacts and weapons, including a musket that belonged to Hone Heke Pokai, the first Māori chief to sign the treaty. After his initial enthusiasm for British rule, Hone Heke was quickly disillusioned, and less than five years later he attacked the British in their stronghold at Russell. From the visitor center, follow a short track (trail) through the forest to Ngatoki Matawhaorua (ng-ga-to-ki ma-ta-fa-oh-roo-ah), a Māori war canoe. This huge kauri canoe, capable of carrying 80 paddlers and 55 passengers, is named after the vessel in which Kupe, the Polynesian navigator, is said to have
discovered New Zealand. It was built in 1940 to mark the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty House in Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a simple white-timber cottage. The interior is fascinating, especially the back, where exposed walls demonstrate the difficulties that early administrators faced—such as an acute shortage of bricks (since an insufficient number had been shipped from New South Wales, as Australia was known at the time) with which to finish the walls.
The Treaty House was prefabricated in New South Wales for British Resident James Busby, who arrived in New Zealand in 1832. Busby had been appointed to protect British commerce and put an end to the brutalities of the whaling captains against the Māori, but he lacked the judicial authority and the force of arms necessary to impose peace. On one occasion, unable to resolve a dispute between Māori tribes, Busby was forced to shelter the wounded of one side in his house. While tattooed warriors screamed war chants outside the windows, one of the Māori sheltered Busby's infant daughter, Sarah, in his cloak.
The real significance of the Treaty House lies in the events that took place here on February 6, 1840, the day the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Māori chiefs and Captain William Hobson, representing the British crown. The Treaty House has not always received the care its significance merits. When Lord Bledisloe, New Zealand's governor-general between 1930 and 1935, bought the house and presented it to the nation in 1932, it was being used as a shelter for sheep.
Whare Runanga (fah-ray roo-nang-ah) is a traditional meetinghouse with elaborate Māori carvings inside. The house is on the northern boundary of Waitangi Treaty Grounds. For NZ$10, you can take an hour-long guided tour of the Treaty Grounds.