Story: He Whakaputanga – Declaration of Independence

Page 2. The contents of the declaration

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Framing the declaration

The declaration was drafted by James Busby, Henry Williams and missionary printer William Colenso.

The declaration that was signed was in Māori, but a translation into English was made. A comparison of the two texts suggests that the English translation was not carefully done. Each article in Māori uses ‘matou’ (us or we) to refer to the confederation of tribes, while in English the first article uses, ‘we’, but the other articles refer to the confederation in the third person (that is, they). No ‘wh’ was used in the declaration (or in the later Treaty of Waitangi) as it had not come into use in Māori orthography.

The full title of the declaration was He w[h]akaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene, Declaration of Independence of New Zealand.

The articles of the declaration

The declaration had four articles.

The first article declared a ‘w[h]enua rangatira’ (independent state), and while declaring ‘rangatiratanga’ (independence) the chiefs called themselves ‘te Wakaminenga o nga Hapu o Nu Tirene’ (the United Tribes of New Zealand).

The second article declared the ‘kingitanga’ (sovereign power) and ‘mana i te w[h]enua’ (authority in the land) to be held by the chiefs of the United Tribes in their collective capacity. It also declared that laws were to be made by huihuinga (congress).

The third article stated that the huihuinga would meet in autumn each year. It would act as a parliament and its role would be to frame laws, dispense justice, preserve peace and good order, and regulate trade. The congress also invited southern tribes (those south of Hauraki) to join the United Tribes.

The fourth article said that a copy of the declaration would be sent to the king of England and thanked him for acknowledging the flag. It also asked for him to be a parent of the infant state.

The declaration was forwarded to King William IV and ultimately recognised by Britain.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'He Whakaputanga – Declaration of Independence - The contents of the declaration', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 July 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 20 Jun 2012