Story: Self-government and independence

Declaration of Independence

On 28 October 1835 the official British Resident (a representative of the British Government) James Busby convinced 34 northern Māori chiefs to sign a Declaration of Independence at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. The move was partly prompted by fears that Frenchman Baron de Thierry was about to proclaim himself sovereign leader of New Zealand.

The declaration consisted of four sections. The first declared the Independent State of the United Tribes of New Zealand. The second proclaimed that sovereign power rested in the hereditary chiefs and tribal heads and no other legislative power would exist. The third section stated that chiefs would meet annually to make laws for peace and order of the country, and the fourth requested that the king of England protect the state from attacks on its independence.

A total of 52 chiefs signed the declaration. It was superseded by the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which led to New Zealand becoming a British colony.

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How to cite this page:

W. David McIntyre, 'Self-government and independence - Crown colony', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 May 2022)

Story by W. David McIntyre, published 20 Jun 2012