Signing the treaty 178 years ago
Today, April 10, is a significant date in the history of Tauranga. It’s largely unknown and unrecognised that one of the nine Treaty of Waitangi sheets was signed here on this day in 1840.
Local author Debbie McCauley has spent three years researching, writing and editing the story of that part of our history, culminating today in the launch of the book titled ‘The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga: Te Tiriti o Waitangi ki Tauranga Moana’.
At his home at Te Papa Mission Station, 178 years ago today, Alfred Brown wrote in his journal “My Brethren who are assembled at Tauranga to hold a committee, gave up the day to procuring signatures of the Natives to the Government treaty”.
The property, now known as The Elms Te Papa Tauranga, was the obvious choice for the launch of the book, with Elms manager Andrew Gregg welcoming visitors onto the front lawn of the property.
Starting at 10am, various speakers recounted stories from the last two centuries, with a play and waiatas presented, before everyone gathered for refreshments afterwards.
Children from the Rumaki unit at Brookfield School re-enacted the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga. Narrated by Hineata Palmer, the children were Viika-Jo Elvin, Kirihaehae Tukaokao-Seymour, Jakob Pearson, Taiawatea Matika, Hinewairua MacDonald and Herepete Bidois who were all warriors; also Tupuarangi Pearson as missionary James Stack who witnessed the signatures, and Tiana-Lee Ringi-Tata acting the part of a British sailor.
Waiatas were sung.
The Treaty had arrived in Tauranga in late March of 1840, delivered by Henry Williams. As Debbie outlined at the launch of her book today, at the time, attacks from outside iwi during the Musket Wars had halved the Maori population.
On the day prior to that first Treaty signing, a local chief attending ‘peace talks’ in Maketu was murdered.
“The Treaty carried with it the promise of protection and justice under British law,” says Debbie. “Little wonder it caught the attention of local Maori.
“Two years after the signings, four signatories died when a taua, a war party, attached Ongare Pa in Katikati. The attacking chief was from Thames and had not signed the Treaty. He boasted that British justice did not apply to him. When the government failed to act and bring justice to Tauranga Maori, they protested, saying ‘It cannot be right to have one law for crimes against the Europeans and a different one for the same crime when the Natives are the sufferers.’
The launch was held on the northern lawn of The Elms Te Papa Tauranga.
“Because of the ongoing war in Tauranga, in 1843 the Colonial Office rules that British law, and the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, applied even to those chiefs and their tribes who did not sign,” says Debbie. “That was a hugely significant development.”
Buddy Mikaere spoke about how the Treaty provides us with the foundation to ensure a fair deal for everyone. Buddy worked as a director for the Waitangi Tribunal, starting in 1990 and going on to provide facilitation and consultancy work for major corporate clients as they applied the Treaty of Waitangi to their fields.
Local Kaumatua Puhirake Ihaka, who has Ngati Tapu and Ngai Te Rangi iwi affiliations, spoke about the Waitangi Tribunal hearing 20 claims from local Tauranga Moana iwi in 1997, and how the Treaty affects us today.
The event was also attended by Tauranga’s Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, and Councillors Terry Molloy and Catherine Stewart. Part way through the proceedings, umbrellas provided by The Elms staff came out to protect the audience from two passing showers of rain.
Debbie thanked illustrator Whare Thompson, and translator Tamati Waaka, both of whom wouldn’t be present at the gathering today.
“I could not have completed the book without the support of book designer Sarah Elworthy and encouragement from Buddy Mikaere,” says Debbie. “Also thank you to Creative Bay of Plenty who covered a third of the book’s production costs.”
Debbie feels that learning about The Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi, at school is another small step in our slow journey forward as a country. She believes that if our children or tamariki learn that one of the nine Treaty sheets was signed here, then the significance of the document could be experienced on a deeper level.
Part of the book was read aloud in both English and Maori.
“There are many acknowledgements at the end of the book, because, just like raising a child, it takes a village to help see a book through to completion,” says Debbie. “The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga: Te Tiriti o Waitangi ki Tauranga Moana is long overdue in the telling. I hope I have done the events justice.”
Books will be available for sale through the office at The Elms Te Papa Tauranga, with each sale generating a $5 donation to The Elms.
Children from the Rumaki unit at Brookfield School re-enacted the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga.