Interestingly the request for a Treaty in New Zealand was instigated not by white (“Pakeha”) settlers but by a contingent of Maori who appealed to the British to help them settle continuous infighting amongst Maori tribes.
For more than a decade Missionaries had been encouraging Maori to set up self governance but there was such disagreement and indeed tribal wars between the Chiefs, that Maori were in grave danger of wiping themselves out before settling their disputes.
The website: http://www.treatyofwaitangi.net.nz/WhyaTreaty.html tells us:
After Cook’s three exploratory voyages (commencing) in the 1760′s and the establishment of a British penal colony in Australia, trade and Christianity came to New Zealand.
British, French and American vessels began visiting New Zealand harbours in the late 18th century to refresh and refit.
From the early 1800′s commercial trading started in New Zealand with timber, flax, shore whaling, ship building and general trade with the Maoris and non-Maoris who had established themselves in New Zealand.
By the 1830′s the coast was dotted with trade settlers as well as several missionaries who had also purchased land and set up home.
However, after 1830 purchases of land grew until there were quite large acreages of land owned by non-Maori. By 1839 there were 2000 permanent settlers, 28 onshore fisheries and many commercial ventures in flax, timber and ship building, plus general and domestic trade by non-Maori.
Until 1832 the British or Imperial Government was reluctant to intervene in New Zealand, but as more and more settlers arrived and trade and investments expanded, the British Government felt responsible for her people and their investments as well as the Maori.
They did pass three acts in 1817, 1823 and 1828 in an attempt to bring law and order, but as New Zealand was outside the British Dominion, these were unsuccessful. In 1820, after Hongi had slaughtered many thousands of the Thames Maoris, they requested that Britain afford them protection.
By the early 1830′s trade between New Zealand had become so intense that there could be up to 30 ships at anchor and 1000 seamen on shore at any one time but still no law to control them or the Maori.
The 1828 Act did empower the courts to deal with crimes by British subjects but these had to be heard in Sydney and therefore it was difficult to get all parties together at the same time.
While British interests and investments continued to increase and become predominant at the time, French and American activity was also on the increase. This worried the British as they were beginning to build up large capital investments in New Zealand but with no protection if New Zealand were to be annexed by another nation.
Many events sparked off Maori appeals to Britain for protection. The first in 1831 when it was rumoured that the French naval vessel La Favourite intended to annex New Zealand to France in retaliation for the killing of Marion du Fresne and his crew.
The Maoris even discussed a letter to the King but decided on placing a British flag on the mission flagstaff, reasoning that if the French tore it down, the missionaries would appeal to Britain for protection.
After this 13 powerful northern chiefs sent a letter to the King asking him to become their friend, guardian and protector of these islands.
Captain William Hobson was charged with the mission of instigating a Treaty in New Zealand and after a lengthy consultation with Governor George Gipps in Australia, he arrived in New Zealand aboard HMS Herald on the 29th of February 1840, fully briefed on what the Treaty must say.
On the 5th and 6th of February 1840 he landed at the place now known as Hobson’s Beach (first photo) and walked up to the Treaty grounds to negotiate the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori Chiefs. There were more than 500 Maori present and this flagpole designates the spot where they met for the formal negotiations.
It’s also the spot where from 1934 New Zealanders hold the official Waitangi Day ceremonies.