The little town of Waitangi looms large in New Zealand’s national psyche. It was here in 1840 that the famous Treaty of Waitangi was signed by local Maori chiefs and representatives of Queen Victoria.
The Waitangi Treaty recognized Maori ownership of the land and promised equality as British subjects. However, the exact wording of the treaty has been disputed over the years and the annual Waitangi Day commemorations attract a mixed bag of celebration and protest.
All this history and more is explained at the Waitangi National Reserve, including audiovisual displays at the nearby visitor information center and colonial-style Treaty House, which features a facsimile of the treaty.
A must on every visitor to New Zealand’s list, the reserve hosts displays of singing and dancing, including the fearsome haka war dance. There are Maori guided tours of the nearby meeting house, garden tours and sound light shows.