24 Jan, 2017 A reason to celebrate Waitangi


Views of the Treaty of Waitangi range in NZ from negative to neutral to positive. However, as Christians we should celebrate, not just commemorate, Waitangi Day. Here are two simple reasons.

(By way – if you are a pastor reading this prior to Waitangi weekend, read 2 Samuel 21. This weblink breaks the chapter down nicely here. It would be a great passage to preach from – because it parallels the 1975 / 1985 decisions of our government to ‘endorse’ the Treaty of Waitangi. God takes justice seriously, and agreements seriously)

  1. The Treaty of Waitangi embodied the highest of Christian ideals 

The Treaty of Waitangi is an amazing document.  Because of their  Christian convictions, William Wilberforce and friends battled the slave trade. They finally had success against the slave trade in 1807 (even though many of the  slaves of England located in other nations where they did trade were not freed until 1834 – a day on which more than 700,000 slaves in became free). Following 1807 many involved began to look around for other humanitarian causes to serve. Within a few decades more than 230 charitable societies for various humanitarian purposes had been established. One of the first of these – which connected with our nation, was the Church Missionary Society, established in 1799.

The CMS was established initially to be a little like a ‘police force’ watching over activities of the India Trading Company in India. The desire was to spread not only the gospel, but also Christian justice. Mission work served to give the evangelicals ‘proximity’ to people and problems, which led to increased opportunity to address a wider range of humanitarian issues around the world, including here in New Zealand.

New Zealand was the last of the British colonies, and the missionary hopes were that it would not be colonised. As discussions began in the 1830s regarding opening NZ for limited colonisation (20 years after the first missionaries were first invited here by Māori), missionaries petitioned British parliament against this, citing the disastrous consequences of colonisation for the native peoples of other lands, and pleading for the preservation of the Maori people, their lands, language and culture.

Having failed in this effort, New Zealand was opened up for limited colonisation – following which E.G. Wakefield sent his brother to New Zealand to buy vast amounts of land which they could then on-sell. These were often purchased for very little, with Māori not yet understanding the Western idea of land-ownership. This is where the bold and visionary efforts that resulted in our Treaty of Waitangi came in. Lord Glenelg had been an opponent of E.G. Wakefield’s desires to buy land in NZ for the purposes of colonisation, and worked on a response. As Wakefield’s plans gained momentum, Lord Normanby implemented that response. Captain Hobson, who was known for being a truly uncompromising man, was sent to New Zealand to bring back a report on the condition of the natives. With the report confirming that prompt action was needed, Hobson was considered the most appropriate person for the role. Those involved in this process in England were evangelical Christians, living out their humanitarian convictions. Hobson was commissioned to go on behalf of the British Crown to form a treaty, with a mandate written by Lord Normanby that expressed that the goal was to ‘overt this disaster’ (of colonisation) if possible – but if not ‘to mitigate it’.

If you read the Treaty – realising that native peoples in other nations had not been afforded these same protections before – you’ll see how amazing it is. Our Treaty embodies Christian ideals, and is an amazing agreement!

  • To note it – Maori were in some senses the first instigators of the treaty. In 1831 a group of chiefs had sent a letter to England requesting intervention, due to the unruly behaviour of many of the Europeans here. From 1835 and He Whakputanga (The Declaration of Independence) Māori together were recognised as the sovereigns in New Zealand. From that point onwards the British Government could not intervene without their invitation. A significant influx of Europeans, combined with the bad behaviour of some of these Europeans, precipitated what followed.


 2. Our government’s endorsing of the Treaty a decade following Dame Whina Cooper’s march to Parliament in 1975, was an act of courageous justice

In 1975, the Government declared that all future grievances regarding Māori land were to be investigated. This was a starting point. A decade later, in  1985, the government declared that all claims of injustice dating back to 1840 could be investigated. This was a very big decision, and an incredibly rare thing to happen – with entirety of human history in view!

Throughout most of history, if one people group took another people group’s land – that was the end of the story. But not so in New Zealand! Our culture has a clear concept of justice. This came from Christian influence, which had informed our national values. Our system of law is, for example, based on the 10 Commandments. For this reason, injustice is not something to ignore, but  to stand against. The end does not justify the means – as in socialism or other worldly approaches to justice and ‘good’. Establishing the Waitangi Tribunal was a bold, but also Godly and right thing to do.

The unjust confiscation of millions upon millions of hectares of land from Māori – sometimes for a crime no worse than trying to stand today this land was being unjustly taken, resulted in punishments by way of the confiscation of even more land. The Māori land court – established it was claimed to help Māori, became yet another means of taking land. Sometimes the legal costs charged were greater than the land involved – in which case the land was forfeit as a consequence of Māori having engaging in the process to gain verifiable titles to their lands. It was unbelievably unjust!

For our Government to endorse the Treaty was always going to be troublesome. How to do you put crimes committed 130 years earlier right – and especially when it involves vast areas of land now occupied by others?

Our government had the courage to take on that challenge. This is God-honouring, and worthy of a standing ovation!

A Biblical president

A Biblical president is found in 2 Samuel 21. An agreement made generations earlier with the Gibeonite people was not being honoured – and so God’s favour was removed from the land. King David sought the Lord and this was revealed. He put things right and Gods favour returned to the land.

This is what our government did in 1975 – and it was as a righteous act! The significant difference is that the Gibeonites had gained their original agreement through deception, while Māori did not. Yet God still expected Israel to honour the agreement that had been made. How much more-so our Treaty!

A concluding perspective

We can be proud of what our nation is attempting here – even though the process is difficult and also painful because it digs up old wounds.

For some other perspective that can help, many Iwi and hapu receive back but a very small portion of what was taken. As large as the numbers sometimes sound, the true grace is not in what the Crown gives but in our Māori to receive it. Imagine you own a house worth 5 million dollars – but are forced to sell in a dip in the market and get just $500,000. This is what it is like for Māori. In accepting what is offered they are ‘realising’ significant losses, which have also contributed toward significant pain and breakdown – affecting generations. Our nation is indebted to our Māori for their grace in accepting our nation’s apologies.

A perspective of grace is also needed in recognising that the digging up of old wounds – while a necessary part of a just process, creates a fresh sense of hurt, and the healing of this will take time. It is only natural, therefore, that there are a range of emotions. Healing does take time, before there is eventually a reconciling with a new hope and vision for the future.

We are wise to also recognise and applaud the way our Government is handling this, addressing past injustice without creating new ones by way of land off the people who currently own it. IN most of the dictatorship and Kingdom of our world, including throughout history, it would not have been like this. Even in the way in which all this is being done there is  much to applaud if we look – despite obvious difficulties.

So, – those are my two points. Our Treaty embodied the highest of Christian ideals, and our Governments efforts to honour it are courageous, good and right.

Please give the Treaty some recognition in your church. There is a story here for us to tell.


Credits: Picture extracted with permission from the ‘Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of Waitangi Series’ illustrated history series. www.bigbookpublishing.co.nz



Other blogs by Dave Mann on this general topic

(From oldest to newest)


5 self-print bulletin-booklets for your church 

  • Called ‘Then and Now’ – about outreach and our early bicultural story, to give to church members with the bulletin over a 5 week period here (These booklet also encourager support of the Hope Project – which takes some of these stories to the public square).


An easy-to-read option to educate yourself, elders, children’s and youth leaders – and then all members (children, youth and adults)

  • Consider the illustrated novel series: ‘The Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of  Waitangi Series’. These can be found at BigBook.nz. View a blog with displaying some of its endorsements here.


Waitangi weekend sermon outlines (free)

  • ‘Three Treaties’ (Gibeonites, Waitangi and Jesus) from Dave Mann is (word doc) here, with power point here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Leaving a legacy’ – edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc)  here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Joshua and the Treaty (five treatise)’ –  edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc) here


The Te Reo Pulpit Challenge

DAVE MANN. Dave is an Author and gifted communicator with a passion for the Gospel. This passion started when he came to faith at age 11. After Secondary School he went straight to Bible College, followed by 7 years in outreach ministry in New Zealand, then nearly 9 as a pastor in Singapore, before returning to New Zealand at the end of 2011. Dave is a visionary and fearless about pioneering initiatives aimed at helping the Church in New Zealand in the area of its mission. Author of various books and Tracts including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room” and available free on this site: “The what and how of Youth and Young Adult ministry”.
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