As the founding document of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi gave Great Britain sovereignty over the country on May 21, 1840. This treaty is a political accord between the British people and the native Maori people. Although not all of the Maori chieftains signed it, the Colonial Office in England declared that the Treaty applied to all of the Māori tribes whose chiefs had not signed. Under the conditions of this treaty, a government would be formed and a nation state created.
This compact between the British and the Maoris was impelled by the threat of French acquisition and the loss of commercial interests. In addition, the agreement would protect the Maoris and regulate the British subjects in the nation's formation. Further, the English version of this treaty contains three articles:
- Maori cedes the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain.
- Maori gives the crown an exclusive right to the lands desired and, thereby, are assured full ownership rights to their forests, land, fisheries, and other possessions. (This article assures the chieftains that they would have shared authority.)
- Maori are given the rights and privileges of British citizens.
The Treaty of Waitangi made New Zealand a British colony, and, thus, a source of new resources and new influence. As with Australia, it added to British control.