Historic move of New Zealand’s iconic documents

Three of New Zealand’s most precious constitutional documents were moved to a new location in a unique ceremonial procession in Wellington overnight.

The 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi and 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine were moved from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga to the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa in preparation for the opening of He Tohu, the new permanent national exhibition of these iconic documents.

The development of He Tohu has been done in partnership between Crown and Māori, with today’s historic move of the documents a reflection of that partnership.

The Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs and the manawhenua iwi were joined for the ceremony by guests with strong connections to the documents, including iwi Māori, women with links to the Women’s Suffrage Petition, and staff at Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand.

“This ceremony is a unique event in the history of this country, as it marks a new stage in the life of these three precious documents,” Minister Dunne said.

“The new He Tohu exhibition will mean these taonga are accessible to more New Zealanders and visitors and enable greater engagement with these important documents, and the important events in our history that they reflect.”

The three documents were moved under tight security and strict archival conditions. In addition to the safe and secure transfer of the documents by Archives New Zealand, the move was of particular significance to Māori, representing a significant tikanga event to uplift the mana and tapu elements of these three taonga.

A He Tohu tikanga group of Wellington manawhenua, Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu – who regard themselves as spiritual guardians of the declaration and the treaty – and Department of Internal Affairs’ representatives had a lead role in the move process.

The He Tohu exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand offers a stunning new state-of-the-art conservation space and visitor experience.

He Tohu has three objectives:

  • preserving our fragile and invaluable documentary heritage for future generations
  • enhancing learning opportunities for young New Zealanders
  • improving access to these taonga for all New Zealanders and visitors to our country

He Tohu will provide on-site and on-line learning experiences and resources for young New Zealanders, focussing on the history of the documents and their on-going significance to our national life. Visitors will be able to engage with the documents in new and exciting ways thanks to extensive research into the life-stories of the documents’ signatories.

He Tohu is presented by Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand, both of which are part of the Department of Internal Affairs. The documents remain under the guardianship and care of the Chief Archivist and Archives New Zealand.

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