Treaty House

Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi

  • Treaty House.
    Copyright: Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Antilived. Date: 28/01/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 6 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


City/District Council

Far North District


Northland Region

Legal description

Te Ti A Pt Allots 8-13 16 18 21 23 Waitangi Psh Blks III IV


The Treaty House is one of the most symbolically important buildings in New Zealand, being closely associated with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi - New Zealand's founding document. It was originally constructed in 1833-1834 as a family dwelling for James Busby (1801-1871), who had arrived from New South Wales with responsibility for overseeing official British interests in the Bay of Islands region. Largely prefabricated in Australia, the modest timber building was erected in an elevated spot, from where trade and other activity in the Bay of Islands could be surveyed. Waitangi, which had been suggested as a suitable location for Busby's residency by northern Maori chiefs at a meeting in May 1833, was located a short distance from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) station at Paihia as well as several Maori settlements. The house saw important negotiations between Maori and the British Crown, including early attempts to establish an independent Maori government. The Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand first raised a flag on the residency lawn in 1834, and issued a Declaration of Independence there the following year. With the decision of the British government to become more formally involved in New Zealand affairs, Busby was instrumental in drafting an agreement between Maori and the Crown, which became known as the Treaty of Waitangi. Maori from around the region discussed the Treaty extensively on the grounds of the residency before a signing ceremony was held in front of the house on 6 February 1840. The Treaty was subsequently taken around the country for other Maori to sign, formally establishing New Zealand as a British colony.

The dwelling has been significantly altered over the years, but was originally a single-storeyed structure of Georgian style. It was designed by the Colonial Architect of New South Wales, Ambrose Hallen, who modified plans for a more ambitious structure commissioned by Busby from the fashionable Sydney architect, John Verge. Made largely from Australian hardwoods, the house contained two moderate-sized rooms, a wide central hall and a front verandah, while a detached block to the rear incorporated a kitchen and servants' room made of native timber. Although Busby considered the house to be small for someone of his station, it was of better quality than most other Pakeha dwellings in the region. The building contained further rooms in a rear lean-to, constructed prior to 1840, and was considerably enlarged in the following decade with the addition of two wings. It was part of a changing landscape that included plantings of early vines. The house was occupied by British officers during the first New Zealand - or Northern - War (1845-1846), and eventually sold by the Busby family in 1882. Its importance as a national symbol dates largely from 1932, when Lord Bledisloe (1867-1958), then Governor-General of New Zealand, and his wife gifted the house and its grounds to the country. This event affirmed colonial links with Britain as well as a growing sense of national identity. The structure was heavily modified in 1933 by the architect W. H. Gummer, during one of the earliest major state restorations of a historic building in the country. It was altered to more accurately reflect aspects of its early form in 1989-1990, in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the Treaty.

The Treaty House is of national and international importance for its connections with New Zealand's creation as a nation state. It is particularly significant for its association with many of the major political events in early colonial New Zealand history, leading up to and including the Treaty of Waitangi. It is symbolically valuable to both Maori and Pakeha for its links with the aims and aspirations of the Treaty, including bicultural rights. The Treaty itself is internationally significant as a compact between indigenous peoples and the major colonial power of its day. The structure is significant as one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Zealand and its earliest imported dwelling. It embodies early colonial ties with Britain and New South Wales, and has links with a range of prominent personalities in New Zealand and Australasian history, including James Busby, Hone Heke (?-1850), Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Lord Bledisloe. The building is significant for being the first house purchased as a state monument in New Zealand, and its associations with New Zealand's perceptions of nationhood continue. It is important for its connections with early introductions of new flora and fauna, and particularly with the history of viticulture. The building has considerable value for its association with a broader historical and archaeological landscape, which includes Maori settlements, early colonial plantings and wahi tapu sites. Its importance is enhanced by its proximity to other places of great historical and cultural importance, including the Whare Runanga at Waitangi, and the Waitangi Treaty Monument at nearby Paihia.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Gummer, William Henry

Gummer (1884-1966) was articled to W.A. Holman, an Auckland architect, and qualified as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1910. From 1908 to 1913 he travelled in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. During this time he worked for Edwin Lutyens, a leading English architect of the time, and for Daniel Burnham in Chicago. Burnham was a major American architect and one of the founders of the influential Chicago School of Architecture.

Gummer joined the firm of Hoggard and Prouse of Auckland and Wellington in 1913. Significant commissions undertaken during this period included the New Zealand Insurance (later known as the Guardian Trust) Building, Auckland (1914-18).

In 1923 Gummer, one of the most outstanding architects working in New Zealand in the first half of the twentieth century, joined with Charles Reginald Ford (1880-1972) to create an architectural partnership of national significance. The practice was responsible for the design of the Dilworth Building (1926), Auckland, the Dominion Museum (1936) and the State Insurance Building (1940), both Wellington. Gummer and Ford were awarded Gold Medals by the New Zealand Institute of Architects for their designs of the Auckland Railway Station and Remuera Library.

Gummer was also responsible for the Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch and the Cenotaph in Dunedin (1927), and the stylistically and structurally advanced Tauroa (1916), Craggy Range (1919), Arden (1926) and Te Mata (1935) homesteads at Havelock North. Elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1914, he was president of the Institute from 1933-4 and was later elected a life member.

Hallen, Ambrose

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Verge, John

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building is associated with buried archaeological deposits and other elements in the cultural landscape, including historic plantings.

Completion Date

12th December 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Challis, 1988

Aidan Challis, 'The Waitangi Treaty House: A Preliminary Analysis', Wellington, 1988 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Lucas, 1989

Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners, 'The Treaty House, Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand: Conservation Analysis and Draft Conservation Policy', Sydney, 1989 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

McComb, 1965

R. McComb, 'Restoration of the Treaty House, Waitangi, B.O.I., 1933', Papatoetoe, 1965

McLean, 1990

Martin McLean, 'The Garden Of New Zealand': A History of the Waitangi Treaty House and Grounds from Pre-European Times to the Present', D.O.C. Science and Research Report No.76, Wellington, 1990

Orange, 1987

Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, Wellington, 1987

Shaw, 1992

Peter Shaw, Waitangi, Napier 1992

Porter, 1983 (2)

Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island (2nd edn.), Auckland, 1983

The Treaty House is part of a cultural site considered to be a high priority for immediate world heritage listing and which has been included on New Zealand's Tentative World Heritage List.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.