New Zealand: (1840)
--- Waitangi Day
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840, in a marquee erected in the grounds of James Busby's house (now known as the Treaty house) at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British subjects. There are differences between the English version and the Māori translation of the Treaty, and since 1840 this has led to debate over exactly what was agreed to at Waitangi. Māori have generally seen the Treaty as a sacred pact, while for many years Pākehā (the Māori word for New Zealanders of predominantly European ancestry) ignored it. By the early twentieth century, however, some Pākehā were beginning to see the Treaty as their nation's founding document and a symbol of British humanitarianism. Unlike Māori, Pākehā have generally not seen the Treaty as a document with binding power over the country and its inhabitants. In 1877 Chief Justice James Prendergast declared it to be a 'legal nullity', a position it held until the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, when it regained significant legal standing.
The signing of the treaty was not commemorated until 1934. Prior to that date, most celebrations of New Zealand's founding as a colony were marked on 29 January, the date on which William Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands. In 1932, Governor-General Lord Bledisloe and his wife had purchased and presented to the nation the run-down house of James Busby, where the treaty was signed. The Treaty house and grounds were made a public reserve, which was dedicated on 6 February 1934. This event is considered by some to be the first Waitangi Day, although celebrations were not yet held annually. At the time, it was the most representative meeting of Māori ever held. Attendees included the Maori King and thousands of Pākehā. Some Māori may have also been commemorating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand, but there is little evidence of this. In 1940, another major event was held at the grounds, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the treaty signing. This was less well attended, partially because of the outbreak of World War II and partially because the government had recently offended the Māori King. However the event was still a success and helped raise the profile of the treaty.