You have to know the past to understand the present - Carl Sagan.

William Hobson arrived in New Zealand on 29 January 1840, tasked with taking possession of New Zealand as a British colony, with the consent of as many Maori chiefs as possible.

Though Hobson had no draft treaty to guide him, he had instructions prepared by James Stephen of the British Colonial Office.

Stephen had a deep commitment to the abolition of slavery, no doubt inspired by his brother-in-law William Wilberforce, a slavery abolitionist.


He was concerned about the negative effects of colonisation on indigenous people, which led to instructions to Hobson before he went to New Zealand.

- All dealings with Maori must be conducted with sincerity, justice, and good faith.

- They must not be permitted to enter into any contracts in which they might be ignorant and unintentional authors of injuries to themselves.

- You will not purchase from them any territory that would be essential, or highly conducive, to their own comfort, safety or subsistence.

James Stephen's instructions would set the foundations for the Treaty of Waitangi and mould New Zealand forever.

New Zealand history is littered with examples of a treaty ignored.

Chief Justice Sir James Prendergast, Attorney-General from 1865 to 1875, and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court until 1899 labelled Maori as "savages".

He influenced decision-making on Treaty issues, denying Maori rights and at one time saying that they were "incapable . . . of assuming the rights . . . of a civilised community," calling the Treaty a "simple nullity".

One man who stood up for the Treaty partnership was James Fitzgerald, a member of Parliament and a humanitarian.

In 1863 New Zealand Premier Sir George Grey and Sir William Fox made an argument for the New Zealand Settlements Act.

The title of the Act referred to the intention to introduce new settlers onto the lands, but it somewhat disguised its real purpose, which Treaty analysts say was confiscation.

This law allowed for confiscation of land without compensation from any North Island tribe said to be "in rebellion against Her Majesty's authority".

James Fitzgerald resisted this Act and argued in Parliament that Grey and Fox were not honouring the Treaty of Waitangi, condemning land confiscation as an "enormous crime".

Despite Fitzgerald's efforts, the Act was passed and under its provisions tribes were left virtually landless.

Pakeha settlers occupied the confiscated land.

Pakeha were in the majority by the early 1860s and English became the dominant language.

Despite the Treaty, the Native Schools Act of 1867 suppressed the use of Te Reo in schools and speaking the Maori language was officially discouraged.

There are still people alive today who remember being caned at school for speaking Maori.

Recent research has found that Maori pupils' academic results rise when they learn "as Maori", rooted in their identity through fostering of language and culture.

Maori believed the Maori language was an essential expression and the glue that held together the Maori culture, important for maintaining their pride and identity as a people.

This was recognised, when in 1985 the Waitangi Tribunal found that active protection of the Maori language was a Government responsibility under the Treaty of Waitangi, and that Te Reo was a taonga, or treasure.

Two years later, Te Reo was recognised as a official language in New Zealand.

In 1999 the government took a step toward restoring this taonga.

It announced a comprehensive Maori language strategy, the objective being to increase proficiency and foster an environment in which Maori-English bilingualism is accepted.

On 6 February 1934 the Treaty House and grounds were made a public reserve - this is considered to be the first Waitangi Day.

In 1940, another event was held at the grounds, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Treaty signing.

Annual commemorations of the treaty signing began in 1947 and it became a public holiday in 1963.

In 1975 the government created the Waitangi Tribunal to hear Maori claims of breaches of the Treaty.

The Tribunal concluded that various governments had breached the Treaty on countless occasions since 1840, and that pakeha New Zealand had been built on many broken promises and bad deals.

These conclusions were highly controversial, and a public backlash followed.
The Tribunal continues to make a major contribution to remedying some of the more unsettling aspects of New Zealand's colonial legacy.

Muaupoko iwi and community are holding a local Waitangi Day commemoration at Lake Horowhenua on Tuesday 6 February from 10am to 4pm.

The day will include a kaumatua tent where elders can rest and enjoy tea and biscuits, local musical talent on the main stage, traditional Maori tattooing - ta moko - face painting, candy floss, pony rides and bouncy castles for the kids, and food stalls.

So pack a picnic and head down to share in this free family fun day.