Three of New Zealand's most precious constitutional documents have a new home.

The iconic documents of 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 in a ceremonial procession in Wellington last night.

The papers were at Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga but have been moved to the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.

The move is in preparation for the opening of He Tohu, the new permanent national exhibition of the iconic documents.


The development of He Tohu is in partnership between Crown and Māori, with the 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.

Special guests included iwi Māori and women with links to the Women's Suffrage Petition.

"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 Treaty of Waitangi. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library
The Treaty of Waitangi. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

"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.

The He Tohu exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand will offer a new state-of-the-art visitor experience, Dunn said.

It's purpose is to preserve New Zealand's fragile and invaluable documentary heritage for future generations, teach young New Zealanders and improve access to these taonga for all New Zealanders and visitors to our country.


Visitors will be able to learn more about the documents because of 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.

He Tohu opens at the National Library of New Zealand on May 20.