1 Oct 2008

Free entry to Waitangi Treaty grounds

7:59 pm on 1 October 2008

New Zealanders can now visit the Waitangi Treaty grounds free of charge, but overseas visitors will still have to pay.

The Treaty of Waitangi is considered to be New Zealand's founding document. It was signed at Waitangi on 6 February, 1840.

As of 1 October, the Waitangi National Trust has wiped the entry fee of $12 for New Zealanders. Overseas visitors will pay $20 for two days' access to the grounds. In 1937, the admission charge to visit the Treaty grounds was one shilling.

At a ceremony on Wednesday morning, former All Black Sid Going was the first New Zealander to officially enter the grounds free of charge.

The Trust was criticised last year by Labour MP Shane Jones for charging people to visit the site known as the birthplace of the nation.

The Trust says it has wanted to make entry to Waitangi free for years, but it receives no Government funding and it has taken time to build up finances.

Mr Jones, of Northland, says he is glad the tariff has been removed, but says the Trust should now re-examine its plans for a new visitor and conference centre at Waitangi, which he describes as a monstrosity.

Plans for the visitor centre are with the Far North District Council awaiting resource consent.