22 Apr 2017

'These are living documents for all New Zealanders'

3:00 pm on 22 April 2017

One of the country's most treasured documents, Treaty of Waitangi, has been moved to a new home amid tight security in the early hours of this morning.

The 177-year-old document, along with the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the Women's Suffrage Petition, was shifted from Archives New Zealand to the National Library in Wellington.

A pūtātara sounded in the still, 4am air outside the Archives building to mark the start of the documents' journey from their home of 27 years to their new whare.

Treaty of Waitangi

Treaty of Waitangi Photo: RNZ - Aaron Smale

1893 Women's Suffrage Petition

1893 Women's Suffrage Petition Photo: Supplied

Archives staff carried the three fragile documents - each in a specially prepared crate - out of the building and into a waiting truck.

From there, four warriors led the truck down the road 200m to the library with elders from iwi nationwide following behind, voicing a karakia.

The archives team walked with the truck on its short journey, along with a crowd of invited guest.

After the three documents were safely unloaded, they were welcomed into the National Library and a service of thanksgiving was held, followed by a whakatau.

The documents will be part of a new permanent exhibition at the library. He Tohu.

The speakers at the ceremony thanked Archives staff for the care they gave to the three taonga, but there were also challenges.

Speakers asked the government to fully honour the treaty and to remind people that the promise of equality for women that the Women's Suffrage Petition embodied was not yet a reality.

At the National Library, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said they were important national historical documents, but they were also far more than that.

"These are living documents for all New Zealanders. They are not just wrapped in the tide of history. They are for now and for the future."

The Chief archivist, Marilyn Little, was relieved that everything had gone well.

"It was an incredibly complex operation to plan and execute because it's not every day that you are moving three completely irreplaceable and priceless archival documents. And we have moved them safely."

The Treaty of Waitangi documents' fragility can be seen here in this close-up photo of the main sheet's seal.

The Treaty of Waitangi documents' fragility can be seen here in this close-up photo of the main sheet's seal. Photo: Anna Whitehead

Hundreds of iwi travelled to Wellington from around the country and one of those in the Ngāpuhi contingent was Anne Phillips.

"I felt very moved. It shows the meanings of the documents and they've done everything they could in a very meaningful and spiritual way," she said.

With the formalities over the documents were moved into a secure room, where they will stay until the new permanent exhibition opens on 19 May.

Part of the procession escorting the documents to the National Library of New Zealand.

Part of the procession escorting the documents to the National Library of New Zealand. Photo: Department of Internal Affairs

Archives New Zealand staff carry the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand - He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni - into the National Library of New Zealand.

Archives New Zealand staff carry the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand - He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni - into the National Library of New Zealand. Photo: Department of Internal Affairs

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