About Waitangi: What Really Happened
Watch Witi Ihimaera and director Peter Burger
talk about Waitangi - What Really Happened on Breakfast
The Treaty Of Waitangi must be the most sacred, revered and talked about document in New Zealand history. But if you ask a New Zealander how it actually came to be written, or who pulled it all together on the day and who was present at the signing, at most two names may be cited: William Hobson and Hone Heke.
Written by Gavin Strawhan (
This Is Not My Life,
Go Girls ), with
novelist Witi Ihimaera as story consultant, Waitangi: What Really
Happened is an entertaining, colourful docu-drama about the days
leading up to and including the signing of the treaty, revealing
the incredible story and the characters behind the treaty's
The premise of the show involves time travelling a reporter to 1840, where he finds a host of colourful characters all playing a vital role in what later became Kiwi history.
He meets: Kawiti (George Henare) , Hone Heke (Jarod Rawiri) , Hariata Rongo (Miriama Mcdowell) , Te Kemera Kaiteke (Rawiri Paratene) , Marupo (Antonio Te Maioha) , Tamati Waka Nene (Calvin Tuteao) , Patuone (William Davis) , James Busby (Stephen Lovatt) , William Colenso (Matt Norton) , Willam Hobson (Phil Peleton) , Henry Williams (Peter Daube) , James Stuart Freeman (Craig Parker) , the Reverend Ironside (Simon London) , Jack Jones (Stig Eldred) , Johnson (Roy Snow), Bishop Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier (Edwin Wright) , Rewa (Lawrence Wharerau) and Naval Officer (Mark Mitchinson).
Told over three acts, the drama begins on 3rd of February, 1840 as Busby and Colenso have asked a number of significant Nga Puhi chiefs to converge to discuss the Treaty - but as yet, there is no Treaty. It emerges Hobson has not even begun to write it when he arrives by ship. Meanwhile, Maori leaders try to understand what exactly the British hope to achieve and what advantage there might be in making a pact with the English. Finally, in desperation, Busby, Colenso and others, take Hobson's brief and knock together the Treaty. It is then passed on to Henry Williams and his son, Edward who work on the Maori translation.
It then moves to 5th February and around 400 Maori Chiefs have gathered as Hobson reads out the Treaty in English, with Henry Williams translating. Hobson then throws open the floor for discussion, and Chief after Chief speak out against the Treaty in very strong terms. Until Hone Heke - Henry Williams' wild card - takes the floor.
It's 6th February and the Maori chiefs are leaving. Pompallier requests that another article be added to the Treaty ensuring his religion will not be interfered with. Hobson can see this as a way of getting the Catholic Chiefs onside and quickly suggests some appropriate wording. There's a tense pause and then Hone Heke comes forward to sign, beginning the process that leads to 43 others signing - but for many and mixed motives.
The signing of the treaty is usually portrayed as a solemn occasion but few know that it emerged out of a combination of chaos, lack of preparation, humour, goodwill and mixed motives. In hindsight is can seem a miracle that the treaty was ever signed.