Museum of Waitangi set to become a national and visitor icon

New Zealand’s newest cultural icon, the Museum of Waitangi is destined to become a major visitor attraction.

New Zealand’s newest cultural icon, the Museum of Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, is destined to become a site of great national significance and a major visitor attraction.

The Museum of Waitangi – formally named Te Kōngahu – sits on the historic site recognised as the birthplace of the nation of New Zealand and was opened on Waitangi Day (6 February - New Zealand’s national day celebration) by the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae. 

‘Te Kōngahu’ is a Māori word that refers to the unborn child, a metaphor for the potential and promise of a new nation that was conceived and born with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in the early 19th Century.

The state of the art, architecturally designed museum and education centre is the cornerstone of a NZ$14 million redevelopment programme at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, funded by a combination of government, heritage and local trusts for the Waitangi National Trust. 

The museum is a modern and comprehensive showcase of the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in the past, present and future of New Zealand. 

The two-storied museum building houses a permanent exhibition Ko Waitangi Tenei: This is Waitangi which explores the stories of Waitangi - the people, the place and the Treaty. The exhibition features many valuable and significant historic pieces previously scattered through museums and private collections throughout the country and overseas. 

In addition, the museum will regularly host temporary exhibitions and an education centre. 

 “The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a special place for New Zealanders and everyone is excited to unveil the new museum,” Waitangi National Trust, Chief Executive, Greg McManus said. 

“I expect the new museum will be a big drawcard for visitors. It’s our hope that every Kiwi will visit Waitangi and our new museum will be another reason to come to this very special part of New Zealand - the birthplace of our nation.”

New Zealand historian Dame Claudia Orange described the new museum as “an important place to tell the stories of Waitangi - from the personal to the political.”

Ko Waitangi Tenei: This is Waitangi, which spans the history of Waitangi from before the signing of the Treaty in 1840 right up to present day, is a world class exhibition that is immersive and interactive, she says. 

The museum would become one of the Northland region’s major visitor attractions, and “one of New Zealand’s most important cultural and heritage tourism magnets,” according to David Wilson, chief executive of Northland Inc.

 “We foresee the museum luring greater numbers of visitors year-round, especially adding to the reasons to visit Northland at any time of the year”.

He says the integrated visitor experience at Waitangi now offers a world class interpretive experience telling the story of the Treaty in “a stunning location on the extensive coastal grounds overlooking the Bay of Islands”. 

Other important historical features on The Treaty Grounds include the Treaty House and the impressive national Wharenui or carved Māori meeting house titled ‘Te Whare Rūnanga’ (the House of Assembly) built in 1940.

The site is also home to one of New Zealand’s best Māori cultural concerts and kapa haka displays as well as an evening hangi, a café and short bush walks.  

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds will also offer a new all-inclusive Day Pass and during summer visitors can enjoy a twilight hāngi (traditional feast) and show for a full Māori cultural experience.

Admission to the museum incorporates entry to Waitangi Treaty Grounds , a guided tour, and a cultural performance.

The Museum permanently opened its doors to the public on Sunday, 7 February following Waitangi Day celebrations. 

About Waitangi National Trust

Governor General Lord Bledisloe formally gifted Waitangi to the nation of New Zealand at a hui / gathering attended by thousands on 6 February 1934 - The first ‘Waitangi Day’. The Treaty Grounds are administered by the Waitangi National Trust, which continues to be made up of descendants and representatives of people directly associated with Waitangi. The Treaty Grounds is part of an estate that comprises 506 hectares and includes The Treaty House, carved meeting house, ceremonial war canoe and the flagstaff which marks the spot the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed.  

Travel Tips
The Bay of Islands is on the north-eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Air New Zealand flies four times a day from Auckland International Airport to Kerikeri Airport. The flight takes 45 minutes. Driving to the Bay of Islands takes around 3.5 hours from Auckland city.