If you're into historic celebrations, however, then Waitangi Day is one to pay attention to - the Kiwi version of Independence Day. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6th in 1840, at James Busby's house in the Bay of Islands, and it marked the founding of New Zealand as a modern nation.
The Treaty is still controversial to this day. If you want to know more about it (and where it was signed) then I suggest you check out my book Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand.
As a taster, and to celebrate Waitangi Day, here's a short passage from the book on the history of the treaty:
There are many books devoted to the wording of the Treaty and its various points of mistranslation or open interpretation, so I will keep this summary brief. Essentially the first article ceded the rights and powers of sovereignty to the British monarch. The second article, probably the most contentious of the three, guaranteed the Maori chiefs exclusive possession of their land as long as they wanted it, but gave the Crown an exclusive right to purchase these lands should they wish to sell. The third and final article extended to the Maori all the rights and privileges of British subjects, and this article is generally considered to have been fairly well translated – Williams was obviously getting into his stride by that point. The first two articles were poorly translated in areas, however, and thanks to the substandard translation efforts of a British missionary, and the hurrying effect of the French interest, a document was produced that is still argued over to this day. Add to this the fact that many prominent Maori chiefs did not sign the Treaty at all, and that others weren’t even shown it, and you can see why it has remained so contentious.
The Treaty itself wasn’t signed in the house, this formality having taken place on the lawns between the building and the sea. A marquee was erected there from spare spars and sails that Hobson had brought with him on board the HMS Herald, and as I walked across the close-cropped grass I tried to imagine the makeshift construction that had stood there over a hundred and fifty years ago, billowing in the sea winds. A tall and impressive flagstaff marked the point on the lawn where the historic event took place, but the area was now populated by several clusters of tourists, carefully unpacking sandwiches from their backpacks. In the end the leap proved too much for my imagination, and I had to remain content with the artist’s impression of the signing that hung in the Treaty House. Today’s picnickers were far removed from the gathering of proud Maori chiefs that once occupied these lawns.
Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand is available now in paperback and as a Kindle ebook from Amazon and many other outlets. Click here for Ka Mate availability.