He Tohu – The Treaty of Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition have moved

Image of the constitutional documents being moved

Our most iconic constitutional documents were moved in the early hours of Saturday morning (22 April) in an emotional and uplifting atmosphere.

At 4am a pūtātara heralded the start of the journey from Archives New Zealand to their new home at the National Library in Wellington.

The 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine were carried by Archives staff, each in a specially prepared crate into a waiting truck.

The three documents were welcomed into the National Library and an ecumenical service (all Christian service of thanksgiving) was held, followed by whakatau and whaikorero from kaumatua of manawhenua and iwi Māori.

The speakers at the ceremony thanked Archives staff for the care they gave to the three taonga. They also recognised the importance of including the Suffrage Petition in He Tohu.

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said they were important national historical documents, but they were also far more than that.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 Minister also said that once the project ends, the enduring and ongoing Crown-Māori partnership that is integral to the He Tohu exhibition must continue.

One of the speakers at the opening, National Council of Women vice-president Vanisa Dhiru, who has been part of the group advising on the move, said the leader of the suffrage movement, Kate Sheppard, would be thrilled to know her petition would have a wider audience. A specially made quilt to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage was laid on the crate containing the women’s suffrage petition.

  • He Tohu opens to the public 20 May, 2017.
  • The exhibition has been developed since mid-2014 in partnership between the Crown and Māori, with advice from a Women's Suffrage Petition Advisory Group and a Māori Technical Advisory Group.
  • He Tohu will be located at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, in Wellington.