He Tohu, opening on 20 May 2017 (National Library, Wellington)

He Tohu, the permanent exhibition of documents that shape our nation, will be opened the day before by the Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Patsy Reddy in an event that has been designated by the former Prime Minister John Key as an event of national significance.

 He Tohu will feature the important constitutional documents that continue to shape our nation:

  • 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand
  • 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi
  • 189 3 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine

From its outset in mid-2014, the He Tohu exhibition project has been developed in partnership between the Crown and Māori, with both parties providing leadership and direction.

This partnership is represented by the Minister of Internal Affairs and a group of iwi and manawhenua leaders.

Several weeks ahead of the opening, the taonga documents will be moved to their new home in the National Library building, with the Chief Archivist and Archives New Zealand continuing to have statutory responsibility for their preservation and care.

The move process is of particular importance to Māori. Apart from the safe and secure move by Archives New Zealand of the fragile documents themselves, there will be uplifting of their intangible mana and tapu (spiritual) elements.

A He Tohu Tikanga Māori group, made up of Wellington manawhenua, Ngāpuhi and Department of Internal Affairs representatives, has identified the move of the documents as a significant tikanga event, and planning is now well underway.

It will happen in April, and there is expected to be significant representation from iwi and women’s organisations.

This will be the last Waitangi Day to see the Treaty of Waitangi in the Archives New Zealand Constitution Room before the public opening of the new He Tohu permanent exhibition in the National Library of New Zealand on 20 May 2017.

Senior Archivist Stefanie Lash said the public are welcome to visit the Constitution Room this Waitangi Day when there will be a special open day with Archives staff on hand to talk about the documents.

“Come to see the Treaty of Waitangi in person on Waitangi Day in the Constitution Room where the Treaty, Declaration of Independence and 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition have been on display for 27 years.”

The Constitution Room was opened on 17 November 1990 by the then Governor General, Sir Paul Reeves in a dawn ceremony, including karakia and speeches.

Said Stefanie: “The Constitution Room is a vault, a secure display area for our important constitutional documents. New Zealand has advanced significantly as a nation since 1990.

“There has been growing recognition of the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi to our nation’s life and how we are governed. Following a recent constitutional review and the current Ngāpuhi settlement process, there is now interest in how the Declaration of Independence relates to the Treaty while the Women’s Suffrage Petition is an example of how we do things in New Zealand, showing how we have the power to enact significant social changes.”

Stefanie said the new exhibition would reflect these advances. “While the Constitution Room is a static display, He Tohu will be a world-class exhibition, displaying the documents, telling their stories and providing fun, interactive and on-line features for young people to learn more about the history of our founding documents, how they have shaped our nation, and continue to do so.”

For further information see: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Archive-Exhibition-Project