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OWEN JENNINGS: The Mind of James Busby

It is worth stopping and thinking about the events around the 6th of February 1840.  James Busby, a Scotsman was thinking about his 38th birthday, due the next day.  More likely he was wondering if a large gathering of Māori chiefs who were arriving were going to oblige his new acquaintance, William Hobson by signing a document he had pulled together hastily the night before.  It was to become the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is not difficult to imagine the entrepreneurial, successful businessman designated, some seven years earlier, the British Resident by Queen Victoria – a governing role of sorts – huddled over candles late into the night searching for a form of words that would suffice his masters, back in Westminster as well as the anxious chiefs arriving from all parts of the North Island.

There were many and varied pressures in the young colony.  Lawless sealers and whalers, acting with impunity, Iwi freshly armed with muskets fighting fiercely with each other, but worrying about losing land, mana and their tenuous control, missionaries trying to keep the peace, French and Dutch opportunists ready to unfurl their country’s flags and various attempts, even by Busby, to find a solution having largely failed.  Governor Richard Bourke, of New South Wales, required Busby to protect the more orderly British settlers and traders and prevent 'outrages' by the less orderly Europeans against Māori.  He was given no resources to manage this dictate.

By early 1840 Busby as British resident was aware that the House of Lords in London had recommended in 1837 a voluntary transfer of sovereignty from the Māori to the British Crown.  Hobson, who was appointed Consul, was instructed to carry out the Crown’s wishes. Hobson had three instructions – to gain freely given Māori recognition of British sovereignty over all or part of New Zealand, to assume complete control over land matters, and to establish a form of civil government.

He was required “to treat the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of Her Majesty's Sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands which they may be willing to place under Her Majesty's dominion”.

If the concept of co-governance was in the front of his or Busby’s mind it is not difficult to consider he would have written a much different document.

There is not the slightest hint of co-governance in the preamble.  Conversely, there are two clear references to Queen Victoria assuming sovereignty over “all lands”. 

It is not credible to think that something as dramatic, unique and consequential as co-governance would not be very adequately introduced in this preamble.  Equally, there would be a good deal more detail in the Articles, establishing a framework for co-governance beyond the much debated kawanatanga (governorship) and rangatiratanga (chieftainship) references in Article Two.

There is no logical reason to think that these expressions were made in respect of anything other than land and possessions then owned by various tribes in the same way as property rights are enshrined in law today.

If the Queen, her ministers in Whitehall, governing authorities in New South Wales and the new colony, Hobson, Busby, Freeman, Colenso or any other party had any intent to create what would have been a novel and unique co-governance instrument, it would have surely been a great deal more evident in the lead up to the Treaty, the Treaty itself and the statements recorded by Colenso and others subsequently.  He iwi tahi tatou.

Owen Jennings is a former ACT MP.

3,126 views77 comments


Let’s have no more talk of an expensive referendum. Just tear up the Treaty and consider it as never have existed. All New Zealanders are just that-NewZealanders. No more privileges, rights or handouts. Every citizen should survive on his/her own merits and work ethic . No such place as aotearoa and discourage hideous tattoos in public view.


It is interesting but perhaps misinformed that some people perceive a equality regardless of ancestry as detrimental to "Maori Rights". I wonder what such people define "rights" as?

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; The establishment and maintenance of rights requires the existence of a system of government, laws and order to prevent some individuals from violating the rights of others. It is also desirable to have a democratic constitution that states INALIENABLE RIGHTS that cannot be ignored or violated by the minority of people with political authority and power. In a democratic system, the people have granted those in their government the exclusive right to use force to maintain civil order, peace and harmony. The rest of…

Replying to

Fantastic post. Says it all .Good luck in getting Luxon to make it happen.


As more and more historical facts are revealed on the one hand, expect a corresponding increase in calls to shut down any debate.

Claims that such debate will be divisive, a waste of money, driven by vested minority interests, and doesn’t address ‘the real issues’.

However, every time someone like Owen (and quite a few commentators here) brings facts like these to light (and free from emotional language), it strengthens our position ahead of the public consultation on the Treaty Principles Bill.

Thanks to all who take the time and trouble to educate NZ’ers on a vital part of our history.

Replying to

Quite right . There is only Hoskings and Heather in the mainstream media doing their bit. The rest are traitorous lefties


Co-governance would have been front and centre in the Letters Patent that authorised the setting up of Government in NZ, separating it from NSW. It wasnt, so it was never intended


One New Zealand Foundation:

This article by Owen Jennings, shows how little past and present politicians know about our true history. James Busby did not write the final draft of the Treaty of Waitangi, he penned the draft under Lt. Governor Hobson's instructions at James Clendon's house on the 4 February 1840 before taking it to Rev Henry Williams and his son to translate into the Tiriti o Waitangi.

It is also an insult to the One New Zealand Foundation and Martin Doute who spent hundreds of hours researching the drafting of the final draft of the Treaty ( Littlewood Treaty) in 1992 - 2004 when Martin Doutre wrote his book, "The Littlewood Treaty. The True English Text of…

Replying to

Thank you for your very informative post . Says it all. Te Papa should be made to display them all.

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