Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 July 2020
In 1842-43 native title became an important matter in its own right and the Treaty of Waitangi regained the significance it had lost since its signing, largely as a result of a highly contingent series of events, none of which has been expected by the principal British players. In what amounted to a growing chain of signification that has previously gone unremarked by historians, several British parties, in the context of a fierce dispute between the New Zealand Company on the one hand and the imperial and colonial governments on the other in regard to an agreement they had struck earlier, formulated interpretations of what was happening or should happen that made the treaty of Waitangi important again. It is similarly evident that the way in which a range of British parties treated native rights in land in New Zealand owed a great deal to the political contestation between them. It is also apparent that the precise significance the Treaty of Waitangi came to have at this time differed according to the particular circumstances of the colony’s northern and southern districts. In fact, there would be no consensus about the treaty’s significance for some time to come.