Despite Britain entering Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the aim of acquiring the power to make and enforce law over both Maori and Pakeha, a tribunal has ruled it did not explain this to the rangatira.
The Waitangi Tribunal has concluded that the signatories to the treaty in February 1840 did not cede sovereignty to the British Crown.
Britain's representatives explained the treaty as granting Britain 'the power to control British subjects and thereby to protect Maori' while rangatira were told that they would retain their independence and full chiefly authority.
"That is, they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories," the tribunal says.
However the rangatira did agree 'to share power and authority with Britain.
"They agreed to the Governor having authority to control British subjects in New Zealand, and thereby keep the peace and protect Maori interests," the Tribunal said.
The Tribunal today released its report on stage one of its inquiry into Te Paparahi o te Raki (the great land of the north) treaty claims. The report concerns the 'meaning and effect' of the treaty in February 1840, when the first signings of te Tiriti took place in the Bay of Islands and the Hokianga.
"The rangatira consented to the treaty on the basis that they and the Governor were to be equals, though they were to have different roles and different spheres of influence. The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Maori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis."
The question of whether the agreement that was reached in February 1840 was honoured in subsequent interactions between the Crown and Maori will be considered during stage two of the inquiry.