This large, detailed allegorical work uses native and introduced plants and birds to re affirm some of New Zealand’s most important colonial era events that have had ongoing consequences both ecologically and politically. The work strives to inform people of one of New Zealand’s most important, yet not widely acknowledged founding documents; the Declaration of Independence 1835. The characters and symbols in the image reveal the conditions that brought this document into existence, and the wider effects of colonisation on New Zealand’s native people, flora and fauna.
The Rook. Introduced from Britain to remind settlers of home, soon became a destructive pest species, damaging crops and mobbing native birds. Colonial era military uniform is similar to that worn by William Hobson, New Zealand’s first governor and Ranking officer present at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The symbol of the British Crown (parliament) is on his chest (the portcullis).
The Rooster. The national bird of France, wearing the same garment as Catholic Bishop Jean Baptise Pompellier, who was also present at the signing of the Treaty, to preserve Catholic interests in a British Dominated New Zealand. The Rooster is also symbolic of French interest in colonising the South Island, one of the main catalysts for the creating of the Declaration of Independence 1835.
Huia Pair. (either side of the crown) Represent the Maori leaders who were faced with the hard decision whether or not to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi, with the future of Maori sovereignty at stake. The Huia is symbolic as one of New Zealand's lost treasures, last seen alive in 1907. A Chief would adorn his hair with Huia tail feathers as a sign of their status within the tribe.
Saddleback. (beneath the left side Huia) Represents traditional Maori ideology and animism belief systems pre-‐ Christianity. The handprint on its back is a reference to the legend of Maui and the sun. Maui grabbed the Saddleback when he refused to fetch water after Maui’s long battle to slow the sun, singeing his feathers with the heat from his hand.
Tui. (beside the Saddleback on the right). Was known as the parson bird because of the white tuft of feathers at its throat which resembles a priest’s clerical collar. The Tui represents a shift of Maori belief from Animism to Christianity as a result of Missionary teaching.
The crown. Represents King William IV (not to be confused with British Parliament, known as the Crown). This is an acknowledgement of King William's offer to protect Maori interests and prevent any encroachments on their sovereign rights. It also represents King William's approval of a flag (United Tribes flag) and his support of the Declaration of Independence 1835.
The shield. Symbolises King Williams pledge of protection, the shield is adorned with the symbol of the United Tribes flag.
The Robin. (perched on top of the crown) Represents James Busby, a British resident who facilitated the drafting and signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi. The grapes above him are symbolic of Busby’s other claim to fame; introducing grapes and wine to both Australia and New Zealand.
Sparrows and Waxeyes. (Sparrows on top level, both sides, Waxeyes beneath). The Sparrow was the first introduced species from Britain to acquire pest status in New Zealand. In the Bible the Sparrow represents the common man (lower class) The Waxeye self introduced from Australia, after forest clearance allowed suitable habitats for them to establish. They are symbolic of the Australian convicts who came to New Zealand to fight in the land wars or find work.
Oak tree. The national tree of Britain, introduced to New Zealand along with thousands of other exotic plants and trees.
Convolvulus and Lupin.(Bottom left and right). Both are introduced pest species that are harmful to indigenous flora and fauna. The constricting, spreading nature of these plants is symbolic of forced assimilation and colonisation methods used.