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Photo stirs debate

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 09:26 14/02/2013
wood

HOT TOPIC: This photo of the Maori flag flying from the harbour bridge on Waitangi Day was posted on Facebook by North Shore councillor George Wood

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Heated debate has erupted after a councillor posted a photo of the Maori flag flying on the harbour bridge this Waitangi Day.

North Shore councillor George Wood posted the photo on Facebook with the comment "Is this the price of MMP? New flag on Auckland Harbour Bridge!"

He admits to taking the photo on his phone illegally while driving but says the debate over the flying of the Maori flag is of far more significance.

"It has raised such a response that it is clearly a deep seated issue.

"By flying two flags on the harbour bridge the government is approving that a Maori flag is also gaining credibility and acceptance. New Zealand then ends up in a situation where it has two flags."

The NZTA states that generally the New Zealand flag is the only one to be flown from the bridge and it is up to the government to determine whether any other flags may be flown and on what occasions.

In 2009 Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples rallied for the Maori flag to be flown alongside the national flag on Waitangi Day. He believed it would foster relations between the Crown and Maori.

Following a public hui the tino rangatiratanga flag was chosen as the preferred Maori flag and it was approved to fly at sites of national significance on Waitangi Day.

Mr Wood says flying two flags is encouraging separatism when we should be working harder to unify as a country.

"Segregation is something we should avoid at all costs.

"If we don't we'll end up in a horrible situation for future generations."

The photo incited almost 90 comments by the following day. Facebook users were drawn into debate over whether FFP should be reintroduced over MMP and whether the two flags flying side by side symbolises unity or segregation.

The argument about whether it is time for New Zealand to adopt a new national flag was also revisited.

"Changing the flag is a huge monumental decision. It should not be taken lightly," he says.

"So many people have cherished our flag, they've gone to war under it and in the old days you fought for king and country," Mr Wood says.

But there may now need to be a government referendum on the subject, he says.

"The closeness to Australia causes a lot of confusion, the fact we are only differentiated by one star.

"New Zealanders go overseas to sporting fixtures with the silver fern flag. Now that's saying something."

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- North Shore Times

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