Flag war erupts

16:00, Feb 22 2012
Wellington flag
Black and yellow: Chris Stephenson holds the Wellington flag. he flies the United Tribes flag, above, on his flagpole every day.

The decision by Celia Wade-Brown to fly the Tino Tangatiratanga flag from the Town Hall on Waitangi Day was offensive, one councillor has said.

Ray Ahipene-Mercer, of Ngai Tara and Ngati Ira descent, said the flag did not represent all Maori. He found it offensive.

There were two issues, he said: who did flag represent and why had the mayor not entered into discussions with any councillors?

TDn paepae
The Tino Rangatiratanga.

"I accept the right of any group to have a flag representing their views. The issue is that that [Tino Rangatiratanga] flag does not represent Maori.

"There is no Maori nation, so who does it represent? I will quote Shane Jones, who said, `It's Hone's flag'.

"It's a flag which represents sectarian interests, some would even say fundamentalists."

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Ms Wade-Brown said flying the flag seemed to be a way of showing Wellington's bi-cultural heritage.

"I am the ceremonial head. I don't feel the need to consult on everything. I don't consult them when I want to wear my chains."

She said the Tino Rangariratanga flag was the preferred Maori flag. She said that according to Ministry of Culture and Heritage guidelines, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag had been identified through a national process as the national Maori flag.

Mr Ahipene-Mercer said the flag was commonly used by the Mana party and by activists in the far north.

"The flag does not represent Maori. The mayor was mistaken if she thought it did."

Mr Ahipene-Mercer said during a discussion at a strategy and policy committee meeting Ms Wade-Brown acknowledged consultation should have taken place.

Wellington resident Chris Stephenson said he was disappointed that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was flown when Wellington city had a flag of its own.

He said the Wellington flag had more or less died out.

"It hasn't been flown for ages. I'd say 99.9 per cent of Wellingtonians don't know it.

"The Wellington flag should be flown every day on the Town Hall."

Mr Stephenson said he believed that if a Maori flag was to be flown it should be the United Tribes flag, the "proper" Maori flag.

"It's flown every day at Waitangi. It's a beautiful flag, the best flag we've [New Zealand] got."

The United Tribes flag is thought to be New Zealand's first flag, chosen on March 20, 1834.

When asked about flying a Wellington flag, Ms Wade-Brown said: "We often have the Absolutely Positively Wellington flag flying. We fly a whole lot of flags, some country ones, some other ones."

She said she understood there was a Wellington flag and that flying it "sounds like a fun thing to do".

The Wellingtonian