Ngai Tahu reject flag as 'trouble'

BY CHARLIE GATES AND JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2010

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Ngai Tahu will not fly the controversial tino rangatiratanga flag during Waitangi Day celebrations in Canterbury tomorrow, with a tribe member saying the "flag has been nothing but trouble".

It will hoist the New Zealand flag and the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, an 1834 design, during celebrations at the Onuku Marae near Akaroa.

Onuku runanga chairman George Tikao said the tino rangatiratanga flag would not be flown as the iwi "don't believe that is our flag".

A Canterbury historian said the flag had negative connotations for the iwi.

The tino rangatiratanga flag won official recognition last year when Prime Minister John Key said it could be flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge and government buildings on Waitangi Day.

At Waitangi today, Key will be shadowed by extra security as organisers predict sparks will fly over the controversial flag.

It will fly on Waitangi's lower marae, where politicians gather today, but not at the Treaty grounds, where the United Tribes flag will be hoisted.

Officials yesterday confirmed the tino rangitiratanga flag would fly at eight official locations – Premier House, Government House, Te Papa, the Wellington offices of the Defence Force, the Customs Service, the ministries of Transport and Internal Affairs and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

"I think it probably is looming as a possible flashpoint," the chairman of the Waitangi National Trust board, Pita Paraone, said yesterday.

"Not necessarily by the more mature members, but probably by the younger generation who have been responsible for much of the protest over recent years."

In Canterbury, Tikao said the New Zealand flag would be flown at the Onuku Marae to honour the presence of the Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand.

Ngai Tahu elders last night also chose to fly the United Tribes flag ahead of the iwi's modern flag, designed nine years ago. The United Tribes design was created in 1834 as an ensign for New Zealand trading ships.

The flag was accepted by northern chiefs and considered significant by other iwi because it was Britain's first recognition of Maori independence.

Maori Party MP Rahui Katene said she was disappointed the tino rangatiratanga flag would not fly at the Onuku Marae. "I would have liked to have seen that flag flying, but that is their decision," she said.

"People have had their own flag for longer than the tino rangatiratanga, so they have an attachment to their own flag.

"I hope they grow to have an attachment to the tino rangatiratanga flag as well."

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However, Maori historian and Ngai Tahu member Te Maire Tau said the tino rangatiratanga flag had negative connotations for the iwi.

"For our tribe, that flag has been nothing but trouble," he said. "Quite often people opposing a Ngai Tahu settlement were flying the tino rangatiratanga flag."

He said the United Tribes flag was significant for Maori.

"It is quite important because it recognised our capacity to trade overseas and recognised our independence," he said.

"This flag is an admission by the British Empire of Maori independence – we don't need the New Zealand Government to recognise us."

Key said flags were "a very emotive issue" and the choice of the tino rangatiratanga flag was "always going to have a bit of controversy about it".

The tino rangatiratanga flag will not be flown from the Christchurch City Council's headquarters. A council spokeswoman said there was no request for it this year. The Whakatu Marae near Nelson and the Araiteuru Marae near Dunedin will fly the new flag.

- The Press

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