Council wary of flag pick

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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The Christchurch City Council wants to fly a Maori flag from the Civic Offices on Waitangi Day but is worried it might pick the wrong one and upset local iwi Ngai Tahu.

The distinctive black, white and red Te Tino Rangatiratanga flag has been recognised by the Government as the preferred national Maori flag since 2009 and has been flown on government buildings and other sites of national significance, such as the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and on Waitangi Day and other significant occasions.

Some local authorities, including the Dunedin and Wellington city councils, have picked up on the practice and also now fly the flag on Waitangi Day as a show of respect to Maori, but the Christchurch City Council has so far shied away from doing so.

That is because the initial consultation it had with Ngai Tahu, through Mahaanui Kurataiao (MKT), indicated that it would not be appropriate to fly that flag here.

"MKT identified that the situation in the South Island is different to that in the North Island and that they consider that the national flag is not representative of the iwi," Christchurch City Council civic and international relations manager Duncan Sandeman said in a report prepared for Thursday's council meeting where the thorny issue of which flag to fly will be considered.

Sandeman said there was not a flag that represented the collective of hapu and runanga that formed Ngai Tahu and different runanga within the Christchurch City Council territory. Some favoured the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, others the United Tribes of New Zealand flag.

"If Christchurch City Council were to fly one flag or another we may be open to criticism from different groups," Sandeman warned.

He said MKT had advised the council to begin a process with the six runanga and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to identify options for sequencing the use of different flags from 2015. Until the matter was resolved, they were recommending no flag fly from the Civic Offices on Waitangi Day.

A Ngai Tahu spokeswoman said yesterday the iwi had no formal position on the Tino Rangatiratanga flag one way or the other.

"Some runanga fly it and some don't," she said. "At local events our staff support runanga by taking a range of flags, including the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, and it is up to them which ones and how many are flown at the event."

The Government chose the Tino Rangatiratanga flag after extensive consultation with Maori in 2009. It held 21 hui and received more than 1200 submissions, 80 per cent of which selected that one as preferred national Maori flag.

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- The Press

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