Recognition of a National Mäori Flag
For some time, Mäori have called for the recognition and use of a
Mäori flag on Waitangi Day, to acknowledge and celebrate the unique
partnership fostered through the Treaty of Waitangi.
That call gained official support when in January 2009, the Minister
of Mäori Affairs publicly called for a Mäori Flag to be flown on the
Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day.
The Prime Minister took up that call, charging the Minister of Mäori
Affairs with responsibility for securing the agreement of Mäori on which
flag should be flown.
The Minister of Mäori Affairs now wishes to engage with Mäori to
identify a national Mäori flag as a means of acknowledging Mäori
history and promoting Mäori aspirations.
Purpose of the National Mäori
Feedback is being sought to identify a preferred flag which represents
Mäori history, and will carry us forward with our hopes and aspirations
for our future.
Twenty one hui are being held throughout the country to ensure
feedback is received from Maori individuals and communities.
Participants at each hui will be asked:
1. Of the four flags outlined in this brochure, which would you choose
as a national Mäori flag to represent Mäori?
a) the National Flag of New Zealand (the Flag of the Independent
Tribes of New Zealand)
b) the New Zealand Flag
c) the New Zealand Red Ensign
d) the Maori Flag (the Tino Rangatiratanga flag)
2. On what occasions should a national Mäori flag be flown?
a) only on Waitangi Day
b) on Waitangi Day and other special national occasions, such as
ANZAC Day, Queen’s Birthday
You can find background information on the flags, and the schedule for
the Flag consultation hui, by going to www.tpk.govt.nz/maoriflag
What happens to your Feedback?
All comments received at these hui will be recorded, collated and
compiled for the Minister of Mäori Affairs to consider.
If I can’t get to the Hui can I still
have my say?
YES. You can send a written submission to the Minister of Mäori
Affairs with your preferences, to the address at the bottom of the
page. Alternatively you can make an online submission at
The final date for all submissions is 5pm on Friday 28 August 2009.
The final report to the Minster of Mäori Affairs will include an analysis
of all submissions received.
What is the Purpose of a Flag?
To represent a place, organisation, or person, generally on a rectangular
piece of cloth. Flags today are used to symbolise nationhood and
Flags have been used in one form or another for more than 4,000
years. They were used as a means of communication, initially for
military purposes and then for identifying signals at sea.
They evolved to represent royal houses, then countries and other levels
of government, businesses, military ranks and units, sports teams, and
New Zealand Flag History
The need to select an official New Zealand flag arose in 1830 when
a trading ship was seized in Sydney by Customs officials for sailing
without a flag or register.
At that time Australia was under British navigation laws which said
that every ship must carry an official certificate detailing nationality
of the ship. Without a flag, New Zealand’s trading ships continued the
risk of being seized.
It is believed that during the Sydney seizure and detainment, Patuone
and Taonui from Te Taitokerau were on-board. It was reported at the
time that Mäori were ‘exceedingly indignant’ upon hearing the news of
the ship’s fate.
National Mäori Flag Consultation
Te Puni Kökiri, Te Puni Kökiri House
143 Lambton Quay, Wellington 6011, PO Box 3943,
Wellington 6140, New Zealand
He Haki Mäori
Recognising a National
National Flag of New Zealand
(Flag of the Independent Tribes) 1
The New Zealand Flag
The Mäori Flag
(the Tino Rangatiratanga g Flag)
When James Busby arrived as British Resident in 1833, he suggested
that a New Zealand flag be adopted.
Aside from solving the problems with trans-Tasman trade, Busby also
saw the flag as a way of encouraging Mäori chiefs to work together,
paving the way for some form of collective government.
On 20 March 1834, 25 chiefs from the Far North and their followers
gathered at Waitangi to choose a flag from three designed by Rev
Henry Williams, a senior missionary of the Church Missionary Society
and former lieutenant of the Royal Navy.
Busby sent the following account of the selection of the flag to
Governor Bourke in New South Wales on 22 March 1834:
“They were then asked in regular succession upon which of the three
Flags their choice fell, and their votes were taken down by a son of
one of their number who has been educated by the Missionaries,
and who with several others appeared on this occasion respectably
dressed in European clothing.
I was glad to observe that they gave their votes freely, and appeared
to have a good understanding of the nature of the proceeding.
The votes given for the respective Flags were 3, 10 & 12, and the
greatest number having proved in favour of the Flag previously
adopted by the Missionaries it was declared to be the National Flag
of New Zealand, and having been immediately hoisted on the Flag
staff was saluted with 21 guns by the Ship of war.” 22
The flag was also adopted as the Flag of the Independent Tribes of
New Zealand, and served as the official flag of New Zealand until
the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840 when it was
replaced with the British flag, the Union Jack.
1 McLintock, A H editor (1966) An Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
2 Busby to Governor, 22 March 1834, C O 209/1, Australian Joint Copying Project,
Public Record Office, London. Archives New Zealand/Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga
O Aotearoa Head Office, Wellington.
3 Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
The New Zealand Flag is the symbol of the realm, government and
people of New Zealand.
Its royal blue background symbolises the sea and sky around us. The
stars of the Southern Cross emphasise this country’s location in the
South Pacific Ocean. The Union Jack Flag gives recognition to our
historical foundations and the fact that New Zealand was once a British
colony and dominion.
The New Zealand Flag may be flown on any day of the year. It is
particularly appropriate to fly it on days of national significance, such as
Anzac Day, and on other important occasions.
The New Zealand Red Ensign
The New Zealand Red Ensign has served two purposes in history.
Firstly, it is one of the flags authorised to be flown by New Zealand
ships. Secondly, it was a common gift to Mäori from Queen Victoria or
When the Red Ensign was used to reward or thank Mäori, a hapu or
ancestors name was worked into the design. Red was often preferred by
Mäori for its properties of ‘mana’ or rank.
The customary use of the Red Ensign by Mäori on significant occasions
is still provided for today.
A specific provision in the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act
1981 permits Mäori to adapt the flag (by adding words or emblems).
The red ensign can only be flown in this manner on occasions that are
of significance to Mäori. 3
This is perhaps the most recognised Mäori flag in New Zealand.
In 1989 a competition was run by a group named Te Kawariki to
design a national Mäori flag.
Most of the entries however, were considered inappropriate because
they were designed around a bi-racial rather than a specific Mäori
The only flag that met the criteria of recognising Mäori history,
expressing a Mäori purpose and using a Mäori design, was one
designed by Kawariki members - Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith and
Linda Munn. Another member of Te Kawariki, Walter Erstich, gave
the explanation to the design (below).
After some revision by other members of Te Kawariki, the
final version was eventually approved as the winner of the
competition and unveiled as the national Mäori flag, at Waitangi,
on Waitangi Day 1990. It has also become known as the ‘Tino
Explanation of design:
Black represents Te Korekore, the realm of potential, the heavens,
the long darkness from which the world emerged. Black also
represents the male element - formless, floating and passive.
White represents Te Ao Märama the realm of being, the world of
light, the physical world. White also symbolises purity, harmony
enlightenment, and balance.
Red represents Te Whei Ao, the realm of coming into being. Red
also represents active, flashing, southern, falling, emergence,
forest, land, and gestation. Red is the female element,
Papatuanuku, the earth mother, the sustainer of all living things.
Red is also the colour of earth from which the first human
The Koru (the curling frond shape) represents the unfolding of
new life, rebirth, continuity, renewal and hope for the future.