Recognising a National Maori Flag - Te Puni Kokiri

Recognising a National Maori Flag - Te Puni Kokiri

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

Flag Consultation

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

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


Flag History

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

political parties.

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

Kia Whakamana

He Haki Mäori

Recognising a National

Mäori Flag

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

the government.

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

Rangatiratanga’ flag.

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

was made.

The Koru (the curling frond shape) represents the unfolding of

new life, rebirth, continuity, renewal and hope for the future.

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