Vandalism threats suppressing flag debate in Tauranga

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Steve Morris. Photo/Supplied
Steve Morris. Photo/Supplied

With the alternative national flag design set to fly with the current flag on alternate days from the Tauranga City Council owned flagpole on Elizabeth St next week, threats of vandalism and calls for a Hone Heke style attack have emerged.

There have been calls on social media for the flag pole to be burnt down with some commenters even volunteering to do it themselves, a written statement from Tauranga City Council councillor Steve Morris said.

This follows an incident over Waitangi weekend when the alternative design and the current flag were stolen after having their wire ropes cut.

However, support for flying each flag on alternate days has arisen from an unlikely source.

Steve Morris who opposed the flying of the alternate design on Council property has now come out swinging in support.

"I've always argued that Council should stay out of the flag debate; in fact the reason why the alternative flag flew outside Baycourt is because I convinced my colleagues that it should not fly from the council building that place should only be reserved for the New Zealand flag of the day" said Mr Morris.

But the threats of vandalism had caused the councillor and supporter of the current flag to back his colleagues support of using the Elizabeth St flagpole.

"I didn't vote in the first referendum because I didn't support a flag change; ever since then I've flown the current NZ flag from my property in support.

"But there is a more important principle at stake here. New Zealand is about more than a flag; it's about democracy and freedom of speech. The actions of a small minority of disgraceful vandals wanting to shut down debate dishonours what our soldiers fought for.

"Even though my desire for Council to stay out of it didn't carry the day I don't think the alternate flag option should be censored or removed because some disagree politically with giving people the right to choose.

"That's not democracy; if people are afraid that others will support the alternate flag after seeing it flying then they should vote and argue against it rather than trying to suppress debate through vandalism."

The councillor is inviting members of the public to contact him to arrange a roster of volunteers to keep an eye on the alternative flag in the evenings to ensure it isn't taken down.

"Our soldiers knew some things are worth fighting for, a flag isn't one of them but freedom of speech is. That's why I'm inviting members of the public to join me in standing up for that right. Especially those who like me have fervently supported the current flag and what it stands for."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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