The Tauranga City Council was forced into a sudden about- face this week after it emerged that it had broken its own rules by flying the Silver Fern flag at the Elizabeth St roundabout. The large flag, which had been flying on alternate days on the flagpole, was found to be inconsistent with the rules of the 2006 resource consent governing the use of the flagpole.
It's not the first time this issue has arisen. In 2011, the council flew a flag on the city's official flagpole in support of the All Blacks and was found to be in breach of its resource consent.Former lawyer Rob Paterson, who was involved in the 2006 RMA application and consent of the flagpole, made a formal request in February for the council to "desist from flying the Silver Fern flag". Subsequent legal advice sought by the council from lawyers Simpson Grierson revealed the official flagpole was limited to only flying the New Zealand national flag, with the resource consent excluding any other flag. Mayor Stuart Crosby says the council sought external advice after receiving two complaints. The council's internal advice had been that alternating the use of the two flags was in accordance with the resource consent. Read more: Council's legal advice: Fern flag must go It's not the first time this issue has arisen. In 2011, the council flew a flag on the city's official flagpole in support of the All Blacks and was found to be in breach of its resource consent. Back then, it was decided to continue flying the black flag because it "does not create any adverse environmental effects". Personally, I don't have any issue with the council's intention to fly the flag to encourage discussion as residents vote on whether or not to change the flag. It encouraged debate. However, given that the council found itself in a similar position in 2011, I find it surprising that the council has done it again. It did seek internal advice on the issue, but it should have sought a second opinion before flying the Silver Fern flag. If it had done so, it could have avoided this week's embarrassing u-turn.