Maori flag no threat to Pakeha: Sharples

By Yvonne Tahana

Maori will be asked to choose from four flags: (clockwise from top) the NZ flag, the NZ red ensign, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag or the independent tribes of NZ flag. Photo / Martin Sykes
Maori will be asked to choose from four flags: (clockwise from top) the NZ flag, the NZ red ensign, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag or the independent tribes of NZ flag. Photo / Martin Sykes

Pita Sharples has a clear favourite about which flag he thinks could best represent Maori, but he says that doesn't translate into a threat to Pakeha.

The Maori Affairs Minister launched a series 21 consultation hui at Te Puea Marae at Mangere yesterday, asking Maori what flag they'd choose to represent themselves, and on what occasions should it be flown.

Prime Minister John Key said Maori should decide the issue.

Dr Sharples' pick was the tino rangatiratanga flag - designed by Maori with a koru. It looked and felt Maori, he said. But non-Maori shouldn't be threatened by the idea of tangata whenua celebrating who they were from time to time.

"Basically a lot of people are monocultural and think being one people means being like them - it doesn't mean that at all. Being one people means accepting our differences. They think that because you're pro one thing you're anti another.

I am very pro Maori but my father was a Pakeha, I'm certainly not anti-Pakeha.

"It doesn't make me anti-Pakeha to be fighting for my Maori flag because it means when we celebrate things Maori we can hoist our flag and say 'it's good to be alive'."

Dr Sharples told the crowd of about 50 mainly Maori Party supporters of Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman's victory lap after winning the 400m gold medal at the 2000 Olympics, where she ran with both the national and indigenous flags. In Maori, he said that simple act showed the world Australia's indigenous people existed.

There are four flags Maori can choose from, although it may emerge that there's a demand for something new, Dr Sharples said.

Te Ata Tino Toa kickstarted the issue when it asked Transit to fly the tino rangatiratanga flag on Waitangi Day in 2007. Transit declined but successive public campaigning since then has kept the issue live.

Spokesman Te Anau Tuiono said his heart was still set on the tino rangatiratanga flag flying from the bridge - hopefully on February 6 next year.

* Flags of our fathers


Its royal blue background symbolises the sea and sky, the stars of the Southern Cross emphasise the country's location and the Union flag recognises the country's historical foundations as a colony of the United Kingdom.


Chosen by a grouping of northern rangatira (chiefs) in 1834 at Waitangi. Served as the official flag of New Zealand until the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, when it was replaced by the United Kingdom's Union flag.


One of the first to be flown by New Zealand ships. It was also used as a common gift to Maori from Queen Victoria or the Government. When the Red Ensign was used to reward or thank Maori, a hapu or ancestor's name was worked into the design.

The result of a 1989 flag competition. Black representing the heavens, the darkness from which the world emerged, white representing the physical world and red for the earth. The koru stood for renewal and hope for the future.

* Clear choice from the hui

The Herald asked those at the hui whether they had a preference for a flag and if so, why

Rawson Wright, 55, management consultant, Whangarei
No preference

I'm president of the Te Tai Tokerau 28 [Maori] Battalion Association. The hard part for me is that my tupuna went away under the New Zealand flag. So I can't say what flag I personally support at the moment but I understand the importance for Maori. I will watch the debate.

Lynette Hoey, 43, Ngati Rehua representative, Great Barrier Island
Preference: Tino Rangatiratanga flag

It's a flag that can bring us all together. We're a new generation and we want something to lift us up. It also represents self-determination - to be able to determine for myself what's good for me and my family.

Vonny Jackson, 36, health worker, Wellsford
Preference: Tino Rangatiratanga flag

I like the one from 1989 [the Tino Rangatiratanga flag], but I know a lot of my relations like the confederation flag. I think it represents rangatahi [youth] best, they identify with it, they've grown up with it.

Robert Minhinnick, 50, community worker, Otahuhu
Preference: Tino Rangatiratanga flag

Every other flag that's been put up has the St George Cross or the Union Jack. Those are symbols of the crucifixion of our people. If we want a Maori flag the only one that makes the grade is the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.

Moana Herewini 59, education consultant, Mangere Bridge
Preference: Tino Rangatiratanga flag

The main reason I support this flag is because it speaks to me about our whenua, papatuanuku and it ties us to the world around us. It was created by Maori. People do associate it unfortunately with negative radical activity but it does reflect our identity.

Stephanie Harawira, 43, youth worker, Avondale
Tino Rangatiratanga flag

I work with thousands of kids, they all know this flag. Go into any school anywhere and they'll recognise it. I think the old people need to embrace it now.

- NZ Herald

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