Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Maori flag attitudes a puzzler

The seven Maori electorates were among the 10 with the lowest turn-out - and those who voted had a much higher preference for the current flag than the general result. Photo / John Borren
The seven Maori electorates were among the 10 with the lowest turn-out - and those who voted had a much higher preference for the current flag than the general result. Photo / John Borren

One of the Maori members of the Flag Consideration Panel, Malcolm Mulholland, believes the panel engaged with Maori adequately during the process and is at a loss to know why turnout in the Maori electorates was low in the flag referendum.

The seven Maori electorates were among the 10 with the lowest turn-out - and those who voted had a much higher preference for the current flag than the general result.

Nationwide the turnout was 67.3 per cent and 56.6 per cent voted to keep the flag featuring Britain's Union Jack, versus 43.2 per cent who favoured the alternative, featuring an indigenous silver fern.

In the Maori electorates, the average turnout was 48.2 per cent and the average vote to keep the current flag was 74.9 per cent.

Te Tai Tokerau in the north had the highest preference for the status quo of all electorates with 78.5 per cent. Manukau East, a general electorate, had the lowest turn-out overall at 41.1 per cent.

Mr Mulholland said he attended all six hui around the country.

One hui at Te Tii Marae told the panel it did not want the 1834 independence flag included in the ballot.

"That is why that was not one of the flags that was short-listed."

The panel also met relatives of Te Kawariki founders, the northern protest group that had been involved in the design of the tino rangatiratanga flag, and they did not want that flag to be involved in the process.

"Looking back, I don't know how we could have done things differently to better engage with Maori."

He did not know why turnout was low in the Maori electorates or why the silver fern was rejected.

He said the link between Maori and the silver fern was historically strong, from the Maori All Black captain Tom Ellison suggesting it for the All Black uniform to Maori proverbs about it.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the preference for the status quo could be partly due to the significance of the Maori relationship with the Crown.

"Going back several decades, the House of Lords has typically shown a much greater sensitivity to indigenous land rights than our own courts here, until recently."

And early efforts by Maori to get redress for Treaty breaches were done in trips to Britain.

- NZ Herald

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