It seems strange that the New Zealanders most disadvantaged by colonisation are among Royalty's biggest fans. Bruce Munro lifts the lid on Maoridom's fierce fondness for the Queen.

John Broughton's stairwell is no exception. Like the rest of his Woodhaugh Gardens home, in Dunedin, its walls are stacked with art and history treasures.

Above the Dick Frizzell Four Square men, but below the colourful Ivan Hill painting of Professor Broughton and the Queen floating past the University of Otago clock tower, is a large monochrome picture of an elegant Englishwoman wearing a Maori cloak.

The 70-year-old Maori health specialist and playwright deftly frees the framed portrait from the wall and brings it downstairs to the formal lounge.

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He sits on an upholstered chair that was already old when it was brought to New Zealand from England by his Lovell forebears more than 160 years ago.

To his right, in front of the fireplace, rests another framed picture. This one is of Broughton's great-grandmother, Peti Parata (nee Hurene), of Puketeraki, near Karitane.

Walls, table tops, cabinets; all are replete with an astonishing intermingling of Maori and Pakeha pictures, artefacts and memorabilia spanning 300 years.

Over Broughton's left shoulder, next to the tall draped bay window, hangs a framed black-and-white photo of a dignified man, patu in hand, wearing what appears to be the same cloak as the woman from the stairwell.

He is Tame Parata; Peti's husband, Broughton's great-grandfather and the member of Parliament for the South Island Maori seat from 1885 to 1911.

In June 1901, Parata, his wife and the cloak-wearing Englishwoman were together in Rotorua. The occasion was the gathering of Maori representatives from throughout New Zealand to meet and entertain the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, the future King George V and Queen Mary.

Gift-giving was an expected part of proceedings. But on this day, Saturday, June 15, it took on extraordinary proportions, Tahu Potiki, who is a Kai Tahu historian and Otakou representative, says.

"First, someone proceeded on to the field before the Duke and Duchess and laid a decorative mat," Potiki says.

"Then, one by one, the different iwi laid greenstone, carved weapons, cloaks and jewellery until the pile was quite some height.

"Then individuals began spontaneously removing cloaks and greenstone to add to the cache ..."

One of those gifts was the ceremonial kiwi-feather cloak belonging to Parata.

The woman pictured wearing it was its recipient, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall and York.

Broughton presumes the cloak is still part of the Royal collection, in a palace somewhere in the United Kingdom. As a staunch royalist, that knowledge is a source of pride.

Both sides of his family, at least as far back as his grandparents, were strong supporters of the British monarchy as head of state for New Zealand.

"Ever since then, despite the violations of the Treaty and the effects of colonisation, loyalty to the Crown has never diminished," he says.

On the surface, it appears contradictory. Maori suffered many and severe deprivations as a result of colonisation. Why should any Maori support those sitting at the very top of the colonial tree? Of course, just as not all Pakeha are anti-monarchy - in 2011, 44 per cent of New Zealand-born non-Maori strongly disagreed with the idea of New Zealand becoming a republic - not all Maori are pro-British monarchy.

Public examples of Maori opposition to the Royals have included, in 1983, a whakapohane, a bare-bum salute, to the Prince and Princess of Wales; in 1990, a T-shirt being thrown at the Queen and; in 2011, MP Hone Harawira being briefly thrown out of Parliament for swearing allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi rather than the Queen.

A favourable view of the monarchy, however, has a long, rich and broad history among Maori, including in the South.

It is well-illustrated by an important but largely forgotten piece of Otago's early colonial history, Bill Dacker says.

An invitation to Tame and Peti Parata to attend a multi-iwi event held at Rotorua, on Saturday, June 15, 1901, to honour the visiting British Royals, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. Photo / Linda Robertson, Otago Daily Times
An invitation to Tame and Peti Parata to attend a multi-iwi event held at Rotorua, on Saturday, June 15, 1901, to honour the visiting British Royals, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. Photo / Linda Robertson, Otago Daily Times

The Pakeha historian has worked with Kai Tahu on projects including the iwi's Treaty settlement claim. He says what happened at the Dunedin Magistrates Court in October, 1860 was not only important for race relations in the province, but also reveals the attitude of Kai Tahu towards Queen Victoria.

Fighting between Maori and colonists in Taranaki was causing tensions to rise in the South.

The paranoia was brought to a head by a report that a Maori landowner at Portobello had said he might shoot his Pakeha neighbour. It turned out to be a case of mistranslated humour. But there was enough angst for a public meeting to be called by Kai Tahu chiefs.

Those who gathered included Hone Wetere Korako, a leading chief at Otakou; Matiaha Tiramorehu, of Moeraki, who instigated the Kai Tahu Treaty claim in 1849; Merekihereke Hape, of Puketeraki; and Timoti Karetai, of Otakou, whose father Hone Karetai was one of the Treaty signatories.

On the Pakeha side, there were plenty of concerned members of the public as well as leading figures such as Otago Superintendent James Macandrew, provincial secretary and solicitor John McGlashan, Dunedin's representative at the General Assembly Thomas Gillies and the newly appointed minister of Knox Church, the Rev Dr Donald Stuart.

Speaking to the anxious crowd, Hone Korako delivered a message from the most important lower South Island chief Topi Patuki, who was based on Ruapuke, Stewart Island.

"Listen. Those reports are false," he told the throng.

"Consider how many years we have been living together, and not one European has been put to death by us, neither has any native been put to death by a European ... It is long since we considered ourselves a part of you."

Then, Dacker says, Tiramorehu spelt out the relationship as Maori saw it.

"Basically, he said there is God, then below God is the Queen," Dacker says.

"And below the Queen is the Queen's rangatiratanga, her chieftainships.

"Maori and Pakeha were basically equals on that level ... Maori were now rangatira of the Queen."

And still today, many Maori, including Kai Tahu, and especially many Maori leaders, stand firmly in favour of the reigning British monarch remaining New Zealand's head of state.

The reasons, it appears, are threefold.

Counter-intuitively, maintaining the monarchy as head of state is seen as vital to righting wrongs and achieving aspirations.

"Our ancestors signed the Treaty ... They saw that as a solemn compact between them and the royalty of the time," Edward Ellison, who is a kaumatua, elder, of the Otakou Runaka on Otago Peninsula, says.

"They expected the Queen to honour that Treaty ... That attitude has come down through the generations."

Keeping the monarchy preserves the "other partner" in the Treaty; a partner who can be appealed to directly for redress.

"We don't give away that ... recourse we have to the monarchy, or their legal representatives. As a tribe we have taken cases to the Privy Council, to the Lords, to sort out issues that do not seem to be able to be sorted here."

The right to appeal to the Privy Council ended in 2004 when the Supreme Court of New Zealand came into existence. That makes holding on to the monarchy that much more important.

It is quite a different way of viewing the monarchy, compared with the predominant Pakeha view, Mr Ellison says.

He believes New Zealand will eventually become a republic. But, he says, most Maori will oppose that move until there is a constitution that preserves a special status for Maori, similar to what they enjoy as Treaty partners with the Crown.

The album cover of the Waiata Maori Choir, which performed for and was entertained by King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth, in London, in late 1937.
The album cover of the Waiata Maori Choir, which performed for and was entertained by King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth, in London, in late 1937.

"At present, we do not have a constitution that could safely replace that, in our view."

Otago Polytechnic Emeritus Professor Khyla Russell, of Karitane, who has welcomed several sets of Royals on behalf of Kai Tahu and Dunedin, summarises it succinctly.

"As long as we have a monarchy, we have a treaty relationship," Russell says.

"If we become a republic, that goes."

Support for the monarchy goes beyond utility.

There is an enduring respect for the royals that is often absent in the non-Maori populace.

This respect comes from a belief that the heads of state, from Queen Victoria onwards, have acted towards Maori with greater integrity than their New Zealand representatives.

For example, the second of the three articles of the Treaty of Waitangi changed the way land sales took place. Under the Treaty, Maori land could only be sold to the Crown, which would on-sell to settlers.

The monarch and her representatives hoped that would prevent injustices and strife.

It did not work that way, but that was the intention, Potiki says.

"That is one of the things that iwi have always harboured: that it [injustice] was entirely driven by the colonials themselves, who were desperate for land; it wasn't driven by their [Maoridom's] Treaty partner," he says.

"In our view, the Crown was more honourable and of a disposition to leave us with our land, and our customs and everything. But the locals couldn't tolerate seeing land that wasn't covered with sheep."

This enduring desire by the Royals to deal well with Maori seems to be borne out by the extraordinary apology given 27 years ago, at the start of the Treaty settlement process.

First off the rank was Tainui, a central North Island tribal confederation which, in the words of Mr Potiki, had been "royally shafted ... by the land theft and totally corrupt behaviour of the Government, against the Crown's better advice".

Tainui had asked for a personal apology, was told by the New Zealand Government that would not be possible, and then was given it by the Queen, in person, in Wellington, in November 1995.

It was the first time a British Royal had apologised for anything.

The Queen's apology was deemed to stand for all future Treaty settlements, including Kai Tahu's in 1998.

Utility. Respect. The connection goes deeper still.

Mr Potiki says Maori and monarchy have a tangible relationship, borne of a shared worldview.

Iwi saw themselves as imperial regimes. So, it is not surprising that in dealing with Pakeha they sought to engage with the highest chief possible; the reigning monarch.

"When the Treaty was signed, it was seen as a sacred bond between ariki, paramount chiefs. They wouldn't have been willing to engage to the extent that they did with anyone of lesser status."

Representatives of Kai Tahu were well represented at the 1901 Royal Tour event in Rotorua. Photo / Supplied, Otago Daily Times
Representatives of Kai Tahu were well represented at the 1901 Royal Tour event in Rotorua. Photo / Supplied, Otago Daily Times

And in that engagement, Maori discovered they were dealing with an ariki who also valued genealogy, divine appointment and other familiar concepts.

From there, the relationship grew.

Various iwi had special relationships in place with the royal family, Potiki says.

"It is fascinating to look back at the history, even just of the families here at Otakou.

"Over the years they have made the effort to engage when representatives of the royal family have come to New Zealand."

This dates from the 1901 visit, which both Broughton's and Potiki's forebears attended, to the most recent royal visit, by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

In the late 1930s, several Kai Tahu, including Ellison's father George Ellison and his aunt Mori Ellison (nee Pickering), performed for and met King George VI and Queen Consort Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) when the Waiata Maori Choir toured the United Kingdom.

Russell recalls, as a child during the 1950s, standing in front of the family home at Otakou waving flags as a royal entourage passed. A car stopped and the Queen Mother wound down the window to give her and the other children a wave and a smile.

In 2002, Potiki was on the front row of the official party that welcomed the Queen on to the Kai Tahu marae, Tuahiwi, near Kaiapoi.

That time, the gift to the Queen was a piece of jewellery by celebrated Kai Tahu artist Areta Wilkinson. The brooch was made from family heirloom kotuku feathers in the shape of the native Aoraki-Mt Cook lily.

In 2014, Broughton officiated at the Dunedin welcome for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

After a church service at St Paul's Cathedral, he presented the couple with a silver teaspoon by leading New Zealand jeweller Tony Williams, of Dunedin. The teaspoon's handle was crafted from pounamu gifted by Kai Tahu.

He was again on the front line when Charles and Camilla visited the next year.

There is a long history of gifts also being given by monarchs, stretching back to six Wilkinson swords gifted to loyalist Maori leaders by Queen Victoria following the New Zealand Wars.

The two-way exchange has even extended to people.

In 1863, Ngapuhi chief Hare Pomare and his wife Hariata visited London and met Queen Victoria. Their son was born while they were in England. He was named Albert Victor Pomare and adopted by the Queen as her godson. The Queen continued to provide for his care for many years.

In 1982, Prince Edward spent most of the year as a junior master at Whanganui Collegiate School. Potiki says New Zealand and that school were chosen for the Prince's gap-year OE because of historic links the royal family had with Maori from that area.

The royals, like Maori, have long memories and place great value on relationships, Potiki says.

"So, the royal family ... have always recognised those things when they return. They always recall previous times. Some have returned with taonga they have received 50 or 100 years beforehand, to give back or to wear on the day, because they recognise the importance of the symbolism of those relationships.

"It's absolutely a similar mindset. It's beyond the politics and into the realms of ancestors and depth of relationship. You can't underestimate the power of that."

Potiki says the relationship with the monarchy is "up for negotiation", particularly in the minds of some younger Maori leaders.

"But for the foreseeable future, I can't see that diminishing, so long as those leadership families on both sides are in a position to give effect to the relationship."