Russell's historic flagpole has been badly damaged by vandals who daubed the post and plaque in graffiti, cut supporting cables and sawed halfway through the pole.
Emergency repairs have been carried out to stop the flagpole toppling over and the top of Maiki Hill has been fenced off for safety until permanent repairs can be carried out.
The attack has disappointed local hapū who, for the first time in living memory, will be unable to raise Te Kara (the United Tribes flag) on Waitangi Day.
The attackers painted distinctive tags and slogans but their motives remain unclear.
A similar graffiti attack occurred in November with identical purple paint.
The flagpole is famous for being chopped down several times by Ngāpuhi chief Hone Heke and his men — on the final occasion as a signal to launch an attack on the town then known as Kororāreka — but the current pole was erected by Maihi Kawiti, son of the Ngāti Hine chief Te Ruki Kawiti, in 1858.
Te Ruki Kawiti built the famous fighting pā at Ruapekapeka, site of the final battle of the 1845-46 Northern War.
Kororāreka Marae chairwoman Deb Rewiri said the attack on a wāhi tapu and internationally significant site was disappointing.
In the previous attack the mis-spelled word 'fredom' was spraypainted on the post but Rewiri urged people not to jump to conclusions about who was responsible or what their motives could be.
Another symbol, a crossed-out NWO, is thought to refer to conspiracy theories claiming a secretive elite is planning a totalitarian New World Order.
It was also not clear whether the pole had been cut only halfway through because the attackers had been disturbed, or whether they intended it to fall at a later time, possibly when people were present.
Rewiri (Ngāre Raumati, Ngāti Manu) said she discovered purple graffiti daubed on the pou (pole), memorial stone and a sign in the carpark on Monday morning.
At the time she didn't notice that the pole had been cut a few metres from the ground where the metal sheathing ends.
Two of the four support cables had also been severed, probably with a portable grinder.
It was likely the attack occurred on Sunday night because there was no damage the previous morning.
''It's upsetting for us. We've let the Kawiti whānau know — they're very closely connected to the pou — as well as [Ngāti Hine leader] Pita Tipene.''
Rewiri said the incident made it clear that security cameras were needed on Maiki Hill.
Hapū had long been reluctant to have a gate at the entrance which could be locked at night, but that could also be required at some point.
That would also stop people staying overnight in the car park.
Rewiri urged anyone who recognised the distinctive paint or the tags, which are unique to each tagger, to contact the marae or Russell police.
''We know there are people who will know who has done this. We are asking them to come forward and own up. We don't mind disagreement but to do something like this ... We don't understand what they were trying to achieve.''
The United Tribes flag was raised on various significant occasions throughout the year, including Waitangi Day. It could be clearly seen across the water at Te Tii Marae and the Treaty Grounds.
This year would be the first time it could not be raised in as long as she could remember.
''It is to acknowledge the past, our collective hapū, the conflicts that happened here shortly after the Treaty was signed, and the reconciliation that is still progressing,'' she said.