Key Points:

Neither the tino rangatiratanga flag nor any other Maori design is likely to fly from the Auckland Harbour Bridge this Waitangi Day.

Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples is responsible for consulting iwi after Prime Minister John Key said he would support a flag chosen by Maori flying from the bridge, Parliament and Premier House on the holiday from 2010.

But Ngati Whatua has given the Government a hurry-along, saying they'd support the tino rangatiratanga flag flying this year.

Yesterday, Dr Sharples said he didn't have the time or resources between now and February 6 to complete the consultation, which was complicated by factions within Maoridom who individually supported the tino rangatiratanga flag, the 1835 flag and something new being flown.

To make that decision now would leave the Maori Party looking hypocritical, he said.

"We've accused government agencies of doing five-minute consultations before. I don't really think it can be done before Waitangi."

It puts him in opposition to his party co-leader, Tariana Turia, who believes any decision on the flag and the bridge should be made by Ngati Whatua alone.

But Dr Sharples said the issue wasn't only about what was flown from the bridge, it was about what was flown at many other public sites and opportunities for that to happen.

"I think there's two issues there. I think she was talking about tribal mana over their area and in that sense she's quite right, but in terms of what John Key is saying is that 'look I want to recognise this nationally and therefore please Maori decide which flag you'll support and I'll fly the jolly thing'."

However, he said Ngati Whatua had written to him and asked for his support for this Waitangi Day, which he was happy to give.

He said the bridge could be viewed as a "local issue" and as such was an issue for the agency that controls the structure, and the Prime Minister.

But that support angered Labour MP Shane Jones. He said the notion that Ngati Whatua could decide for the whole of Maoridom what was flown was pathetic.

"I don't know where they think they get that type of mana from. If they want that role perhaps they can pay the toll for every Ngapuhi who travels on the new toll road.

"The flag issue is being turned into a circus and if it continues then the rangatiratanga flag will simply become a red rag to a bull for all Auckland motorists."

A spokesperson for Mr Key said he was waiting for Dr Sharples to report back with consultation results - in effect killing any chance of seeing the flag this year.