A leader of a Northland hapu which has a claim over the Treaty grounds at Waitangi says flying the "tino rangatiratanga" flag at the grounds during Waitangi celebrations would be a breach of treaty rights.

The flag was last month chosen by the Government to be flown alongside the New Zealand flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Premier House and other sites controlled by the Government after 80 per cent of the 1200 submissions supported it rather than other flags.

The Waitangi National Trust has not decided which flags will fly but says at this stage it is not planning to fly the tino rangatiratanga flag.

David Rankin of Ngapuhi hapu Te Matarahurahu says he regards the flag, which has been used at times by Maori protest movements, as a "hate flag".

He warned that flying it at the Treaty grounds would breach his hapu's treaty rights given that there was a claim made for the land.

"Until a decision is made on the ownership of the Treaty grounds, the Government should stay away from supporting the flag flying at the treaty grounds."

Even though the land is owned by the Waitangi National Trust, Mr Rankin said he would regard the Government as having breached the tribe's treaty rights and be acting in defiance of the Waitangi Tribunal processes if it supported the flag flying at the site.

He said he was preparing an urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal to prevent the flag flying, though he later told NZPA it was as much a signal that the hapu regarded that flying it would be a treaty breach and would create another grievance.

Mr Rankin said the tino rangatiratanga flag would not advance the country's race relations and would serve as a beacon for Maori he described as having a chip on their shoulders.

Pita Paraone of the Waitangi National Trust said that in past years the flags which had flown were the New Zealand flag, the white ensign flag and the 1834 United Tribes flag.

"The board has made no decision," he said, "but it's looking like the status quo will remain for this year."

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua last month said the tino rangatiratanga flag was a flag of the Maori Party and he would not let it fly at Te Tii Marae at Waitangi.

Mr Taurua was a strong supporter of the 1834 United Tribes flag.

Prime Minister John Key last month said he did not agree the tino rangatiratanga flag was a Maori Party flag.

"At the end of the day the Maori Party chose to have that as its sign but it was there a long time before the Maori Party. In my view it is going to be a symbol of the bicultural foundations that New Zealand is founded on."

Mr Rankin made the claim for the Treaty grounds on the basis that the sale by his ancestors Hone Heke and Tuhirangi of the 97ha on which the Treaty Grounds and Treaty House sit was invalid.

He cited the Gipps Proclamations, in which he said the New South Wales governor George Gipps guaranteed a few weeks before the treaty was signed that Maori would keep possession of any land that had not been fairly sold to Europeans prior to 1840 and that had not been investigated by the Crown.

Mr Rankin said the 1832 sale to the British resident James Busby was never investigated, so the Crown could not claim to have paid a fair price for it.

In 1932 Lord Bledisloe and his wife bought and donated 506ha of land to the nation. It is now owned by the Waitangi National Trust and has the status of private land.

The Treaty of Waitangi Act says that privately owned land is not an option for settlement of historical grievances -- only Crown-owned land can be settled.

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