Dunedin flies solo on Maori flag

Waitangi Day Concert Committee member Reitu Cassidy is pleased Dunedin mayor Peter Chin has...
Waitangi Day Concert Committee member Reitu Cassidy is pleased Dunedin mayor Peter Chin has approved flying the tino rangatiratanga (Maori sovereignty) flag on the Civic Centre building tomorrow. Photo by Bruce Munro.
Dunedin is the only major New Zealand city to officially fly a Maori flag this Waitangi Day.

Mayor Peter Chin has approved a request from Maori sovereignty proponents for the tino rangatiratanga flag to fly on the Civic Centre building tomorrow.

Maori flags will not be flying from city council property in any of the country's other five main centres.

The issue of Maori flags on Waitangi Day recently came to the fore when Prime Minister John Key stepped into the debate over a request for the red, white and black tino rangatiratanga flag to fly on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Mr Key said he would support a flag chosen by Maori flying from the bridge, Parliament and Premier House on the holiday from 2010.

This will be the second year Mr Chin has said yes to the tino rangatiratanga flag flying from the flagpole on the balcony outside his Civic Centre office on Waitangi Day.

The request came from the Waitangi Day Concert Committee which has held an annual event promoting the Treaty of Waitangi in the Octagon since 1982.

Mr Chin said he had no objection to flying the tino rangatiratanga flag. ‘‘There were no issues that I can recall last year. So why should I have any issue with it this year?''

The question of which Maori flag should be flown was ‘‘not a debate I have any interest to enter into'', he said.

Contacted by The Star, representatives of Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Invercargill city councils said they would not be flying a Maori flag on Waitangi Day.

Auckland and Christchurch councils had not received a request to fly a Maori flag. Wellington and Hamilton would not be flying a Maori flag on council property but sponsored Waitangi Day events where the tino rangatiratanga flag was flown.

Invercargill council offices would be closed so no flag would be flown.

Waitangi Day Concert Committee member Reitu Cassidy was surprised but pleased the mayor had again approved flying the flag.

‘‘The first time, we were amazed and wondered whether it would just be a one-off,'' Ms Cassidy said.

Allowing the flag to be flown was ‘‘a good indication'', she said.

‘‘It's one step towards a better organisational relationship in terms of Maori events in the city.''

Te Runanga Otakou chairman Tahu Potiki said he had no objection to the tino rangatiratanga flag being flown but that there were a number of other designs in contention as New Zealand, Maori and Kai Tahu flags.

‘‘If it [the tino rangatiratanga flag] is banned, it just gives people reasons to get up in arms,'' Mr Potiki said.

‘‘The flag means something, particularly to a lot of young people,'' Mr Potiki said. ‘‘It makes a statement about pride and independence.''

The 1835 Ensign, also known as the flag of the United Tribes, was the official flag of New Zealand until 1840, Mr Potiki said. That flag has a red cross of St George on a white background, with a smaller red St George's cross in the top left hand corner on a blue background.

Most communities in early post-European Maori society had their own flag, Mr Potiki said.

A 1940s film showed Otakou Marae flew a red flag with a Union Jack in the top left-hand corner and the word Otakou across the red background.

The Kai Tahu Corporation has its own flag design.

Kai Tahu did not have an expressed preference on a Maori flag, Mr Potiki said.

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