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Maori Flag A Protest Symbol -- Shane Jones

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Shane Jones
Shane Jones

Wellington, Dec 15 NZPA - A Maori flag chosen to fly over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Parliament and Premier House is a symbol of protest and an ad for the Maori Party, opponents say.

Cabinet yesterday decided the Tino Rangatiratanga flag would be flown at significant sites controlled by the Government. The decision followed a series of hui which Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said recorded 80 percent support for that particular flag which is used as a symbol for the party he co-leads and has in the past been used by activists demanding Maori separatism.

Labour MP Shane Jones criticised the hui process and said it was run by Maori MP Hone Harawira who recently got into trouble for calling Pakeha "white motherf...ers".

"This flag is Hone's flag. Hone Harawira ran the flag hui process. I think it was largely farcical," Mr Jones told Radio New Zealand.

"But the reality is that we all knew that this was going to be the flag, this is the Maori Party flag this is Hone's flag so none of us are hugely surprised."

The 1835 independence flag was the one with the right pedigree, he said, and the chosen flag would be just a symbol with no status; "It's really a sop to the Maori Party."

"At some point in time all of us through an inclusive approach are going to have to develop a new flag. But that can't be done through the Prime Minister choosing his favourite flag or Dr Pita Sharples or Hone Harawira."

The flag was more of a bumper sticker for people who wanted to represent something Maori at an event or overseas.

"To suggest however it carries the weight of history (is wrong).

"I think it needs to outlive the aspirations of the Maori Party, which is basically their effort to further perpetuate their relevance by getting a flag but unable to get any seats for Maori representatives on the (Auckland supercity) council. So when it flutters above the harbour bridge it's going to be a flag without representatives."

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua told The New Zealand Herald that the flag represented the Maori Party rather than Maori in general and he would not let it fly at Te Tii Marae in Waitangi.

"Why should their political flag fly from our marae? John Key and his cohorts can fly it anywhere they like but it will never fly at Waitangi."

Dr Sharples hoped it may be flown at Waitangi in future.

Mr Key defended the choice of flag.

"In my view the symbolism of flying the New Zealand flag supported by the Maori flag, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, is an important step, it's a symbol, it's a small step but nevertheless it's a positive step that we are embracing our cultural diversity," he told Radio New Zealand.

Mr Key said some might call it a protest flag but he thought it symbolised potential and hope.

"It isn't always flown in protest, the team New Zealand crew flew this flag at Valencia, you see it at a lot of kapa haka competitions, you see it at the Sevens."

Over time the perception would change, he said.

"I don't agree that it's a political 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 ... you don't see New Zealanders running around objecting if the haka is performed by the All Blacks at a test match."

Dr Sharples said if there was any backlash from people who resented the flag as a symbol of Maori separatism it would be "minor in the scheme of things".

"We are looking forward to it being a positive sign," he said.

Dr Sharples acknowledged that a times the flag had represented conflict, but it had also been raised in celebration.

Last Waitangi Day the authorities who run the Auckland Harbour Bridge angered some Maori by refusing their request for the flag to be flown alongside the New Zealand flag.

Mr Key said a directive would be sent telling them to fly the flag on Waitangi Day next year.

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