Nāu te Haki Nāku te Haki (Your Flag and My Flag)

Special Edition #1

By Ellipsister (Ed.)

Change the flag. Don’t change the flag. I’m ambivalent. Some suggest a new flag will enable us to move on from our colonist past. Others have endeared themselves to the monarchy so much so that they avidly defend our ties, and express their fury at the very mention of disposing of the Union Jack as part of our national identity. There are those, notably the RSA who view any change as a slap in the face to those who have served their country under the existing flag. A side issue, but one gaining much traction, concerns the $26 million price tag to fund the ‘Change the Flag’ campaign. But the flag debate is not really about the money.Or at least, it probably shouldn’t be. It’s about symbols and what many are hoping will birth a new sense of unity. However, I remain sceptical that a new flag will bring about anything close to what many of those pushing for the change are suggesting. One of my worries is the persistent reference to biculturalism to advance the need for a new flag. The idea is that a new flag will appropriately acknowledge the biculturalism of our country.  My issue is that rather than biculturalism being a concept understood as ‘two distinct cultures within a geographically defined space’, it is more often than not used as a euphemism for assimilation or incorporation.

Let me illustrate using cats:





Incorporation (a more subtle form of assimilation)


Note in both these latter examples, there are no longer two cats. We are also looking at the watering down, merging or selective picking of cultural aspects, which in my view risks rendering either or both cultures meaningless.We are also no longer talking in terms of biculturalism. In my opinion, the same applies when we talk about one flag to unite us all.

I have concerns around incorporating Māori symbols into the new flag because it feels, well, assimilatory especially since the national Māori flag does not have equal status to the New Zealand flag. You might have gathered by now then that I support dual national flags and I think that until the national Māori flag (i.e. the Tino Rangatiratanga flag) receives equal status with the New Zealand flag, then I care very little about changing the flag. I should of course note, that there is some opposition as to which flag represents a national Māori identity. However, in 2009 consultation hui were held throughout the country and 81% of participants favoured the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.

The argument for dual flags is not new. Te Ata Tino Toa also advocate a dual flag policy. They explain that ‘at the moment the Tino Rangatiratanga flag can only be flown by the Government on certain days, such as Waitangi Day, but that needs to change’. So despite the principle of partnership enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the government remain in control of the times at which Māori can express our unique identity. Before anyone argues ‘its separatist’ or a ‘barrier to one nation’, the Australian government recognises the Aboriginal national flag as having equal status to their national flag. Also, this one nation business is an expression of direct oppression of Māori. It reeks of assimilation. I also worry that if Māori symbols are incorporated into the national flag of New Zealand, then this could diminish any claims to sovereignty under Te Tiriti and may amount, or be perceived to amount to a surrender of our struggle for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake. Additionally, any new flag will largely be decided by Pākehā and Tauiwi as the majority and therefore, it is not Māori who will determine which of our Māori symbols are included on the flag.

In saying that, I do think that a changed flag is probably a good idea. The existing flag is a reminder of a dark and painful history rather than a symbol of what we might hope for in the future. But as I said – I’d personally like to see equal status given to the Maori flag before seeing any flag change. Even if it’s not on the table at the moment.



  1. Bluen · July 1, 2015

    Kia Ora tuahine 😉 as always I appreciate your lucid and well articulated thoughts. I disagree that the $26m referendum issue is a side issue. I believe it is part of THE central issue re: this flag thing. That the Govt would spend $26m on a cause that seemed to be pulled out of thin air, at the same time as hundreds of thousands of NZers are struggling, shows that despite what the people want (or dont want) that the Govt has no qualms about doing whatever it wants, whenever it wants, as long as it thinks it can get away with it (politically) Im not saying the flag issue is not important, Im just saying why now?

    I believe that a maori saying is applicable here: ‘kei runga to kōrero, kei raro te rahurahu’. Above there is talk, below there is meddling – bad translation, but the idea is that ones’ words are saying one thing, while their hands are busily at work under the table.

    I believe that this flag business, happening as it is at THIS time, is just a cynical smokescreen. A smokescreen to take the focus of NZers off other things. (E.g TPPA) if we consider how momentous the TPPA is, what is at stake, and on what levels, who is likely to benefit from it, and conversely who will suffer under it, then its a matter of smart politics to introduce alternative debates into the picture to distract and preoccupy NZ.

    I believe that that is why the Govt doggedly stuck to the idea of a flag referendum, even though early on, a significant proportion of NZers were either indifferent, or anti it. They knew that if they kept pushing the idea, that people would engage in the conversation, they’d have to. They dont actually need NZ to decide one way or the other on a flag, for it to be an effective smokescreen, they just need to preoccupy us, meanwhile, there are many other pressing matters that we should be having referenda on, but that will not see the light of day; aspects of the TPPA, child poverty, feeding the kids, etc, etc. Imagine if National were as dogged about having a referendum on improving child poverty as they have been with the flag, that would be amazing. There are any number of causes much more deserving of a 26m referendum, or even just $26m cash, than a flag design.

    John Key and some of his mates were captains of commerce and industry before they entered politics. They’ll do their time as politicians, fiddle with the country, its constitution, its rules, laws, sovereignty etc, and then when they are out of politics, and back into making money, they’ve set things up nicely for themselves .

    Dont get me wrong, I agree that there needs to be a conversation, and that many of the things you and others are saying, is important, but….here? now? why?

    As for questions of national identity, patriotism and the like, why would we entrust such a conversation to National to lead? John Key knew little if anything about the 30+ years of Maori & Pakeha land wars in the 19thC**, and couldnt remember what his stance was, or what he was doing during the Springbok tour***.

    No I say theres nothing wrong with the current flag for now, lets spend $26m on more pressing matters, as for biculturalism being expressed on a new flag, lets not forget that Air NZ with the (Māori) Koru as their symbol – wouldnt hire a wahine Māori with a tāmoko on her arm****. Takes more than a flag with a maori design to make NZ more bicultural.

    ** http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/63377474/New-Zealand-settled-peacefully-PM


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