Tino Rangatiratanga - Flying the Flag 


Kia ora tatou. We're in the process of coming to a full and final decision about flying the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag here at OP.

At this stage we want to provide information for you to read so that we can get to a shared understanding of the flag and its history and significance. Three of the local mana whenua rūnaka have agreed to flying the flag and one has not and therefore it is important that we go through this considered process.

Following this background information, a survey will be sent to you over the next couple of months. Please look out for this!

If you have any other patai (questions), please contact Megan Potiki (Megan.Potiki@op.ac.nz), our Deputy Chief Executive: Partnership and Equity. Kā mihi. 


Mana whenua view on flag being flown

Three rūnaka (Ōtākou, Moeraki and Hokonui) are supportive of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag being flown at OP, but are also ambivalent about the connection to mana whenua history and whakapapa. Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki are not supportive of the flag being flown and feel it needs ongoing discussion to truly understand it’s symbolism for Otago Polytechnic.  Generally the flag is seen as a symbol of protest  in the North Island, rather than of our Kāi Tahu hapū (sub-tribes)

Kāi Tahu have a non-committal and contentious connection to the flag more recently. In 2010 at Ōnuku marae in Canterbury (Treaty was signed here) on Waitangi Day, the flag was not flown at these celebrations.

Kaumātua (elder), George Tikao stated that “we don’t believe that is our flag.” Te Maire Tau stated that “the flag had negative connotations for the iwi….for our tribe the flag has been nothing but trouble….quite often people opposing a Ngāi Tahu settlement were flying the tino rangatiratanga flag.” (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/3295467/Ngai-Tahu-reject-flag-as-trouble)

In 2009 the Dunedin City Council flew the flag on Waitangi Day. Our Kāi Tahu leadership in Dunedin was nonchalant about flying it. Tahu Pōtiki stated that 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 Kāi Tahu flags…..the flag means something, particularly to a lot of young people, it makes a statement about pride and independence. Pōtiki went on to state that “the 1835 Ensign, also known as the flag of the United Tribes, was the official flag of New Zealand until 1840. The 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 Māori society had their own flag. A 1940s film showed Ōtākou Marae flew a red flag with a Union Jack in the top left-hand corner and the word Ōtākou across the red background. The Kāi Tahu Corporation has its own flag design. Kāi Tahu did not have an expressed preference on a Māori flag.” (https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/dunedin-flies-solo-maori-flag)

There were also many flags made and flown from at various marae and by different hapū and iwi. In Otago, Kāi Tahu have a strong tradition of flying their own flags. Four flags are displayed above. The one in the picture above and to the left has “Te Mahi Tamariki” written down the side which was the name of the first Whare Rūnanga opened in 1874 at Ōtākou. Te Mahi Tamariki translated to “the work of the children” – a term about the children needing to rectify the grievances of their parents caused by the broken promises of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Otago Deed of Settlement.

The Araiteuru flag was made when the Araiteuru Council Act was passed in 1903, and this was flown at Puketeraki. The Huirapa flag to the right was flown over the Whare rūnanga at Puketeraki for many years.

On Waitangi Day 2022, the Dunedin City Council flew the two mana whenua flags, Te Mahi Tamariki and Huirapa

The Waipounamu flag was created for the opening of the Whare Rūnanga built in 1901 at the village of Maitepapa, near Henley. 


History of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag

There is an early history of flags. In 1834 James Busby called together a group of Northern Māori chiefs to choose a flag to represent New Zealand. There were three optional flags given (designed by Rev. Henry Williams) and the vote was cast at 12 to 25 votes for what became known as the United Tribes of New Zealand Flag. Busby’s original intentions were to create a flag that was able to be flown from New Zealand registered ships and encourage Rangatira to work together in some form of government.

In 1989 a group of Māori activists travelled to Australia to support Aboriginal protests at the time and made note of the impressive Aboriginal flag that was seen everywhere at that time. This made a strong impact on the Māori group of activists and they were inspired to create a Māori national flag. Therefore in 1989 they organised a competition to design a Māori flag. They dismissed the United Tribes Flag as it didn’t illustrate a Māori design. The national Māori flag was developed by members of the group Te Kawariki in 1989.  On 6 February 1990, the group unveiled the flag at Waitangi. To begin it was simply called the Māori flag and it soon became known as the tino rangatiratanga flag because it became a symbol of tino rangatiratanga (self-government and self determination as recorded in the Treaty of Waitangi)[1]

In January 2009, the Hon Pita Sharples (Minister of Māori Affairs), publicly called for a Māori flag to be flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day. Sharples thought this would enhance Crown-Māori relationships and John Key supported the idea but only if an agreement could be reached on the preferred flag.

Four flags of national significance were identified for consideration as the preferred national Māori flag:

  • the New Zealand flag
  • the New Zealand Red Ensign
  • the national (United Tribes of New Zealand) flag
  • the Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) flag. 

Over 1200 submissions were received with 79% of contributers identifying themselves as Māori.  Of the submissions, 80.1% selected the Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) flag as the preferred national Māori flag. Feedback also indicated that it should be flown on Waitangi Day and other significant occasions. On 14 December 2009, Cabinet recognised the Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) flag as the preferred national Māori flag, and noted that it will complement the New Zealand flag

“If the conditions are right, such discussions can make people aware of other perspectives on questions of nationhood and identity in a way that helps to bridge social divisions and not entrench them.” (Morris, 2010, 127) 

[1] Ewan Morris, Banner Headlines: The Māori Flag Debate in comparative Perspective, in The Journal of New Zealand Studies, 2010.