A cause for celebration

Wednesday 16 December 2009, 1:21PM
By Hone Harawira

“The announcement of a national Maori flag should be a cause for celebration not mean-spirited opposition,” said Hone Harawira, Maori Party MP for Tai Tokerau. “But you can never please everyone – some people think we should cancel Christmas as well.”

What do you say to those who oppose it?
“Shane Jones opposes it because Phil Goff told him to, but his kids have been wearing it for the last ten years anyway, so his comments don’t really count.
And Winston Peters opposing it fits with his trying to take the Treaty out of legislation as well – hardly pro-Maori.
“Sure - not everyone will like it, but then if you put the New Zealand Flag up against the Silver fern for a national flag, I bet a lot of people wouldn’t choose the New Zealand flag either.

Was the choice a close decision?
No. The winning design got 80% support, and the other three only got 20% between them, so the choice was overwhelming.

Was the process to choose it skewed?
“No. The process was actually run by Te Puni Kokiri. It was robust and independent. There were hui all round the country, and people also voted through a website as well as in writing.

Isn’t it the Maori Party flag?
No. I was disappointed when they didn’t choose it but in hindsight it was the right decision – to leave it as a flag for all Maori rather than just for the Party.

Isn’t it a protest flag?
The winning design was originally unveiled in 1990 as the Maori Flag. It’s also become known as the ‘tino rangatiratanga’ flag but it’s always been the Maori Flag first and foremost. 20 years later it finally gets national recognition, and I’m really happy for all those people who had a hand in making it happen.

What about the criticism that it’s not an “official” flag – that it’s only symbolic?
Actually, it was decided not to include it in legislation because while it was OK for the Crown to recognise it, Maori felt that ownership should always rest with Maori, and not the Crown. So the decision to not put it under the Flags and Emblems Act was one that most Maori would approve of.

Will it fly at Waitangi next year?
I certainly hope so. This isn’t the time for petty politics. This is an opportunity to celebrate the unity that was so apparent when we marched to Wellington in 2004, when flags of every tribe flew alongside the Maori flag. This is our time to fly. And I hope everyone gets on board with the decision made by the government to finally recognise a flag that is clearly the people’s choice.