Identity Politics

Written By: - Date published: 1:15 pm, January 31st, 2009 - 10 comments
Categories: john key, maori party, national - Tags:


Artist's impression of John Key supporting Maori

In 2007 Te Ata Tino Toa applied to Tranzit New Zealand to have the Maori Sovereignty flag flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day.

Tranzit declined permission on the grounds that it wasn’t a UN recognized national flag, despite having previously flown the Team New Zealand flag, which would have failed the same test. So in 2008 Te Ata Tino Toa decided to make an enormous 7 x 14m flag and fly it over the bridge anyway.

I’m genuinely glad that now in 2009 John Key has agreed to consider the request again, even though he’s deferring a decision for this year until a broader conversation happens amongst Maori about whether the flag enjoys widespread support across Iwi. I guess that’s fair, although Te Ata Tino Toa have pointed out in the past that it’s far from established whether the New Zealand flag enjoys universal endorsement from Maori either.

Let’s hope Key’s willingness to address issues of Maori representation is sincere and not just procrastination or tactical deference to coalition partners.

This year Te Ata Tino Toa have put out this release about posting Key a t-shirt, addressed in Te Reo, with the Maori Sovereignty flag on it for him to wear on Waitangi Day, presumably in light of his penchant for wearing symoblic t-shirts there in the past. Should make for some more great photo-ops.

Update: Key passes on t-shirt.

10 comments on “Identity Politics”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    Absolutely they should be allowed to fly their flag but hang Maori sovereignty.

    Why should a minority expect to have sovereignty over the majority ?

  2. Lew 2

    TS: Since when did they want sovereignty over a majority of anyone? They’re arguing for sovereignty over their own resources, land, people and institutions.

    You can make an anti-secessionist case, if you like (though it’s hard, since nobody’s arguing about secession), but there’s simply no merit at all to the argument that Māori seek sovereignty over all of NZ.


  3. Tigger 3

    The devil is in the detail here. Key has said he wants all iwi supporting the move and thus ‘consultation’ must be undergone. There will be some arguments over this one and Key knows that. He wants Maori in-fighting.

  4. mike 4

    Tigger – No I dont think he does want maori in-fighting. i think he DOESNT want the scenario of the tino falg flying when (From the NZ Herald feedback) 80% of the country see the tino flag as one of protest, separatism and defiance. A flag that carries that background is something he needs like another hole in the head.

    I think he wants a new flag that evryone can agree to. Canadad had the solution – 2 official flags – the old one and the new one. Their new one was the maple leaf. The equivalent in NZ is the silver fern.

    The tino flag came into existance in 1990 as a ‘better’ flag of protest. There are several versions of it, one being from maori who dont want to be associated with the protest background og the tino flag.

  5. Lew 5

    Tigger: The key in this matter is Tariana’s argument:

    It puts him in opposition to his party co-leader, Tariana Turia, who believes any decision on the flag and the bridge should be made by Ngati Whatua alone.

    It depends if the symbolic act of flying a flag on the bridge is intended as a national statement, or a local statement. Key and Sharples clearly believe it should be a national statement. It will be interesting to see which iwi agree with whom.

    As for infighting; it’s a live issue with legitimate arguments on each of the two main sides. It’s not Key’s (or Sharples’) place to unilaterally decide. My instinct suggests that Ngäti Whätua will host a consultation hui and will (officially) reserve the decision for themselves, but will (in fact) go with the consensus view. Māori are pretty good at working this sort of thing out, they have a great deal of experience at it,since, for decades, consultation was all they had; let it happen as it happens.

    Incidentally, that’s a cracking tie.


  6. deemac 6

    Key has no problems with the flag because it costs nothing and means nothing. So long as the Maori Party are happy with empty gestures instead of real action, the NP is laughing

  7. Lew 7

    deemac: Do you genuinely believe symbolic matters mean nothing? It clearly means something to some people.


  8. bill brown 8

    I’m with deemac here, it’s an easy win for Key – he, and the Nats, look more inclusive than Labour without actually having to give away anything.

    Marry this up with a very controlled Waitangi day – the usual trouble makers know they’ll get nothing from the MP if they cause a stink and make them look bad – and we’re well on the way to the illusion of a contented Maori “nation”.

    The MP is happy – they have the baubles.
    The NP supporters are happy – no trouble making Maoris making them uncomfortable.
    Key’s happy – He’s the nice guy who made it all happen and everybody loves him.

  9. bill brown 9

    “Incidentally, that’s a cracking tie.”

    As in:

    That tie’s giving me a cracking headache?

  10. Lew 10

    Bill: It makes a statement. I’m not sure it makes the statement he thinks it’s making, but it’s better than the two-tone blue which comes with the Standard Issue National Party Leader Kit : )


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