The TPPA is a death sentence for Indigenous Rights

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Tangata whenua are strongly opposed to the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement which will be held in Auckland in February.

The TPPA represents a significant and disruptive challenge to Maori.

The New Zealand government has by-passed indigenous involvement at every level. This complete lack of consultation also contravenes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and this government has no right to sign this trade deal without our free,prior and informed consent.

Similar free trade agreements have had a devastating impact on the rights & lives of Indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous peoples have been criminalised and rights to their lands and resources have been ignored.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is colonisation by corporation.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is part of the neoliberal structural adjustment programme to diminish and extinguish Indigenous rights forever. The TPPA will intensify and increase  negative economic impacts in our communities. Already Maori are extensively over-represented in all negative indices.

The TPPA is a direct denial of the rights of Maori as stated in the 1835 Declaration of Independence and as reaffirmed in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

The Waitangi tribunal last year confirmed that Tangata Whenua did not cede their sovereignty when they signed the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Tangata Whenua have long and deeply-held traditional values and understandings of collectivity, of manakitanga , of kaitiakitanga (Caring for Earth Mother), for Tangaroa (god of the sea) and for their children .This is in direct opposition to what is being proposed in the TPPA. The New Zealand government does no have the right to negotiate away our rights under Te Tiriti and our rights as Indigenous peoples.

We oppose corporate Maori like FOMA (Federation of Maori Authorities) who have come out in support of this agreement. These neotribal capitalists are transparent in their greed and their neoliberal modus operandi.

Their bottom line and profit at any cost mentality puts the interests of the dairy industry and the tribal capitalists ahead of a duty of care for our environment and  our survival as Indigenous peoples. We will not let our grassroots who are struggling to survive be sold out again.

The TPPA is a “death sentence” for Maori . “It is a gift to the rich that will deepen the divide between narrowly concentrated wealth and mass misery, and destroy what remains of  indigenous society.” This is not the world our tupuna envisioned for us when they signed Te Tiriti.

“Our communities, our whānau, hapū, have the mana for the land. Let us not give that right to big businesses.” 1




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Te Ao Pritchard

Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Vaigaga, Aleisa




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John Key, hair pulling, name calling and the demeaning of rape victims.

The past few days reports have flowed about the interview undertaken by the Prime Minister, John Key, on the Rock radio show, where Key participated in what must really be considered a sick prank on the part of the DJ’s involved.

Where the PM played down the supposed ‘joke’ International media were not forgiving with the UK Daily Mail stating:

“During the awkward interview on The Rock FM, Mr Key was asked to get into a cage and pick up a bar of soap.
He obediently picked up the soap to the delight of the radio hosts with one presenter saying that the prime minister had a ‘pretty little mouth’. After the stunt complaints were made about Mr Key making little of sexual abuse in prison.
‘He (John Key) has a terrible history of not standing up against sexual violence in this country,’ Deborah Russell, a feminist commentator and Massey University lecturer, told The Guardian.
‘He has cut funding to rape crisis, he silenced women parliamentarians who spoke out about their own sexual assault experiences and now we have him making jokes about prison rape on a national radio station. When will it end?’
The interview seemed innocent enough until the prime minister was asked to get in the cage.
‘Jump in the cage real quick John,’ the radio host said. ‘I’m sure you’ve been locked in a cage before.’
After sheepishly getting into the cage, Mr Key, 54, was then told: ‘Show some support for the low and impoverished people of this country and please pick up this soap.’
The confused prime minister did as he was told to the joy of everyone in the studio.
‘You sure got a pretty little mouth,’ one of the hosts said as the others roared with laughter.
‘This is really, really lovely,’ replied Mr Key.
The radio host later told him the soap was taken from the men’s urinal. “(Read more:

The PM’s ridiculous antics were also noted by The Sun:

“This is the latest in a series of radio appearances the 54-year-old has made this year, with many of them going beyond the realms of a normal political interview.
In October he appeared on Radio Hauraki’s regular “Thank you for your honesty” segment and admitted he didn’t trim his public hair, urinates in the shower and has stolen in the past.
But he did save some face when he claimed to have never sent a naked selfie.”

In both international papers the PM’s Spokesperson provides justification for the behaviour by stating:
“The prime minister does these interviews in the spirit of Christmas and the content is decided by the hosts.
“The interviews are meant to be light hearted, and the prime minister hopes the media and the public take them that way.”

Referring to a Morning Report interview with media commentator Dr Brian Edwards, The Herald noted the following:

“Dr Edwards said there might be little short-term effect, but the kinds of appearances he has made this week could hurt his long-term reputation.
“He won’t go down in history as much of a stately person as he might want to be. I don’t think it’s going to hurt him amongst that core middle-class New Zealand swing voter, but his reputation is just a wee bit more tarnished as a result.”
He said the success of Mr Key’s strategy showed he still often had a good political radar, but not always when it came to sensitive social issues and the way he handled himself personally. “He just hasn’t really realised that things have changed, the whole public atmosphere about sexual issues has really changed in the past 10 years. And I think he might have got away with it 10 years ago, but it’s not really acceptable for a lot of New Zealanders now.”A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement that Mr Key did such interviews in the spirit of Christmas, and the content was decided by the radio hosts” (‘jokey-blokey’-persona-hurt-pm)

It is important that this behaviour be contextualised in line with other events and actions on the part of the PM that show other similar lack in judgement. What we are not reminded of in the reports related to the Rock show is that it is just a month ago that John Key also used rape as a means by which to belittle opposition to the lack of action in regards to Christmas Island. So it is just 5 weeks ago that the PM made the following statement”
“In an angry attack, he said: “Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers.
“These are the people that the Labour Party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here.
“Mr Davis, if you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we’ll defend New Zealanders.” (NZH November 10, (refer our earlier blog

The Prime Minister then made a range of statements that indicated he was ‘unapologetic’ about his use of rape as a means by which to make a point against the opposition parties and the subsequent walk out by a range of women within Parliament in protest at John Keys actions also received little meaningful engagement by John Key.Rather his response was to defend his position.

We need to see these two events alongside another reported event in 2015 where we also saw John Key in action with what became known as ‘Ponygate’.  In this instance the Prime Minister believed it was just joking around. On the Daily Blog a waitress, at a café frequented by John Key, wrote:

“His actions commenced during election time last year, I can recall discussing it with regular customers at this time, as he was often a topic of their conversation. He was frequenting the cafe far more than ever before. It was election time and he was out showing his face, being seen.
In the beginning, the first time he pulled on my hair, I remember thinking to myself he’s probably just trying to be playful and jolly, seeing as the general consensus of most who meet him is “he’s such a nice guy”. He’s trying to play into that to earn votes, I thought to myself. I didn’t respond positively to his ‘gesture’, in fact I didn’t address his behaviour at all, besides an unimpressed expression. Pulling someones hair is hardly an acceptable form of greeting.
The next time he came up behind me and pulled my hair I was annoyed. Great, I thought, this wasn’t just a one off. Despite my obvious annoyance I didn’t comment on his behaviour. It then happened yet again when he next visited the cafe and again I didn’t respond verbally, but everything about my body language screamed I DON’T LIKE THAT.
No one else had ever thought it was ok to walk into the cafe and pull the waitresses hair, so why did the Prime Minister think it was ok? My reasoning was simple, I could tell him that I didn’t like it – but I shouldn’t HAVE to. He was like the school yard bully tugging on the little girls’ hair trying to get a reaction, experiencing that feeling of power over her. I would think to myself, even a five year old could tell you that if you pull on a girls’ hair she will not like it, I shouldn’t have to tell THE PRIME MINISTER that I don’t like it when he pulls my hair – talk about stating the obvious!
I began to avoid interacting with him where possible, if he entered when another staff member was also present I would promptly make myself busy somewhere else, I would ask someone to take the beverages or food to his table so I didn’t have to. I kept my distance when I could. It seemed as though the more I disliked it and made myself absent the more fun it became for him, the more he enjoyed the challenge of approaching from behind me, unsuspected.” (To read the full blog go to:

Here we see the Prime Minister of this country acting like an uninformed, adolescent child – or as the woman involved here states “a schoolyard bully” –  who makes fun of women by pulling their hair. Key did not know this woman, nor did he give any consideration to the fact that he was using the status of his position to act in a way that was demeaning, sexist and bullying.  Even upon reflection Key seems to think that such behaviour should somehow be seen as acceptable which is evidenced in his query to the manager of the cafe about the waitress not liking him pulling her hair.  There is something very lacking in any adult that believes they can walk up behind a woman, pull her hair and then pretend it was someone else.  There is something even more lacking when that man is the Prime Minister of this country.

These are but three events on the past months that indicate that the PM seriously lacks fundamental awareness of the issues surrounding sexism, rape and the way in which politicians are expected to behave when discussing such a critical issues. It also highlights an inherent deficiency in regards to the PM’s understanding of sexism, rape and its impact upon victims and survivors. The media coverage of the Rock show within Aotearoa also lacks any real intention to deal with the issue of using rape as a tool within political fora, including radio shows, as a means by which to gain popularity.

If we reflect on the media foray in regards to the Roast busters issue it is clear that the media have failed to give any meaningful analysis to the PM’s involvement on the Rock show, or to the fact that the DJ’s were able to not only minimise rape as a means to show the ignorance of our Prime Minister, but that they contributed significantly to reducing what is a painful and oppressive act to a ‘joke’ and a ‘prank’. The DJ’s are as culpable in the demeaning of rape victims as the Prime Minister is. They constructed the show and deliberately used a cage to create a context of imprisonment and manipulated the context whereby John Key enacted what many know is a reference to prison rape.

This is appalling, repulsive behaviour for which neither The Rock show, it’s DJ’s or the Prime Minister have been truly called to task for. For the PM it is also another example of a long line of actions that highlight not only bad judgement but also a lack of intelligence when dealing with such deeply painful and traumatic issues.

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National Perpetuates Poverty

In the 1960’s the notion of the ‘cycle of poverty’ was a key phrase heard in relation to Indigenous, Black and Minority communities. The power of the idea that families were ‘locked’ into a ‘cycle’ of underachievement, unemployment and poverty due to their own failures gained precedence in the implementation of programmes that were considered to take on a challenge and to wage ‘war on poverty’. Programmes were focused on the percieved ‘deficits’ of those in poverty and were referred to as ‘cultural deprivation theories’. These theories are based upon an assumption that the overrepresentation of particular groups in educational underachievement, unemployment and poverty indices in society is due to their lacking of appropriate knowledge, skills, values and language modes which enable a successful experience within the education system. In defining cultural deprivation, in 1965, Bloom argued,
“We will refer to this group as culturally disadvantaged or culturally deprived because we believe the root of their problems may in large part be traced to their experiences in homes which do not transmit the cultural patterns necessary for the types of learning characteristic of the schools and larger society.” (Bloom 1965:4)

Education was seen as a critical focus for such an approach. As such many commentators claimed that cultural deprivation may be considered in relation to material, cultural and emotional conditions in the home. These conditions were further qualified as
• Material deprivation – Poverty, bad housing conditions, overcrowding, inadequate care
• Cultural deprivation – (a)Sensory deprivation:Monotonous, lacking stimulation, dull, dearth of books, `restricted’ codes
• Linguistic deprivation: Limited Language, verbal impoverishment,
• Lack of Parental interest in child’s education
• Emotional deprivation- Absence of one parent, lack of warmth and affection.

The `deprived’ child in such a paradigm is viewed as lacking the material, cultural and emotional resources to enable adequate preparation for the school experience and enter the education system with `deficits’ that will influence their progression through their schooling (Bloom 1965). It was argued that these `deficits’ act to handicap the child and their ability to live a satisfying life. This approach is based upon a social pathology model which establishes white middle class behaviour and values as the norm against which all people were measured. There was a dominant belief that those who did not adhere to such norms were ‘culturally bereft’.  The supposed deprivation was located at the level of the family and for Māori that included the broader whānau.

Another manifestation of this approach is the ‘cultural difference’ model. ‘Cultural difference’ contends a diversity of cultural difference exists however these culturally different ways are not considered equal.  Rather cultural difference assumes there is a `norm’ that acts as a yardstick against which `other’ cultures are measured, with the `norm’ being that of the dominant group within society. This paradigm maintains an underlying assumption that culturally `different’ children carry deficits from their cultural background in that they are different from the stated `norm’. Furthermore, implicit within the cultural difference scenario is an implication that if all groups held the same culture the inequalities that exist between them would vanish. This is a model that whilst having a guise of acknowledging difference does in fact support an ongoing assimilation agenda.

The shift from cultural deprivation to that of cultural difference was one that emphasized a notion of Pākehā tolerance of non-Pākehā cultures. This model maintained a deficit view of Māori and failed to challenge the wider social, political and economic context which perpetuated unequal power relations between Pākehā as the dominant group, and Māori. The outcome being that the term `cultural difference’ became synonymous with cultural deprivation.

The most succinct usage of cultural deprivation theory Aotearoa is that offered by John Forster and Peter Ramsay (1973). In their article “The Māori population 1936-1966” they proclaimed
“It is generally agreed that his [Māori] low attainment is the result of a combination of other factors. Poor Socio-economic conditions, including such factors as occupancy rates, social attitudes, poor living conditions, and a different cultural upbringing impose severe limitations on the Māori scholar.” (J.Forster & P.Ramsay,1969:211)
Their “Interlocking Spiral of Cumulative and Circular Causation” diagram is premised upon a model of `cycle of poverty’ that operates to perpetuate low educational achievement and unemployment for Māori. This model argued that interrupting the `deprivation cycle’ necessitates a change in cultural factors which predetermine Māori participation in the cycle. It is argued that change must therefore occur in the social and cultural capital of the child and their family environment, particularly in terms of the statement by D.G. Ball, that it is “the `Māoriness’ of the child which is the greatest handicap” (Ball cited in Forster J. & Ramsay P.,1969:211).

Institutional utilisation of cultural difference theories, at the time, to explain educational underachievement within New Zealand can be seen in Department of Education documents of the 1970s concerning the education of Māori students (Smith L.1986). A Ministry publication, “The Education of Māori Children: A Review” (1971) carried this message,
“All these reports [i.e. Hunn Report, Currie Commission] attempted to analyse the Māori childs inability to fulfil his [sic] potential in the existing education, in spite of endowments equal to those of Pakeha. They recognised that often a Māori child entered a Pakeha-oriented school less well prepared by pre-school experience than a Pakeha, particularly in the use of language. His [sic] differences in this respect were likely to handicap his [sic] whole educational progress if steps were not taken within the school system. Social and economic conditions including inadequate housing and poor opportunities for employment of both youth and adults, were contributing factors.” (Department of Education, 1971:18-19)

Māori cultural experiences and background are positioned as `other than the norm’, the norm being middle class Pākehā culture, the Māori child and her/his environment were seen as deficient and handicaps to future success.

Cultural deprivation/disadvantage/difference theories assume there exists a `norm’ in society against which all `others’ can be measured and evaluated. In Aotearoa the `norm ‘ may be generally stated as middle class Pākehā. Māori, Pacific Nations and all other minority cultural groupings within this country are, within this model, assessed relative to that `norm’. The emphasis focused upon ‘correcting’ the cultural background of Māori children is based on the assumption that the environment of the Māori child is a barrier to their achievement and that Māori children carry with them particular `cultural baggage’ that impedes their development. Underlying such a theory is the notion that the dominant culture and knowledge are endorsed as ‘the’ way of being within Aotearoa.

Such approaches assume a `taken for granted’ perception of the structures and institutions into which Māori enter. Structures and systems remain unquestioned. The power relations that exist within society and between groups is unchallenged. In failing to recognise such dynamics those that advocate these approaches ignore the role the dominant group plays in defining what counts as valid culture and knowledge and how once defined those cultural norms and knowledge are legitimated and maintained through the structures. Those that experience poverty are homogenised as a single entity with no regard was given to ethnic, cultural, regional and economic and political contexts. Families are constructed as incompetent and assumptions regarding the childs environment are determined by ‘deficit’ approaches. The ways in which power relationships are shaped to benefit and privilege some groups over others is ignored.

These ‘deficit’ approaches remain dominant within Aotearoa today and provide ongoing justification for the current government policy approaches and discourses that we are hearing from the National Party. This approach has not changed over the past 25 years with the National Party stating in 1990 with the introduction of the Parents as First Teachers programme:
“National will be carefully testing and developing this programme which has the potential to break families out of the cycle of failure that now condemns many to underachievement and dependence on the welfare state.” (National Party, 1990)

The discourses that have emerged from the National government in relation to the huge increase in poverty continue to be located within ‘deficit’ thinking and create a context that enables neo-liberal privatization agendas. Such thinking continues to be reproduced through the likes of Paula Bennett ( and John Key ( ) advocating that drugs is a key cause of poverty when there is not evidence upon which to base such assertions and where research indicates that in fact is incorrect ( The fact that John Key continues to argue the validity of his statements, which have not basis in reality, highlights the power and dominance of ‘deficit’ thinking.

The failure of government agencies and ministries to intervene in poverty and the ongoing marginalization of Māori, Pacific Nations and the growing underemployed and unemployed population also contributes to the increasing commodification of the social services and ‘social welfare’ sector. The exact economic system that has created a context of crisis becomes the system that is rewarded by the government through privatization. We need to challenge such approaches that locate blame for poverty at the feet of those who are most impacted upon by an unequal oppressive economic model. The system itself is creating the context for increased poverty, not the people who are most impacted. The government chooses to deny its role in making social change and seeking social justice through their agencies thereby giving rationale to their privatization agenda. This is not new. We have had strong critique of the role of neo-liberalism in the production of inequality and how those corporate and multinational entities that support the neo-liberal market driven approach benefit from the reproduction of such approaches (Refer to Naomi Klein ‘Shock Doctrine’ )

In advocating the ‘market’ can do a better job than the State in terms of dealing with issues of inequality and social injustice the government is basically handing a pot of gold to its corporate friends and abdicating it’s responsibility to support social wellbeing for all within Aotearoa. Charter Schools and Serco provide us with clear examples of the governments unsuccessful policies and programmes that have embedded the social services even more deeply into a neo-liberal framework. There is no evidence that these models work, there has been no true and meaningful attempt by governments here to reconstruct systems of education and justice to be more equitable and to deal with fundamental inequalities that create a context of underachievement and exceedingly high incarceration rates. In fact we are seeing the exact opposite, with the Ministry of Social Development waging war against strong successful community NGO organisations and forcing them into closure through unreasonable and unethical contracting and review processes.

For Māori whanau this is even more deeply impacting as the government forces entirely unjust practices in regards to Treaty settlement processes and forces many hapu and iwi into structures that are not aligned to our tikanga, but which fit the capitalist model of profit generation. The denial of the impact of colonization and historical trauma events alongside the domination of neo-liberal capitalist system adds multiple layers to the issues of injustice and the context of oppression within which our people are living.
We need to support groups such as Child Poverty Action Group, Māori social service Providers, Auckland Mission and other Missions and organisations around the country that are working directly with the growing number of our people living in poverty. We need to challenge this government to move away from a system that creates poverty. We need to stop blaming those who are most impacted and most importantly we must find ways to contribute to making Aotearoa a more just and equitable country in which to raise our tamariki and mokopuna.

At this time of year there is much joy for many, and there is much pain for many. It is not enough to speak of ‘goodwill to all’ and to not contribute to transforming our society to ensure that all people live a full and healthy life. As Māori we have much to offer. Our fundamental tikanga of aroha, manaakitanga, tautoko, awhina, tiaki, whanaungatanga bring to us a cultural responsibility to support each other and others within our communities. Most importantly we need to be a part of the struggle to bring change in Aotearoa. Change for our whānau, hapū and iwi, and change for those manuhiri who live on our lands. That is a taonga left to us by our tupuna and is what our tupuna sought for us all.

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The Flag Conversation and Issues of Distraction

Over the past few months there has been an intensified promotional campaign for the upcoming ‘flag referendum’ due to take pace in just a couple of weeks. It has been an interesting campaign to watch and I remain skeptical about the intention and timing of the process. On the whole however most people remain uninformed about the positioning of flags in Aotearoa and that there are multiple flags, and versions of the current flag that are used. Also little is shared in mainstream media about the original flag chosen on 20 March 1834 by Iwi within the north. This blog seeks to provide information that has been shared about the history of flags in Aotearoa.

The call for a new flag is not new. There has been long term discontent with the privileging of our colonisers representation of this country through the current national flag.   The ‘Politics of Distraction’ have worked well over the past few months and have managed to move the debate away from a need to ensure the representation of Aotearoa in a contemporary context is relevant to our positioning within the Pacific, with Māori as Indigenous Peoples and which affirms our Treaty relationships. The announcement that $26million would be spent on the process has lead to much discussion about the worthiness, or otherwise, of spending such a significant amount of funds on a flag debate. That is distraction #1.

Where I agree that there are many kaupapa that should be supported with such funding, we need to remember that we have lived under a colonial image for many generations and we have been seen as an appendix to the British empire, a footnote to the colonial text. A change is well overdue. The issue of the $26million needs to be seen in the context of a right wing government that is cutting funding to those in need and that those cuts far exceed $26million. This debate could have been done for far less than $26million, however the key issue is that we need to get rid of governments that continue to privilege neoliberal economic profiteering over and above the wellbeing of our citizens.

The timing of the referendum aligns with the Rugby World Cup. Winning the world cup has meant the media and our lives have been dominated by two flags – (i) the current national flag and (ii) the silver fern on black. The Prime Ministers has consistently promoted the silver fern and timing around the Rugby World cup provided a means by which to motivate the national spirit. That is Distraction #2.

The flag debate has also provided distractions away from other critical issues of the time. Developing awareness of the TPPA and its implications for us, dealing with issues of growing poverty, the limited coverage of the fact that John Key has lied about the cost of medicines month after month, have all at one time or another been marginalised by yet another ‘flag issue’.

So what does the flag mean? Where did it come from? What was the original flag of this country? What is the position of the Māori flag in Aotearoa? These are all key questions that even after months of panel work many people still do not know the answers to. So how can people make informed decisions in the upcoming referendum?   What I would suggest is that we do not let rugby world cup fever or anti-$26million spend be the determining factor in terms of selecting a new flag.   We need to consider more strategically how we want to be represented into the future. It has taken 114 years to have this referendum so lets not just throw away the opportunity to make a change.

Making an informed decision is critical. Te Wharepora Hou provides the following information regarding a range of flags that have been a part of the representation of this country since the 1830’s.

The following discussion of the United Tribes flag is provided in the discussion of the history of the ‘New Zealand’ flag at:


Maori chiefs choose a flag

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On 20 March 1834, 25 Far North chiefs and their followers gathered at Busby’s residence at Waitangi to choose a flag to represent New Zealand. A number of missionaries, settlers and the commanders of 10 British and three American ships were also in attendance.

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Following Busby’s address, each chief came forward in turn to choose a flag, while the son of one of them recorded the votes. The most popular design, a flag already used by the Church Missionary Society, apparently received 12 votes, with the other two options preferred by 10 and three chiefs. Busby declared the chosen flag the national flag of New Zealand and had it hoisted on a flagpole to the accompaniment of a 21-gun salute from HMS Alligator.

The new flag was then sent back to New South Wales, from where – after some tweaking – it was despatched to King William IV. The King approved the rejigged flag, a drawing of which was circulated via the Admiralty with instructions to recognise it as New Zealand’s flag. It came to be known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the title adopted by the group of northern chiefs at subsequent meetings.

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Busby’s hope that the flag would encourage Māori to act collectively was partially fulfilled when many of the chiefs involved met again to sign a Declaration of Independence in 1835. To northern Māori, the United Tribes flag meant that that Britain recognised New Zealand as an independent nation, and thereby acknowledged the mana of their chiefs.

The flag continued to fly in various places around the Bay of Islands, and on ships trading with Sydney. Ships calling at other ports spread it around the rest of New Zealand. The United Tribes flag remains important to northern Māori.


The origins of the current NZ Flag is described as follows:


Maritime origins

The roots of New Zealand’s present flag lie in the United Kingdom’s Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865, which ruled that all ships owned by a colonial government must fly the Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony on it. New Zealand at that time did not have an official badge or emblem, and so flew the Blue Ensign without a distinguishing badge. In 1866, the government steamers St Kilda and Sturt were reprimanded by visiting British ships for flying the Blue Ensign without the colony’s badge. This embarrassment prompted the government to devise an emblem for placement on the flag, in compliance with the Act.

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Initial ideas for the design of New Zealand’s emblem included the seal of New Zealand and the words ‘New Zealand’, but both were found to be too difficult to work into the design of the Blue Ensign. The four stars of the Southern Cross were also proposed, but were rejected as not being exclusively representative of New Zealand. In 1867, the colonial government settled on the abbreviation ‘NZ’ in red lettering with a white border to represent New Zealand on the Blue Ensign. In 1869 this emblem was replaced by the earlier suggestion of the Southern Cross, made up of four red stars with white borders.

The signalling flag

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Officially the flag with the Southern Cross was for maritime purposes only but it came to be used on land, even though the Union Jack remained the legal flag of New Zealand. Further confusion was caused by the introduction of an International Code of Signals, which led to the adoption of a signalling flag in 1899. The signalling flag displayed the red stars of the Southern Cross inside a white disc.

It too was for use at sea or in foreign ports, but it soon came ashore onto public buildings and commercial advertising. During debates in Parliament it was described as ‘mutilated’, ‘an abortion’ or more curiously, as ‘a Hennessy’s brandy capsule’. With the outbreak of the South African War in 1899 and its associated patriotism and flag-waving, confusion surrounding the flag was an embarrassment to Premier Richard Seddon.

Making the flag official

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Seddon’s response was to introduce a New Zealand Ensign Bill in 1900 to make the Blue Ensign with the stars of the Southern Cross the legal flag of New Zealand. The bill sailed through Parliament but hit a stumbling block in Sir Robert Stout, who was acting as Governor in the absence of the Earl of Ranfurly. Stout felt that the clause reserving the Act for Her Majesty’s approval cut across the Governor’s right to decide an appropriate course of action. Seddon refused to alter the offending clause, as he considered a constitutional principle to be at stake. In the end, the wrangling was irrelevant as the British Admiralty had other concerns about the bill.

The Admiralty objected to the proposed use of the Blue Ensign ‘for all purposes’, as set out in the preamble to the bill. In the United Kingdom, the privilege of flying the Blue Ensign was reserved for government ships and other distinguished vessels. It was feared that this distinction would be watered down should the New Zealand bill be approved, as all New Zealand-registered merchant ships would then be granted the right to fly the Blue Ensign. The New Zealand government therefore agreed to restrict the use of the Blue Ensign at sea to ‘vessels owned and used by the New Zealand Government’, or where a warrant to fly it had been obtained from the Admiralty. The earlier bill was replaced by a modified New Zealand Ensign Bill, which was passed by the House on 5 November 1901 after debate about whether the Southern Cross should have five stars as on the Victorian flag. King George V approved the Act on 24 March 1902 and the Governor’s proclamation to this effect was published in the New Zealand Gazette on 12 June 1902. A description of the flag followed on 27 June 1902, detailing alterations to the size and position of the stars. The Act was replaced by various Shipping and Seamen’s Acts, including those of 1903 and 1908, but the provisions concerning the New Zealand flag remained effectively unchanged until the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981 came into force.


Tino Rangatiratanga: The Māori Flag

The exclusion of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag from the final selection is significant and if people are seeking to make a statement then adding that flag to the list and voting it as ‘1’ on your preferred options makes much more of an impact, and much more sense, that writing ‘Keep the current New Zealand flag’. Adding and voting for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is a statement about our positioning on our land.   A description of the meaning of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is as follows:

The various elements of the national Māori flag represent the three realms of Te Korekore, potential being (Black, top); Te Whai Ao, coming into being (Red, bottom); and Te Ao Mārama, the realm of being and light (White, centre). The koru is symbolic of a curling fern frond, representing the unfolding of new life, hope for the future and the process of renewal. The flag should always be flown as depicted above, that is, with the black section at the top, the top part of the koru closest to the flagpole, and the red section of the flag at the bottom.

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We have for many years argued that we do not want to be represented through colonial imagery. The design and creation of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag in 1990 was a critical statement for Māori movements. It said that we sought symbols that represent not only Māori but Aotearoa.

The question we need to ask is whether we are willing to live another 114 years with the current national flag representing who we are to the world. I, for one, am not.

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PM Insults are an act of State Abuse

We have to seriously question the ability of anyone to govern a country when they resort to flippant offhand insults as a means by which to not respond in any meaningful way to critical issues. There seems to be two key approaches that PM John Key takes to avoiding important social justice issues (i) He Lies and (ii) He demeans those who challenge his position. In the case of Christmas Island, John Key has done both. The New Zealand herald described the interchange as follows:

The heated debate on New Zealanders detained on Christmas Island continued inside the House.
Under questioning by Labour leader Andrew Little, Mr Key went on a furious offensive.
In an angry attack, he said: “Some of the [detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers.
“These are the people that the Labour Party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here.
“Mr Davis, if you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we’ll defend New Zealanders.” (NZH November 10,

What exactly happens between the Prime Ministers ears at the moment when he launches into such tirades is unclear.  What is clear is that he is willing to use any form of distasteful and demeaning comment to silence any challenge to his inaction regarding the detention of our people in Christmas Island. The fervour and speed at which John Key referred to Labour MP Kelvin Davis as being on “the side of sex offenders” highlights a serious lack of judgement. I have myself questioned analysis by Kelvin Davis in regards to the impact of colonisation in the area of  Family Violence and Sexual Violence. However, I have found him to remain committed to making a difference and indeed his work with leading Maori working in the field of Family and Sexual violence prevention, such as Russell Smith, has shown that he is willing to listen and learn from those working to make a positive change. The abuse thrown at him by the Prime Minister was insulting and uninformed. As too, were the actions of the Speaker of the House, David Carter.

TV3 reported that events in Parliament when a group of women MPs stood to reveal they are victims and survivors of sexual violence. Their stand was to raise the issue of the impact and danger of the statements by John Key . As many have reported and commented on, it was a courageous stand to take. Seven women across a number of parties stood publicly to highlight that such statements used as a tool of patriarchal silencing should not be tolerated.

TV3 noted:
Today, seven women stood in Parliament to reveal they are victims of sexual violence. Some of them were saying it for the first time.
They stood because Prime Minister John Key had accused them of “backing the rapists” for voicing concerns about the dozens of New Zealanders locked in a detention facility on Christmas Island, facing deportation from Australia for having served a year or more in jail.
In a better world, I’d dream of their actions encouraging a debate, or even prompting the Prime Minister to apologise for glibly using a deeply painful issue to score cheap political points.
It was a chance for our country’s elected representatives to be role models.
Instead the MPs had their mics cut off. They were reprimanded by speaker David Carter. Some were ejected from Parliament. Those that weren’t walked out.

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Read more:

Today Morning Report highlighted that John Key refuses to give any specific details about why people are being held on Christmas Island and in fact his statements are at least flawed and at most more likely to be another series of untruths. In short the Prime Minister lied in order to stop meaningful engagement about the conditions on Christmas Island and then today attempted to minimise his appalling behaviour by stating to Radio New Zealand:
“I am not claiming they’re all bad to the core I am just simply saying there are two sides to the story” (John Key November 12, 2015).

As the challenges to the Prime Ministers statements were voiced by women in Parliament the Speaker evicted new sitting Green Party member Marama Davidson even before she completed her statement to the house. The eviction of Marama Davidson and Poto Williams was reported internationally as follows:

On Wednesday, female members joined together to directly protest Key’s remarks, taking turns sharing their stories and requesting an apology from the prime minister.
It started with Metiria Turei, the co-leader of the Green party.
“As a victim of sexual assault, I take personal offense to the prime minister’s comments and ask that you require him to withdraw and apologize,” she said.
House Speaker David Carter told her that because the prime minister had not spoken Wednesday, he could not ask him to address Turei’s request.
Jan Logie of the Green Party spoke next, asking “as a victim of sexual assault and as an advocate for survivors” that Key’s words be expunged from the record.
Carter cut her off. “What happened yesterday happened yesterday. Yes, collectively it wasn’t addressed well at the time, but time has passed.”
More MPs followed, including Labour’s Poto Williams and Green’s Catherine Delahunty, whose microphone was turned off after she said she was a victim of sexual assault. Carter said the legislators were “flouting the rules” of parliament by claiming to make points of order, and that any who made similar statements would be ordered to leave the House. Despite the warning, female MPs continued to stand. Green MP Marama Davidson was then thrown out, followed by Williams. The Guardian reports at least eight other female MPs, along with four male MPs, then chose to leave the chamber.

The actions of the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House highlight broader issues of the marginalisation and state imposed violence upon many in this country. The National government have failed to proactively engage with the issues of abuse being faced by many, including many from Aotearoa, in the Australia detention camp on Christmas Island. They also continue to reduce resources and funding to those that are victims and survivors here in Aotearoa. The National government and its Minstry’s such as the Ministry of Social Development have undermined and forced the closure of critical social services, most recently Relationships Aotearoa and Pacific Island Safety Prevention Project in South Auckland.

It has been argued for some time that issues of sexual and domestic violence cannot be addressed seriously without addressing the larger structures of colonialist violence, such as militarism, attacks on immigrants and denial of Indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights, police brutality, the proliferation of prisons, economic neo-colonialism and institutional racism. In order to deal with issues of sexual violence we must also deal with wider structural issues of social injustice and in particular the ways in which cultural, political and gender oppression is embedded within societal structures. What we have seen in the past few days is evidence that this government is not only falling short in ensuring the fundamental human rights of those being detained on Christmas Island, but they are also perpetuating the exact forms of institutional abuse that creates a context where violence is enabled. We should all be deeply disgusted at that.

As a Māori women’s collective, Te Wharepora Hou acknowledge and thank those women who stood to voice their stories, and those in Parliament who stood to support them. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.

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On the road to Paris #COP21 Isso Nihmei Climate Warrior Republic of Vanuatu


Where are you from, who are you representing, and why are you passionate about climate change in the Pacific?

Climate Change means struggle to my people in my country, Vanuatu and the rest of the pacific islands. I must admit that we are still recovering from the wounds left after Cyclone Pam six months ago and this why I am so passionate to support climate action for the pacific and the rest of the world. I am representing here the voices of the indigenous people from the republic of Vanuatu who spends every day of their life struggling to survive from serious consequences from the negative impacts of climate change.

What are you expecting from the climate change negotiations in Paris year?

I have high hope for a legally binding agreement and positive outcome from industrialize countries to reduce emission. 2 degrees of warming may not be enough for big countries but it means sinking most of our islands and we cannot allow this to happen and this is why going to Paris is a chance to make sure my expectation is successful and bring back a good message for my people.

How do you think people can best support the Pacific and our fight against climate change?

We need people from all around the world who believe that climate change is the biggest threat to our livelihood, food security and marine life. It is the people’s power of coming together and says less to talk negotiation, full action on climate change and demand bold political actions to address the climate crisis. Industrialize countries needs to commit to the type of future that we deserves for a sustainable and renewable economy. I am sure our homes and islands in the South Pacific will be safe from the devastation of climate change if people continue to commit and stand in solidarity to support our fight to make a change in this negotiation in Paris.

Any final words of encouragement and inspiration you would like to share, with pacific peoples facing the frontline impacts of climate change?

People around the world are inspired by your stories. Keep telling and sharing your story, they are listening and will hear your stories. Nelson Mandela once said ‘It is music that makes him at peace with the world’. Keep singing your songs of the realities of climate change. Your songs will be played in the other side of the world and they will love it and find you and once they find you they will help you.

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On the road to Paris #COP21 Milañ Loeak Republic of the Marshall Islands


Where are you from, who are you representing, and why are you passionate about climate change in the Pacific ?

I represent my people of the Marshalls and share a voice for others across the Pacific and the rest of the world who struggle with impacts of climate change. My passion for climate action is stemmed from the love I have for my family, my fellow Marshallese people, our islands and our culture.

What are you expecting from the climate change negotiations in Paris year?

Ideally, I would like to see a positive outcome agreement for our people and for those whose lives have also been impacted from the effects of climate change. At this point, my focus is on helping to ensure that we do everything within our power to create a strong voice in Paris and continue this resilience well beyond COP21.

How do you think people can best support the Pacific and our fight against climate change?

Reduce carbon emissions at all levels
Transition into and invest in renewable energies
Continue to create strong climate action movements
Continue to lobby and advocate for the rights of those victimized by impacts of climate change
Increase support to developing nations
Utilize social media and other mediums to inform, involve and mobilize
Share our stories

Any final words of encouragement and inspiration you would like to share, with pacific peoples facing the frontline impacts of climate change?

Continue to tell your stories. Do not give up because we are with you and we stand with you in solidarity. And most importantly, share your stories with the children. Teach them. Educate them. People say we need to create a better world for our children, but I believe we should be creating better children for the world that God has already blessed us with. Through our children, we will see the fruition of our work.


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