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New Zealand - Waitangi flag contest (1834)


Last modified: 2002-10-26 by sam lockton
Keywords: maori | crosses: 2 | cross (red) | stars: 4 | waitangi | proposal | missionary | stars: 4 | star: 8 points (white) |
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[ 1834 flag (as chosen) ]
by Thanh-Tâm Lê, 25 January 1999
See also:

The originally chosen version

Busby wrote back to Bourke suggesting three alternative designs which had all been drawn by Williams, all of which incorporated red. Bourke had all three made up in Sydney and sent them back on H.M.S. Alligator, which arrived in the Bay of Islands on 9 March 1834. Busby sent the following account of the selection of the flag to Governor Bourke in New South Wales on March 26th 1834:

I accordingly lost no time in requesting the chiefs to assemble on Thursday the 20th current, and I also sent invitations to the respectable Settlers, and to the Commander of ten British and three American Ships then in the Harbour to witness the ceremony. These with the Officers of His Majesty’s Ship Alligator and a portion of the Missionaries formed a party of from fifty to sixty persons of respectability who were present on the occasion.

The Chiefs assembled to the number of 25 with a considerable body of followers. They were received under a large awning which had been erected by Capt. Lambert’s direction near my house, and which was decorated with Flags. Capt. Lambert having agreed with me in opinion that on such an occasion the British Ensign ought to be hoisted in front of my house, he was good enough to send me one from the ship for the occasion. A Flagstaff was also erected in front of the awning where the chiefs were to assemble. These preparations having been completed the three Flags were exhibited on short poles in front of the Awning and I proceeded to deliver an Address of which a translation is herewith enclosed. [not in this post]

After the conclusion of this address I called over the names of the Chiefs and requested them as they answered to their names to proceed within the Bar which had been placed across the awning. They were then asked in regular succession upon which of the three Flags their choice fell, and their votes were taken down by a son of one of their number who has been educated by the Missionaries, and who with several others appeared on this occasion respectably dressed in European clothing. I was glad to observe that they gave their votes freely, and appeared to have a good understanding of the nature of the proceeding. The votes given for the respective Flags were 3, 10 & 12, and the greatest number having proved in favour of the Flag previously adopted by the Missionaries it was declared to be the National Flag of New Zealand, and having been immediately hoisted on the Flag staff was saluted with 21 guns by the Ship of war.

Stuart Park, 8 November 1996

This flag was the one chosen in March 1834 by the twenty-five Maori chiefs from three suggested by the Governor of New South Wales. It was originally the Cross of St. George with a canton of dark blue, which itself contained a red cross fimbriated black, each quadrant of this smaller cross featuring a white eight-pointed star.
Stuart Park, 29 January 1996

In the article [supposedly from New Zealand Encyclopaedia], the ratio seems to be 9:16, but the text itself clearly says 10ft × 16ft.
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 25 January 1999

The flag was gazetted in New South Wales on 19 August 1835 where the description omitted the black fimbriation, substituting white instead, and made the stars six point instead of eight point. This mistake, of course, could not invalidate the chief's selection, but the error has been perpetuated in a number of ways. The New Zealand Company flew a flag over its Petone settlement, which was correct according to the New South Wales' Gazette notice. (...) As late as 1844 the flag of the independent tribes was flown by Tuhawaiki ar Ruapuke Island to show that he did not subscribe to the Treaty of Waitangi.
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 25 January 1999, supposedly quoting from New Zealand Encyclopaedia

It persisted in use, mostly in Maori contexts, though also in some official ones (e.g. contingents to the Boer War ca. 1900), and today is one of the many flags used by Maori sovereignty demonstrators.
Stuart Park, 29 March 1997

Missionary influence?

According to [cra90], the flag selected was “borrowed” from that of the Church Missionary Society.
Roy Stilling, 8 November 1996

The missionary Henry Williams (a former Royal Navy lieutenant) who designed the three flags from which the one was chosen had earlier designed (and used) it on the Church Missionary Society vessels he sailed, so it wasn’t borrowed so much as promoted by him. It’s an interesting question to what extent the Anglican affiliation of the chosen flag swayed the for and against voters in their choice — were the chiefs who made the choice 12 Anglicans, 10 Catholics and 3 non-conformists?
Stuart Park, 9 November 1996