31 Jan 2018

Crown's presence at Heke flagpole ceremony makes history

12:45 pm on 31 January 2018

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy is the guest of honour this morning at a ceremony commemorating the 160th anniversary of the replacement of the flag Hōne Heke had repeatedly chopped down.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy with Ngāti Hine elder Raumoa Kawiti examining the seal given to his tupuna by Queen Victoria.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy with Ngāti Hine elder Raumoa Kawiti examining the seal given to his tupuna by Queen Victoria. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

It's 160 years since the Northern chiefs replaced the flagstaff on the famous hilltop at Russell in the Bay of Islands after it was cut down by Ngāpuhi leader Hōne Heke.

More than 200 people gathered at the flagstaff at Maiki Hill this morning for the commemoration.

RNZ's reporter Lois Williams was there, and told Morning Report Dame Patsy made a speech acknowledging the efforts of the northern tribes to make peace after the northern wars.

Podcast: NZ Wars: The Stories of Ruapekapeka

"Most people know that Hōne Heke repeatedly chopped down the flagstaff he'd put up, hopefully, after the independence declaration. But not many know that it was replaced after the northern wars by the chiefs from up here at great expense.

"It was their gesture to say 'right, the war's over, this is peace, we want to work with the crown'.

no caption

Officials, descendants and onlookers gather to commemorate the replacement of the flag by northern iwi leaders. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The chiefs had invited the governor-general of the time, Thomas Gore Browne, to the ceremony of the flag's reinstatement but he snubbed them.

"He was actually in the Bay of Islands at the time, possibly still a bit nervous about the intentions of the northern iwi."

"This is a very important day for the people up here, for the Ngāti Hine people in particular because this time they invited the governor general for the 160th anniversary, and she came."

The invitation was issued jointly by Kororāreka Marae Society and Te Au Mārie and they hosted the event.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy speaks at the flag ceremony in Russell, honouring tribes' efforts for peace following the northern wars.

Dame Patsy speaks at the flag ceremony in Russell, honouring tribes' efforts for peace following the northern wars. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The northern wars began just five years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Hone Heke had been gifted the flagstaff to fly the United Tribes of New Zealand flag. However, after it was replaced with the British flag by Governor William Hobson, the Ngāpuhi leader climbed Maiki Hill in Russell and cut down the flagstaff and the British flag along with it.

Hone Heke cut the flagpole down four times. When it was re-erected for the third time in January 1845, Governor Robert FitzRoy had it protected with iron cladding while Tāmati Wāka Nene, a Ngāpuhi leader who was opposing Hone Heke, provided guards for the government to secure the pole.

The contest over the flag raised tensions and led to the battles of the northern wars.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs