Story: Ngā haki – Māori and flags

Page 5. Loyalists and flags

All images & media in this story

Moutoa flag

Not all Māori fought on the side of independent Māori movements – many sided with the British. Flags became objects that were gifted for service. In 1865 Mete Kīngi Te Rangi Paetahi was handed a silk flag known as the Moutoa flag. He had led a contingent of ‘loyal’ Whanganui Māori who drove a war party of Hauhau from Moutoa Island in May 1864, saving the Whanganui settlers from attack. The cost of the flag was £20 and Pākehā women from Whanganui, Rangitīkei and Manawatū came together to create it. It has the Union Jack in the upper corner and in the centre is a gilt crown, below which are two clasped hands, Pākehā and Māori, with the word ‘Moutoa’.


Another flag that was gifted to Māori for their role in fighting for the British was the flag Tangiharuru from the Urewera district. Named after a great Waikato chief who took a large portion of Te Urewera, the flag is a British ensign and is riddled with bullet holes. Some Māori believed that the flag possessed powers and kept 30 of their men safe when they were attacked by over 1,000 Hauhau soldiers before the Europeans arrived to assist with the fighting.

Royalty and flags

In the 1860s Queen Victoria presented a flag called Te Rakau i Mataahu to Ngāti Porou military leader Rāpata Wahawaha. In 1901 Ngāti Tūwharetoa leader Te Heuheu sent a flag to King Edward on behalf of Māori tribes, which was accepted and then returned to him. The following year the Prince of Wales forwarded a Union Jack to the New Zealand governor to present to the Te Arawa people in recognition of their loyalty. The Te Arawa people already possessed a Union Jack received from the Duke of Edinburgh in 1870.

The red ensign

From the beginning of the 20th century Māori started displaying the red ensign on marae grounds with the names of ancestors, marae, iwi and waka on them. A tradition had been established by Governor George Grey, in the early days of the colony, that new marae should be presented with this ensign by the government. This flag is usually reserved for merchant shipping, but the legislation that governs the use of the red ensign permits it to be used on land and allows the insertion of Māori words in white lettering.

Āraiteuru flag

At Puketeraki, near Dunedin, in 1903 the Āraiteuru flag was hoisted by Tame Parata, member of Parliament for Southern Maori. A volley was fired and the Kaikorai Brass Band played ‘God save the king’. Āraiteuru was a taniwha (supernatural creature) who in some traditions guided a voyaging waka (canoe) from Polynesia to New Zealand. The flag has an upper white and a lower black section. On the white part is a war canoe with a crew of warriors with the kaihautū (helmsman) leading the men, and a greenstone mere (weapon) that symbolises the cargo the Āraiteuru carried. The black part has the word ‘Araiteuru’ in white letters.

How to cite this page:

Malcolm Mullholland, 'Ngā haki – Māori and flags - Loyalists and flags', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 June 2024)

Story by Malcolm Mullholland, published 20 Jun 2012