More than 200 people attended the ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the flagstaff in Kororāreka Russell on Monday.  Among them was the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy – the first crown representative to officially acknowledge the flagstaff (pou kara) at Maiki Hill in its 160 year history.

The story of Hōne Heke repeatedly chopping down the flagstaff he’d put up is well known.  But many people aren’t aware that the flagstaff that replaced it was erected by the Northern chiefs, at their own expense, as a symbol of peace following the northern war.  The chiefs invited the Governor General of the time Thomas Gore Brown to attend the erection of the new flagstaff.  Despite being in the Bay of Islands at the time, he declined to attend.

The 160th commemoration event was organised by Kororāreka Marae in partnership with Te Au Mārie 1769 Trust.  James Eruera, who co-chairs the Te Au Mārie Trust with Jane Hindle, said the commemoration event was “an auspicious day. Today was about finally acknowledging the significance of what the northern rangatira (leaders) achieved. Having Dame Patsy acknowledge the pou kara, not just for the families of the descendants, but for us all.”

Five years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the northern wars began.  It is widely known of Hone Heke’s part in successfully felling the flagstaff four times on Maiki Hill. What is less widely known is that the flagstaff was gifted by Hone Heke six years before the signing of the Treaty to fly the flag of the Confederated Tribes of New Zealand.   After it was replaced with the British flag, Mr Heke climbed Maiki Hill in Russell and cut down the flagstaff and the British flag along with it.

“Today was about recognising a key part of our history that has been misunderstood and missing from the history books. This is the story that has been 160 years in the making”, Mr Eruera said.

His co-chair Jane Hindle said “today was fantastic and we were honoured to be a part of it.  It was significant, not just for the pou kara, but for Te Au Mārie’s journey.  Over the next 18 months we are creating a series of events to help people better understand and celebrate our shared history and dual heritage. These will last long beyond 2019 once the celebrations and commemorations of Captain Cook’s arrival in New Zealand and the first meetings of Māori and Pākehā.  Today was an amazing first step in that journey for us.”