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History of the New Zealand flag

Over our relatively short history of only 169 years New Zealand has had three official flags.


1834 - 1840 The Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand

New Zealand's first flag was designed by a senior missionary of the Church Missionary Society, sewn up by an Australian and voted on by 25 Maori Chiefs from the Far North. It came to be known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand in recognition of the title used by the same chiefs when they met again at Waitangi to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1835. To Maori, the United Tribes flag was significant in that Britain had recognised New Zealand as an independent nation with its own flag, and in doing so, had acknowledged the mana of the Maori chiefs.
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1840 - 1902 The Union Jack

Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, the Union Jack replaced the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand as the official flag of New Zealand. The new Lieutenant -Governor, William Hobson, forcibly removed the United Tribes flag from the Bay of Islands, however, some Maori, including Hone Heke, believed that Maori should have the right to fly the United Tribes flag alongside the Union Jack, in recognition of their equal status with the government. Heke's repeated felling of the flagstaff at Kororareka between 1844 and 1846 was a vivid rejection of the Union Jack, which was viewed as a symbol of British power over Maori.
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1902- present The Current Flag

At the end of the nineteenth century the blue ensign with the Southern Cross was a flag for maritime purposes only but it had gradually come to be used on land, even though the Union Jack remained the legal flag of New Zealand. With the outbreak of the South African War in 1899 and its associated patriotism and flag-waving, the confusion surrounding the correct flag was an embarrassment to Premier Seddon. In 1902 Seddon instituted the Blue Ensign with the stars of the Southern Cross the legal flag of New Zealand.
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