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Chatham Islands (New Zealand)

Wharekauri, Rekohu

Last modified: 2021-01-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: chatham islands | new zealand | map | claim | wharekauri | rekohu |
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[ Unofficial flag of Chatham Islands ] image by Ralph Bartlett, 9 January 2021

See also:

Presentation of Chatham Islands

Details can be found at the Chathams web-site
Hugh Rennie, 20 July 1998

Originally published - “Crux Australis” (Flag Society of Australia) Vol.9-4, No.40, Oct.-Dec. 1993, pp.177-180:

Situated in the South Pacific Ocean 44 degrees south / 176 degrees west, and about 850 kilometres east of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Islands – about 20 in all. The Chathams were first inhabited about 600 years ago by the Moriori people, who like the later Maori of New Zealand, are Polynesian. In fact the Moriori travelled to the Chathams from New Zealand.

Europeans first saw the Chathams on 29 November 1791 when the Englishman, Lieutenant William Broughton traversed the northern coast of the largest island in the Royal Naval Brig “Chatham”, and named it and the group for the ship. In keeping with the frequently repeated pattern of European colonisation around the world, after unsuccessfully trying to find water and trade, Lieut. Broughton’s arrival on Chatham was “consecrated” with the shooting of Moriori. It was until the 1820s that Europeans and Maori from New Zealand began settling on the islands. The result was the virtual enslavement and genocide of the Moriori – mainly at the hands of the Maori.

In 1842, Britain proclaimed the Chatham Islands to be part of New Zealand. Formal colonial law and order were not seriously attempted until 1855, and then it took a further eight years, until 1863, before the self-reliant European and Maori settlers were completely brought under Britain’s rule and the remaining Moriori people released from slavery. The isolation of the Chatham Islands meant that social and economic development was much slower that in New Zealand itself. The islands were also considerably poorer and the people felt they were neglected. As a result the islanders became fiercely loyal to each other and mistrustful of New Zealand bureaucracies. This local spirit was manifest in their reluctance to fill out forms, refusal to cooperate with a succession of magistrates and constables, and total suspicion of strangers.

Throughout the 200 years of recorded history of the Chathams, the islands were noticed only when outsiders wanted to extract wealth from the islands’ sea resources. Each time this made the islands and their inhabitants poorer, because all the profits went back to New Zealand with no long-term development or investment in the Chathams. By the late 1980s the islanders were demanding new constitutional arrangements with New Zealand, so that they would receive direct income from their fishing resources for the development and benefit of the islands.

1. Letters from Logan Alderson to Ralph Bartlett, dated 19 July and 10 October 1991.
2. Letter from Peter Hume (Director, Flagmakers) to Ralph Bartlett, dated 13 January 1992.
3. “A Land Apart – The Chatham Islands of New Zealand”, by Michael King and Robin Morrison, Random Century New Zealand Ltd. 1990.

Ralph Bartlett, 9 January 2021

The Chatham Islands are controlled directly from New Zealand [and the population is too small to have any direct self-governance within the country] the island's affairs come under the jurisdiction of one political electorate. Until recently, the Member of Parliament for Lyttelton (the major port near Christchurch) was also MP for the Chatham Islands — at the last election, the Chatham Islands were “relocated” politically into the electorate of Wellington Central. I believe the islands have their own council, which operates in the same way as local borough, county or district councils in the rest of the country. Not surprisingly, fishing is the main industry, and the main settlement is Waitangi, on the main island.

The islands have a tribal history that includes not only the Maori, but also the Moriori, an earlier race. No full-blooded Moriori exist, although the Solomon family can claim undisputed strong Moriori bloodlines. There is still some contention among historians as to whether the Moriori were a separate race, or an earlier wave of Maori colonisation. Moriori land claims have risen to some prominence in recent times due to the fact that technically only Maori grievances can be aired under the (ironically) Treaty of Waitangi tribunal.

As far as I know, there is no claim for self determination for the islands as a whole, other than Moriori claims for traditional rights as regards things like fishing.
James Dignan, 12 November 1996

The Moriori are a Maori tribe. There were no inhabitants in NZ prior to those we now term the 'Maori'. That there was a pre-Maori race called the Moriori is one of a group of stories which can be termed 'Great New Zealand Myths'.
Chris Hughes, 23 July 2000

There are two schools of thought about the Moriori. The more widely accepted is that the Moriori were an earlier wave of migration from the Pacific Islands. They lived peacefully on the Chatham Islands until they were overrun by a later wave of migration, the Maori, who had settled on the mainland of New Zealand.
The minority opinion is that the Moriori were simply a separate iwi (clan) of Maori. This view is widely discredited, although it lingers on in some quarters, and there is truth to the fact that in the Maori language, the repetition of the last syllable of a word often implies ownership (so "Maori" would mean 'people', but "Maori-ori" would mean 'our people'), and this has often been taken as evidence that the Chatham Islanders were simply distinguishing themselves from mainland Maori. It is far more likely, however, that the denial of the Moriori as a separate people is simply an attempt at political correctness - an attempt to deny the massacre of the Moriori by invading Maori. The view is most commonly held by Maori and by a small proportion of academics. Certainly you wouldn't get far on the Chathams if you suggested that the Moriori were simply an iwi of Maori! The language, art and customs of the people were different from those on the mainland, and traditional stories put their migration earlier than those of the great migration fleet.
James Dignan, 26 August 2000

Description of the flag

Originally published - “Crux Australis” (Flag Society of Australia) Vol.9-4, No.40, Oct.-Dec. 1993, pp.177-180:

Early in 1989, the then Chairman of the Chatham Islands County Council, Alfred “Bunty” Pearce, was interviewed on New Zealand television, where he suggested that the islands might consider declaring independence should there be no satisfactory financial agreement between the Chathams and New Zealand. It was with this statement in mind that the then Chatham Island policeman, Senior Constable Logan Alderson, designed – partly tongue in cheek – a Chatham Islands flag. The flag, of proportions 1:2, consists of a light blue field showing Chatham Island (main island) in green, party silhouetted against a yellow sun, half risen. On the green island is Te Whanga Lagoon in white, which occupies about 20 percent of the island.

The flag symbolises the agricultural activities on the islands and their geographical position in being among the first islands to view the new sunrise over the International Date Line.

About 20 Chatham Islands flags were made in May 1989, by New Zealand manufacturer, Flagmakers. Although this flag has not been officially adopted, it has flown outside the Police Station / District Court, and at the official launching in 1990 of a history of the Chatham Islands, “A Land Apart”. The flag also gained international exposure on New Year’s Day 1991, when Japan’s Nippon Television visited the Chathams to film the sunrise. In October 1991, Senior Constable Alderson completed his term as the Chathams’ resident policeman and moved back to the South Island of New Zealand. His departure also signalled the end of the regular flying of the Chatham Island Flag. Between 29 November and 2 December 1991, the Chatham Islands commemorated the Bicentenary of European settlement, but unfortunately this flag was not flown. Despite this setback, Logan Alderson’s flag is still flown to represent the Chatham Islands, if only aboard the supply ship Ngaru III, when it plies between Chatham and New Zealand approximately every three weeks.

More recently, plans are afoot to promote the Chatham Islands as a place to be as the sun first breaks, not only the dateline, but also into the third millennium, on 1 January 2001. It is conceivable that the flag in that context may get further airing.

Ralph Bartlett, 9 January 2021

[ Unofficial flag of Chatham Islands ] image by Jaume Ollé, 11 November 1996
(dimensions should be 1:2)

This is the unofficial flag of the Chatham Islands (Wharekauri in Maori; Rekohu in the indigenous language, Moriori). In the center you can see the map of the island with the Te Whanga lagoon. Source: Gaceta de Banderas [ban]
Jaume Ollé, 11 November 1996

It was designed by a former New Zealand police officer Logan Alderson about 12 years ago, and it has been used in the Chathams since then.
Hugh Rennie, 20 July 1998

Tonight's TVNZ news showed footage of the opening of the islands' first new Marae for many years, including a rare visit by the Prime Minister to the Chathams. The Chathams unofficial flag was clearly seen flying from a flagpole over the Marae (above the New Zealand flag!). From what I saw it is very much like Jaume Ollé's image, although the blue appears to be a much paler shade. I'd put the image shown closer to C100, M40, Y0, K0. Admittedly the flag appeared to be back-lit by sunlight, which would make it appear lighter, but it certainly wasn't as bright and strong as shown here.
James Dignan, 21 January 2005

Purported Moriori flag

[ Unofficial flag of Chatham Islands ] image located by Chrystian Kretowicz, 17 January 2011