Before Flagstaff Hill was used for the flagpole it was occupied by Māori. The hill had a turbulent past with the first four erected flagstaffs cut down in protest.

First four flagstaffs cut down

During the period from 1840 to 1913 six flagstaffs were erected here. The flagstaff previously erected at Waitangi was transported across in March 1840. The flag of the confederation of Māori tribes was chosen by the Māori people in 1834 and had flown until 1840.

Some Māori in the Bay believed that the Union Jack was a symbol of their loss of authority and prosperity and they believed terms of the Treaty were not being honoured. The first four flagstaffs were cut down by Hone Heke and his cohorts as an objection to British sovereignty sparking the Northland wars. The flagstaff was never erected again during the lifetime of Heke (Maingay 1989).

Fifth flagstaff persists after fire

In January 1858 the fifth flagstaff was erected by Kawiti’s son Maihi Paraone and symbolised unity between Māori and Pakeha. The staff fell again in March 1913 as a result of gorse fire but it was not completely destroyed and was set up for the final time three months later (King 1949:112).

The spar of the flagstaff is made from Kauri and is protected by a sheath of iron reflective of the shaky beginnings of New Zealand’s early history. The Confederation of Tribes flag is flown on dates of special significance in Māori history.

Flagstaff Hill becomes a Historic Reserve

In 1932 Flagstaff Hill was gazetted as a Historic Reserve under the management of the Bay of islands Maritime and Historic Park. Today the flagstaff and the reserve are under the care of the Department of Conservation.

DOC's work

  • Conservation of the flagpole

Visiting Flagstaff Hill Historic Reserve

This is an opportunity to visit the the site that started the Northern Wars, and to enjoy the panoramic views of Russell, Paihia, Waitangi and the islands of the Bay.

Getting there 

The flagstaff is situated on Maiki Hill near Russell. A walking track to the historic reserve begins near the boat ramp on the Strand in Russell. 

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