Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill offers panoramic views of the surrounding bays and rolling hills, including the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The bush around the hill is kiwi and weka territory, though the notoriously shy birds are often hidden to visitors.
Flagstaff Hill itself contains the flagpole, with a kauri base protected by a sheath of iron. Today the flagpole flies the flag of Russell and sometimes the United Tribes flag.
On the second peak of Te Maiki is a mosaic sundial built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NZ Institute of Surveyors in 1988, circled by new illustrated history panels.
Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill is accessible via the Flagstaff Hill Loop Track, which takes visitors along Kororāreka Bay’s stunning beaches and regenerating coastal forest. There are two versions of the Track, one for low tide and one for high tide, so plan your walk accordingly. Dogs are not allowed on Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill, to protect the kiwi.
For those wishing to drive to the site, Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill is 1 km north of Russell. Leave Russell on Queen Street, then turn off onto Flagstaff Road. Just before the turn off to Tapeka Road is a signposted driveway up to Flagstaff. This takes you to the parking lot where paths lead to Flagstaff Hill and the sundial.
A symbol of control
In 1840, the United Tribes flag that had been agreed upon by Northern Māori tribes was replaced with the Union Jack by the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor, Captain William Hobson. Many chiefs in the region, led by Hōne Heke, believed the British flag flying high above Russell was a symbol of the loss of their authority in the region.
A repeated message
On July 8 1844, Heke’s ally Haratua cut down the flagpole at Flagstaff Hill. It was replaced twice, with both new poles being cut down by Heke during January 1845. The fourth flagpole went up with a military guard, but Heke allied himself with chief Kawiti and felled the flagpole again, starting the Northern War.
Twelve years later, Kawiti’s son, Maihi Paraone, built a fifth flagpole at Russell to honour the unity of Māori and Europeans after the war. In 1913, a gorse fire set the flagpole alight, but it was reconstructed for the final time in June 1913.