Christchurch suburb residents desperate to raise the flag again

Residents at a Christchurch seaside suburb might be getting the flagpole they have been asking for since the 2011 earthquakes.

Matuku Takotako Sumner Centre.

Matuku Takotako Sumner Centre. Photo: Supplied / Christchurch Public Libraries

After years of back-and-forth between the Christchurch City Council and the Sumner Redcliffs Historical Society, the council is reviewing its flag policy which could result in a reinstated pole at the Matuku Takotako Sumner Centre.

Originally, the council promised the community would get it back, granting the historical society $10,000 for a new one.

But they later rescinded the grant, listing a slew of concerns in a memo to community board members.

Darrell Latham, who sits on the Linwood Central Heathcote Community Board, said when they received the memo, “all hell broke loose”.

The issues ranged from the council being worried the community could upset China by flying sensitive flags to concerns with operating costs, to the building architecture not being conducive to a flagpole.

“The memo that came out from a senior staff member at the council appeared to disregard what I would call common sense.”

But since raising the issue in the media, the council has decided to review its flags policy and protocols.

Latham said the reconsideration was wonderful news, but ultimately said the process had been a “debacle and a total comedy of errors.”

Last weekend he requested a meeting with the council’s chief executive, and despite not receiving a response, was hopeful the council would decide to install the flagpole without a meeting.

“I’m reasonably confident that that that will be the outcome because there has been community outrage on this issue, and the council can ill-afford further embarrassment at this point in time.”

Eighty-five-year-old Topsy Rule has lived in the Sumner area for her whole life, and said the flag had always been a central part of the community.

“It was right in the middle of our village,” she said.

Her husband was responsible for raising the flag from when he returned from fighting in the war until he died in 1994.

Rule took over the duty until the earthquakes, and had been writing to the council asking for it back since then.

She was baffled at the council’s concerns with flying sensitive flags, claiming she only wanted to fly the New Zealand one.

“No one said to me they don’t want it, it’s just part of our community.”

She said messages of support streamed in over the last week, giving her confidence that she might finally get her desired outcome.

“We are truly hoping that it will be the end of a long, long struggle.”

Christchurch City Council said councillors had informally expressed concern about the protocols and had asked staff to review them.

They did not provide a comment as to when the policy would be updated.

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