The three flagpoles on Te Papa’s forecourt will each fly a different flag on Waitangi Day. One will be the flag selected in 1834 by northern chiefs at Waitangi. The national flag was needed to protect unregistered New Zealand-built ships and their cargoes from seizure by overseas customs authorities. The flag has a red Saint George’s cross on a white background with a smaller cross and four stars in the top left quarter. The design was approved by the British monarch and recognised by officialdom.

Another flag will be the flag that has been internationally recognised as the New Zealand flag since 1902. It has the Union Jack and the stars of the Southern Cross on a blue background.

The third flag will be the Tino Rangatiratanga flag which was launched in 1990 as the winner of a design competition for a flag that would be flown alongside the New Zealand flag as a symbol of Māori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi. Associated with protest action in its early years, the flag is now flown from public buildings on Waitangi Day.