Stockcar club praised for new flag design
The Rotorua Stockcar Club has earned praise from the Race Relations Commissioner after dropping the use of the Confederate Flag and replacing it with a design that "incorporates local culture".
The club held its AGM on Sunday night, releasing a statement on its website beforehand entitled "Time to change the Flag" where the club signalled it would be replacing the old flag that had been used for 35 years, with a new design - if its members approved.
On Monday, the club released another statement saying it had decided on a new design for a club flag after it was approved by members at its AGM.
The use of the Confederate Flag - flown by the rebel pro-slavery armies of the South in the American Civil War - by the club's Rotorua Rebels Superstock and Rascals Stockcar teams, and their supporters, has come under fire recently with Black Lives Matter activists and many others questioning its use in a modern context.
The flag is seen by many to represent racism, slavery and white supremacy and its use was banned by NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) in the United States last month.
The names for both of the Rotorua stockcar teams will stay the same.
"The committee decided that with our current flag being on the agenda at the upcoming AGM that we needed to explore the option of an alternative design should the decision favour a new flag," a statement from the club reads.
The statement says the new flag was designed with "a nod to the past, a look to the future and to incorporate a cultural aspect", with help from the club's committee and cultural advisor Ngahi Bidois.
"It was so well received that after some discussion it was moved that the flag be adopted for our Rotorua Rascals Stockcar and Rotorua Rebels Superstock Teams.
"Yes, the names will remain the same."
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says he believes the decision was the right one after previously criticising the Confederate Flag's use by the club.
"I am encouraged that they will now find a new symbol to show the pride and honour of members for the Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc. It is also pleasing to see the draft design incorporates local culture.
"The club has set a good example by learning about the changed meaning of the symbol and taking steps to remedy this," says Meng.
According to Ngahi Bidois, the new flag has the Maori words "He nekehanga hohoro me te tika" - outlining our commitment to te reo Maori and our Maori community.
"The words mean 'to have swift and direct movements'.
"This not only refers to skills required by any driver in any speedway class but also refers to the manner in which the Rotorua Stockcar club endeavours to move and make decisions at all levels of our organisation," Ngahi says.
The dominant Maori pattern in red is known as mangopare and resembles a hammerhead shark. The pattern means strength, agility, courage, persistence, tenacity and leadership, qualities highly valued by the club.
"You will also note the various patterns in the red part of the flag resembling different paths that intertwine. This resembles the combining of skills and efforts by everyone involved at all levels of Rotorua Stockcar Club to ensure efficiency, safety and collaborative success.
"The dominant Maori pattern in the blue section of the flag is strongly used in many carvings in the local Te Arawa district identifying the connection between the Rotorua Stockcar Club and our local Maori community.
"Rotorua Stockcar Club has always enjoyed a very strong positive relationship with local Maori throughout our organisation.
"This dominant pattern in blue also resembles a singular path acknowledging the many individuals and whanau that visit our track including spectators and drivers who we are honoured to host," explains Ngahi.