It seems that the Prime minister, the Right Honourable John Key and I agree on at least one thing. I suppose it was inevitable that we would have similar views on some topics, as we are both Pakeha males. However, I am surprised that it was over this particular topic, as it is a topic that can be somewhat controversial.
So what is it that we agree on? Our national flag. It’s about time we had a serious discussion about the appropriateness of the current flag: the New Zealand Ensign. On this, John and I are in agreement.
Our current flag is a defaced Blue Ensign designed by a British naval officer in the 1860s and adopted as our official flag in 1902. New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries still retaining the Blue Ensign as the foundation of their national flag. It represents a colonial era long gone. NZers, and Australians have no problem identifying our respective flags, but other nationalities often confuse them. The cringe factor of seeing the Australian flag raised at a sports awards ceremony when a kiwi is on the podium is reason enough to want a change.
While the Australians entangle the flag debate with the debate on republicanism and inevitably heated arguments, we kiwis clearly see them as two separate issues and seem to be able to discuss the flag issue somewhat more rationally. If the two flags are going to be identifiably unique, then we will need to make the move ourselves.
Opinion polls indicate the a small majority of NZers want to retain the present flag. The older the age group, the higher the number wishing to retain it. However, when the current flag is placed among a selection of alternative designs, around 75% prefer one of the alternatives over the NZ Ensign. This indicates a widespread dissatisfaction with the current flag. The problem is finding a suitable replacement that nearly everyone can feel comfortable with.
Amazingly, John and I also have similar preferences when it comes to a new design. We both like the idea of the silver fern being part of a new flag. The sliver fern is used in many official logos, such as the NZ Coat of Arms, NZ police, NZ fire Service and parliamentary offices. It’s included in the logos of practically all NZ sports teams, and in fact almost every endeavour representing New Zealand. At international sports events, NZ supporters are more likely to be waving a silver fern flag than the NZ flag.
The Prime Minister has suggested that an parliamentary committee be set up after the upcoming elections with the idea of a referendum being held before the 2017 elections. It seems that members of many other political parties agree with this proposal.
I’m open to what a new flag may look like, so long as it is distinctive. The sliver fern on a black background does that for me, but there are several other designs that I like including the two below. I find either of these designs preferable to our current one. I look forward to some interesting discussion on a new flag.