During November and December this year, Kiwis will select by a binding referendum one of four flags to go up against our current flag in another binding referendum early in 2016. Personally, I’ve never much liked our current flag: it’s too often confused with the Australian flag; The union Jack in the top left quadrant is a reminder of our colonial past; and the stars representing the Southern Cross can be seen on many flags from the Southern Hemisphere.
Judging from the general lack of interest in the flag debate, I suspect, that no matter which flag wins out in the referendum this year, it will lose in the face-off against the current flag in next year’s referendum. If that does happen, I for one will be deeply disappointed, as to my mind, any of the four contenders is better at making a statement about our national identity.
All four designs are based on the fern leaf. One is a stylised frond as it starts to unfurl – the koru, a common symbol in Maori art. The other three represent the silver fern – a fern species that has a special place in the hearts of all New Zealanders.
The Flag Consideration Project has gone to the effort of depicting the flag under different circumstances, so here for your edification are the four finalists.
Silver Fern (Black & White)
The fern has been a distinctive symbol of New Zealand for the past 100 years. Strong and simple, it represents our uniqueness as Aotearoa New Zealand and the black and white colours show our ‘yin and yang’, with the softly curved spine of the frond binding us all together as a young, independent and proud nation. Credit for the fern goes to The New Zealand Way Limited.
Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue)
The Southern Cross represents New Zealand’s location in the southern hemisphere and each star is representative of the islands of New Zealand. The silver fern with its multiple points represents the multiple cultures of New Zealand joining together as one and growing upwards and onwards into the future. I also spent a little bit of time in the military and I wore a silver fern on my beret. The blue represents the Pacific Ocean which our ancestors crossed to get to New Zealand, the red is reflective of our history and our culture and our heritage and the white of course represents Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.
As our flag unfurls, so too does its koru. The koru represents the fern frond, but is also reminiscent of a wave, a cloud, and a ram’s horn. In Māori kowhaiwhai patterns the koru represent new life, growth, strength and peace, and for this reason has taken a special place in Aotearoa’s visual language.
Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue)
The silver fern: A New Zealand icon for over 160 years, worn proudly by many generations. The fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future. The bright blue represents our clear atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, over which all New Zealanders, or their ancestors, crossed to get here. The Southern Cross represents our geographic location in the antipodes. It has been used as a navigational aid for centuries and it helped guide early settlers to our islands.
What is notable by its absence is my preferred design of the silver fern on a back background. I’m taking a reasonable guess that it is missing, because it would win hands down in a four-way competition. But it is a sporting symbol – originally representing the All Blacks, and now waved anywhere a NZ sports team competes. Being a sports flag, a great many would hesitate selecting it as a national flag. In a two way face off with the current flag, it is unlikely to do as well as one of the short listed flags.
So there you have it. I have a choice to make, but I’m undecided as yet. I’m leaning towards the Alofi Kanter Silver fern, but I like the inclusion of the Southern Cross in the two Kyle Lockwood designs. It gives some continuity with our current flag. Wnich flag stands out the best for you?