A Flag Conundrum

You may or may not know, but my home country, New Zealand, is currently trying to decide whether we will change our national flag or not. By comparison to all the other horrible things going on in the world, this one decision is minor, but it’s actually quite important. A flag helps define a nation’s identity on the international scene. However, in this case…

New Zealand's current flag

New Zealand’s current flag

Australian flag

Australian flag

Here’s the issue. There are many who feel that our current flag (to the left) is too similar to the Australian flag (below and to the left). I will grant you that there are many similarities — the Union Jack, the Southern Cross, even the overall colour — however, there are many differences too. The New Zealand flag has only four stars, all representative of the constellation of Crux (Southern Cross). Whereas, the Australian flag has six stars: five as part of Crux and the sixth is the Commonwealth Star. The colours and the number of points on the stars themselves is even different. However, I will admit that from a distance, if the flag was just hanging, not out to the side blowing in the wind, one would have issues identifying which flag was for which country.

Does New Zealand’s flag need to change? To be honest, I wouldn’t have a clue.

The Silver Fern on the All Blacks flag

The Silver Fern on the All Blacks flag

The Silver Fern on New Zealand passports

New Zealand passports

Many internationally already associate the Silver Fern with New Zealand’s identity. At sporting events, such as All Blacks rugby matches, you will find at least one Silver Fern flying above the crowd (most likely several). Even our passports are decorated with the Silver Fern.

Other government agencies adorn their signs with the Silver Fern too: NZ Police, NZ Fire Service, even NZ Immigration.

The Silver Fern is already on many government logos.

The Silver Fern is already on many government logos.

The New Zealand Made logo adorns a kiwi

The New Zealand Made logo adorns a kiwi

And of course, Air New Zealand, our national airline, adorns the Silver Fern on many of the planes in their fleet (however, they also adorn images of Middle Earth too). Of all the images seen internationally, only two don’t adorn the Silver Fern: our national flag, and the logo for “New Zealand Made” (it has a kiwi).

The Silver Fern adorns many Air New Zealand planes

The Silver Fern adorns many Air New Zealand planes

The Hobbit Air New Zealand plane

The Hobbit Air New Zealand plane

So is it really a big deal if our flag bears the Silver Fern too. Right, I should probably show you what the proposed flag looks like (below): black in the corner with the Silver Fern replacing the Union Jack, but the stars stay the same. The blue is a slightly different shade, but that really doesn’t make much different. The proposed flag is actually quite elegant. (Trust me, some of the other flag designs they had proposed were a nightmare.)

The Smaug Air New Zealand plane (DRAGON!)

The Smaug Air New Zealand plane (DRAGON!)

Which flag do I prefer? Wrong question. Will I vote to change our flag? Again, wrong question. Should New Zealand change its flag now? That’s the real question.

I think you’ll find that most in the country actually like the proposed flag design, for all the reasons mentioned above. However, in all this process, not once has the government asked the people whether we should change our flag now. No, they cut the budgets to the health sector and education, but spent approximately $26 million on graphic designers and their advertising campaign. Our first referendum on the subject was not about whether we should change our flag. No, it was which of the four designs would we like to change our flag to. Not once have they considered whether we would like a new flag or not, and not once have they highlighted the true costs about changing our flag. No, that would be far too simple and public. Instead, we get told we’re changing our flag and that we get four designs to choose from.

The proposed flag

The proposed flag

During the course of the next few weeks, referendum papers will be issued and the voting will begin. Now we finally get asked whether we actually want to change our flag. Our choice is simple: keep the old flag and accept the fact that the government has wasted $26 million of taxpayers’ money on this adventure; or change to the proposed flag with the Silver Fern, which could potentially result in more cost to the taxpayer as new national flags need to be issued to government agencies throughout the world.

How will I vote? I still don’t know. I actually like the new flag design, but the way in which the government has gone about the process has actually peeved me off. In truth, I will probably let me children decide this vote for me. They’re the ones that will have to live with the decision that I make. They have to be proud of their country too.

Whether New Zealand decides to change its flag or not, one thing will be certain. Our international identity will not be affected by all this. We know who we are in our hearts and that will never change. We’re all Kiwis.


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

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