Should we flag it away?

Kiwi and Aussie flags

For once, I agree with the New Zealand PM, John Key. New Zealand needs a new national flag.

I know that some of my friends are passionately opposed to the change, and if some polls are to be believed, so are most Kiwis.

So why change?

  • Many Kiwis, never mind others less blessed, can’t distinguish our flag from Australia’s. My wife is one of them. Recently, the Prime Ministers of both countries have confused the two.
  • The Pacific is infested with similar red, white, and blue colonial-era ensigns.
  • At least five countries’ flags bear the Southern Cross, not to mention a heap of territories and dependencies. Depending upon your definition of a nation, at least twenty bear the Union Jack, and the U.S. State of Hawaii.
  • A distinctive flag is an asset.  Especially to a small country trying to be relevant. Ask any Canadian who’s old enough to remember their stunningly obscure pre-maple leaf design.
  • The Union Jack? It has no relevance to us in this century.

Why not change?

  • Kiwis fought and died for the flag.
    • Really? I served in the armed forces for 20 years. I served for my family, my friends, and for my country. I served for what the flag represented. Fortunately for me, I didn’t get shot at, but I wouldn’t have taken the risk for a piece of blue bunting.New Zealand war grave
    • Another version of this argument is that fallen servicemen and women were buried under the flag. OK, it draped their coffins, but what is engraved into their headstones? The silver fern. I doubt that those people were serving for the flag.
  • We love the current flag!
    • Really?
    • Sigh…
  • It symbolises our nation’s heritage and the Treaty of Waitangi.
    • Bollocks. When I was young, we still had strong ties with the United Kingdom. My parents’ generation talked about England as “Home” despite having never travelled away from Te Ika a Maui in several generations.
    • The treaty was a hastily scrawled document which has never been ratified. Those gains that have been made by Maori over the last couple of decades in the spirit of the treaty were negotiated by Kiwis: Maori and Pakeha.
    • The Southern Cross shines on more than half the planet.

What about a design?

Oh dear.

It’s an important branding issue and so should be simple and easily remembered. Think Apple logo, and again, consider the simple message of the maple leaf. I’ve always liked the silver fern, but I acknowledge that the traditional black background may not be appropriate.Silver fern on black flag

Why the silver fern?

  • It’s a simple and distinctive design. It’s instantly recognisable to all Kiwis and to a surprising number of folk in foreign climes.
  • Like it or not, we already identify with it and it will remain our symbol even if we settle for Erich Hundertwasser’s ghastly olive green tentacle.
  • The black uniform with the silver fern is recognisable by many people around the world.

Why not?

  • Nobody else has a black and white flag.
    • So? Let’s be different. Anyway, if you want to be picky, it’s not white, it’s silver.
  • It’s the colour of the skull and crossbones/Islamic State in the Levant.
    • So?
  • It’s a sporting symbol.
    • Really? Check your politicians’ lapel badges, Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign, international trade promotions, the mark of quality assurance (Qualmark). I could go on.

OK, you hate the silver fern on black

I understand.

Honestly, I do.

While simplicity is important, this flag is so good that I’d happily make an exception; Matariki over silver fern: version 3, Designed by Bevan Fidler from Northland:


How about this red, white, and black one from Kyle Lockwood? Kyle has variations in red, white and blue, it’s better than most on offer so far, and it would be good to use the traditional colours used by Maori designers:

Kyle Lockwood design

How about changing the colours to green (the land), blue (the sea), and white (the mountains)?

My worst nightmare

Please, not Frederick Hundertwasser’s ghastly, olive drab, octopus tentacle:

And now for something a little different:

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