This bill establishes a process for the holding of two postal referendums on the New Zealand Flag. The first will determine which alternative flag design is preferred by voters, and the second will determine whether that alternative flag or the current flag is to be the New Zealand Flag.
The Minister responsible Bill English said the bill would ensure debate about the flag was completed in a respectful way.
A number of people questioned the order of the questions being asked, but the committee by a majority decided to stick with bill as drafted. Mr English said he believed it was the logical process to follow so people could decide between alternatives.
The wisdom of having two referenda in this order was confirmed for me by the results of Gareth Morgan’s flag competition.
The winner of the Morgan Foundation’s $20,000 flag competition is “Wā kāinga / Home”, designed by Auckland based Studio Alexander.
Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan set up the competition because he had strong views on what the flag should represent but he couldn’t draw one himself. In particular he wanted to see more flag designs that honoured the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi – two partners agreeing to share this land and look after each other.
Morgan felt the government competition wasn’t delivering on this respect because the design brief wasn’t clear. So he created his own design brief and threw in some prize money to flush out some genuine designers. This appears to have worked – Morgan’s competition attracted just under 1,000 entries and as a result the diversity of entries in the government process has also improved.
To judge the winner Morgan enlisted the help of a team of designers Mark Pennington, (head designer Formway), Catherine Griffiths (designer and typographer) and Desna Whaanga-Schollum (Nga Aho co-chair). The judges focussed on the flag design, while Morgan was more interested in the story behind the flag. Wā kāinga / Home was the one design they could agree told a strong story and adhered to the principles of good flag design.
Studio Alexander chief Grant Alexander said they entered because “our imagination was captured by the Morgan Foundation’s professional approach. A good brief, design professionals judging and an appropriate financial reward.”
The winning design brings the different parts of New Zealand society together, similar to the South African flag. The three coloured triangles symbolize Maori (red) who invited their Treaty partners to share the land, the heritage of British settlers (blue), and our modern multicultural society (black). These three influences are brought together by the white space, which is also reminiscent of the Maihi (the diagonal bargeboards) on the front of a Maori meeting house.
I am open to a change of flag but if this was the one which was put up against the existing one I’d vote for the status quo.
If we are to have a new flag, I want one which is distinctively New Zealand’s and this one isn’t.
This is why the referendum to decide which design could become the new flag must come first, otherwise we’d be voting blind and could end up with a design most of us don’t like.