One opportunity this century

Prime Minister John Key has accepted a challenge from MoreFM breakfast host Simon Barnett to make his case for a change of the New Zealand flag in six minutes this morning at 7:40 a.m.

If he needs inspiration, Mahe Drysdale has provided it:

I have raced under the current flag, I have led the New Zealand Olympic team into the Opening ceremony in 2008 and closing ceremony in 2012 carrying the current flag and I have had the flag raised with the national anthem played at 5 World Championship and the Olympic games and been photographed numerous times holding the flag.

From that you might think the current flag is pretty special to me! Well it has been a big part of my celebrations over the years but I don’t race for the flag, I race for New Zealand and the people of New Zealand. The flag represents us as a nation it identifies our nation and if it’s the current flag or a new one I will continue to proudly represent New Zealand under either.

My issue with the current flag is, I don’t think it truly represents who we are and how we have evolved as a nation since the current flag was adopted over 100 years ago in 1902. We are now in the minority of countries of former British dominions that still has a flag with the union flag (jack) in its flag.

Whether you agree with the referendum about changing the flag or not, doesn’t really matter. It is going to happen and so I encourage everyone in New Zealand to have a good think about it and make your opinion count. If you truly like the current flag, vote for it. Personally I think we can do better and this is an opportunity that may never happen again in our lifetime to choose a flag that is distinctly New Zealand, represents us and we can all be proud of. Lets not be scared of change.

It’s more than a century since the current flag was adopted, we won’t get another chance to vote on whether or not to change it for a similar length of time.

Personally I like the Southern Cross, I like the Silver Fern, I like the Koru, I like the Kiwi to me these are symbols New Zealanders can identify with and represent New Zealand as a country. I do get annoyed overseas when people can’t distinguish us from the Aussies, as they don’t know that we have red stars and they have white ones. I believe we have moved on from being governed by the UK so it would be a good time to show our independence by dropping the union Jack from our flag.

As for colours red, white and blue, they are UK colours, again I like black and white they are our national colours, blue at a stretch due to the large amount of sky and sea we have. People say black and white is too much like Isis, I say rubbish I think people can tell the difference between a flag with Arabic writing and a kiwi symbol, plus we can’t let a terror group control what colours we use. Those are my personal views but again its up to all the people of the nation to decide what they like best.

The best example I can think of is the Canadian flag, again when this changed to the current flag back in the 1960’s it was highly controversial, but I think it is now a striking flag with the red and white (national colours) and maple leaf (national symbol) it is very easy to identify it’s the Canadian flag and I certainly don’t hear anyone complaining about it any more.

I have heard various views from our veterans and the RSA regarding why we can’t change the flag, as its disrespectful to those that fought under the flag. I hugely value what all veterans have done for our country and what they have sacrificed for people like myself. I certainly don’t wish to disrespect them or their views but I have two points here.  One by fighting for us they insured we didn’t end up having the German or Japanese flag and they have given us the ability to live in a democracy where the people of the country get to make decisions like what flag we want to represent us as a nation. Secondly and again I don’t wish to belittle what they have done in any way, as they certainly made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.  But I don’t buy the argument that they fought for the flag, I believe they fought for the nation, the great people that live in New Zealand and because they believed in our nation, not because they liked the flag. We aren’t after all dishonoring the current flag, just discussing if its time for a make over, the current flag will always be a big part of our history.

New Zealanders didn’t fight under our flag in WWI, they fought under the British one.  New Zealand soldiers did, and still do, wear a fern and those who died in service have a fern on their graves.

So this leads me back to the referendum, at around $26 million this seems like an expensive exercise. The thing is though, whether you agree or not, it is happening. So lets make it worthwhile. It will be a waste of money if everyone says I don’t care and doesn’t think about it.

It is a lot of money over a couple of years, but not nearly as much spread across more than a century since the current flag was adopted and a similar time before there is likely to be another chance for us to vote on the matter.

The decision to spend the money has been made, the waste will be if people close their minds and refuse to engage in the process.

Lets all put our heads together, really think about it and decide if you truly think our current flag represents us as a nation in 2015 and going forward for generations. Or is it time to change and use this once in a lifetime opportunity to come up with something we can all be proud of. A flag that stands out and uniquely identifies us. Personally I believe kids under the official voting age should have a say in this referendum, they are after all the ones who will have to live with it for the longest!

Personally I hope there is a change option that I can identify with and I like more than the current flag, either way the people of New Zealand get to make the decision and I will proudly represent our nation under whatever flag the nation decides, I just hope it will be one like the Canadian flag that has our national colours and some unique Kiwi symbol(s).

Mike Hosking agrees:

. . . My gut is the new design must contain the fern. The same way the Canadians respond to the maple leaf, if there is one thing that is instantly recognisable all over the world that is ours, it’s the fern.

But let’s at least start to take this thing seriously, those of us who have laughed or joked or questioned the very existence of this whole process (like me). Let’s at least accept it’s here, it’s real and once they get to the pointy end of the choice, let’s put a bit of weight around our place in the world and the role a flag plays in that.

What we want to say about ourselves, what sort of course we want to chart, what sort of message we want to send.

Mahe is right – this is a once in a lifetime chance. We squander it at our peril.

The Flag Consideration panel had more than 10,292 designs submitted from which they will choose the four we will vote on.

Several have a silver fern and four stars, among them is this one which I like:

flag (640x320)

Designed by: Kyle Lockwood from Nelson

Suggested by: Andrew Whelan from Nelson

I believe the Silver fern is central to our nation’s identity and deserves pride of place on our flag. In war, in sport and in commerce it is the symbol of our country that has outlived all others, and under which we all unite regardless of cultural or ethnic differences. I think black has also become an important part of our identity, and this version of Kyle’s flag allows the black to celebrate the southern cross flying in our clear night sky while still allowing for a touch of colour, and retaining a little of the red, white and blue of its predecessor.

 Lockwood has another variation on this flag with the black and blue reversed.

. . . Black has been a gazetted official New Zealand colour since at least 1975, along with red and white, and the colour blue features on our official coat of arms and, of course, our present flag which was made official in 1902.

The colours black, red, white and blue were also on New Zealand’s first home grown flag design of 1834.

Black also featured strongly on New Zealand war service medals, given to our brave soldiers after World War Two, it is a significant colour to Maori, and features on the Maori National Flag of New Zealand made official in 2011. . .

Contrary to popular belief the silver fern did not start out as a rugby football symbol, it actually was first worn by New Zealand troops in 1853, and in the 1880s was adopted by our rugby team, firstly as a gold fern on a navy blue Jersey. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the silver fern on an all‐black jersey became well known.

Like the maple leaf to Canada, the silver fern ‘screams New Zealand’, and it’s not just a mere sports symbol. In far off fields lie our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, forever memorialised under the silver fern.

The fern is on our army and navy logos, our firefighter and police uniforms, it’s on our money, it’s on our passports, it’s on our national airliners, it’s our symbol and it’s time we put it on our flag.

In examining our history and growing sense of national identity, it appears that many would like to include our famous national colour black, and of course many others would not like to see a fully black flag with all the piracy connotations that it invokes.

Perhaps this flag, with a nod to our past, incorporating all of New Zealand’s national colours and the fern, is the design that best represents New Zealand ‐ without the colonial overtones of the Union flag that takes up the dominant position on our present flag.

And, like the flags of Belgium and South Africa, it also doesn’t suffer from an overuse of black.

Black is our obvious national colour. It represents the pride and strength of New Zealand. To Māori, black represents potential, and signifies the beginning of time, which is apt, given our position as one of the first nations to see the new day.

The colour blue, representing the pacific, and our clear skies, along with the traditional New Zealand Southern Cross in red, gives this proposed national flag the required vibrancy that a silver fern on an entirely black background cannot achieve. By incorporating the Southern Cross and colours from our present flag, I believe the design also honours our history.

The fern says New Zealand in a way the current flag doesn’t:

Why change the flag? New Zealand needs a flag which is instantly recognisable – so our troops don’t have to add a black-and-white Kiwi beneath a camouflaged flag so that they’re not confused for Australian or British soldiers.

Change the NZ Flag's photo.

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