. . . Successful national flags look nice, and they look distinctive, and they do not need to go further than that. Their significance as national symbols can come after they are adopted, not before. The red maple leaf does not say anything about Canada, except that it has maple trees. There is no intrinsic reason why France should be represented by vertical stripes of red, white, and blue.
Which of the forty candidate designs best captures the essence of New Zealand? Which says who we really are? What version of our history, character, and landscape does each design promote? Whom does each design exclude, and whom does each design insult? A conversation built around questions like these will be both interminable and ugly, and there will be no acceptable solution to be found.
If instead, we make it a conversation about which design looks the nicest, then the process can have an ending, and disagreements need not be taken personally. The flag’s symbolic significance can develop slowly over time, and can be available to any New Zealander, now and in the future.
Be wary of flag designs that try to capture New Zealand’s “true” character. Be wary of designs that try to make one New Zealand story the official New Zealand story. When you make your choice about which design to support, I suggest that you avoid all thoughts about which flag offers the best picture of us, or of you. Choose the flag that looks the nicest while saying the least. – Simon Keller, a Professor at Victoria’s School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations.