The flag referendum has educated me – 10/10 in the Flag Consideration Panel’s flag quiz.
One of the criticisms of the proposed new flag is that the fern is just a sporting symbol.
Historian Dr Danny Keenan says the fern was used to represent New Zealand in many ways before it was adopted by sports teams:
The silver fern was once proudly embraced by Pakeha as a symbol of their new-found home in New Zealand.
The fern once anchored new kiwis to this landscape. It’s a shame that we have such short memories.
The major complaint against the use of the fern has been its popular use as a brand, or a logo. Some have said it belongs on sporting jerseys and vests, but not on the flag.
For those of us who care about our country’s history, this level of criticism has been a little disheartening, to say the least. The silver fern does have deep historical roots. Perhaps our modern addiction to mass consumerism, and commercial symbolism, blinds us from seeing the silver fern in its real historical context.
The fern’s appearance as a national symbol goes back to the 1880s, when Pakeha decided that they wanted to be New Zealanders, after all. Census figures in 1886 showed that native-born Pakeha now exceeded ‘Europeans’ living here but born overseas.
This new feeling of ‘belonging’ gave rise to the Native Associations, which formed after a successful inaugural meeting of settlers in Westport in 1890 (inspired by similar movements in Australia and Canada). Branches soon sprang up all over New Zealand, giving rise to an outpouring of nationalist literature, poetry, songs and landscape paintings as Pakeha searched amongst the figurative undergrowth for an organic foothold.
By 1898, there were 2500 members, with branches all over New Zealand, in centres like Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland, Westport, Thames, New Plymouth and Hawera.
Politicians and professionals, as well as ordinary folk, flocked to join, eager to solidify their sense of being a ‘New Zealander’ (a term once directed only at Maori).
Most tellingly, though, the Associations adopted the silver fern as their emblem, taking pride in its natural simplicity. Its acceptance amongst Pakeha grew rapidly. Everyone was soon wearing the silver fern badge. A fern emblem was also worn by our troops in South Africa after 1899; our first Boer War commander, Major Robin, was farewelled in Dunedin by a huge Natives Association gathering. And in Europe, after 1914, the fern was used to adorn kiwi headstones on the Western Front.
Pakeha New Zealanders had found a symbol of home they could live with – the silver fern.
Earlier, however, Tom Ellison of Ngai Tahu had introduced the silver fern to our national rugby team. In 1888 he suggested that the New Zealand Natives team adopt the fern, which they did and now wear of course as All Blacks, as do countless other sporting, civic, community and commercial associations.
As Sir Tipene O’Regan once reminded me, to Maori, the silver fern denotes strength, stubborn resistance, and enduring power, encapsulated in a natural form of native elegance. Maori have always honoured the fern, giving it a pride of place.
Early Pakeha did this, also.
Overseas, the fern has become the unmistakable symbol of New Zealand, earning instant recognition. Thanks to the early efforts of Pakeha, it’s become our national symbol. It’s more than just a mere commercial brand, which is what many commentators and academics with no sense of history would have us believe.
The silver fern was once embraced by Pakeha and survives as a symbol of organic beauty. It takes us beyond our British colonial origins, when, under the current flag, our boys went overseas and died to defend Empire, to say nothing of those 3000 Maori who died on our own soil, defending hearth and home, under attack by the same flag.
The fern represents all of us; we should be proud to see it on our flag.
The Flag Consideration Panel has an infographic on both the existing flag and the one which will go up against it in March’s referendum.
You can see information on the current flag here.
The announcement of which of the 40 designs on the long-list has made the final four is being made at Te Papa.
Stuff is reporting on it live and has the first of the four:
The first is black and white with a white and black fern:
Designed by Alofi Kanter from Auckland, the original submission said:
“Just the silver fern. Black and white. On a flag, saying loud and clear: New Zealand. The design is simple and pure, using our national colours. Credit for the fern goes to The New Zealand Way Limited.”
The second is:
Kyle Lockwood’s red and blue with a fern and stars.
The third is black and white with a koru designed by Andrew Fyfe.
The fourth is Lockwood’s black and blue with fern and stars.
The Flag Consideration Panel has a bigger version.
The Flag Consideration Panel has whittled 10,292 flag designs submitted down to a long-list of 40.
If you click on the link you’ll see who submitted each one.
I am open to change but am not keen on the black and white or black and grey ones second and third from the left in the third line and I don’t think the second from the left in the bottom line is a distinctively New Zealand image.
My favourite is third down on the left, designed by Kyle Lockwood, supported, or variations of which were submitted, by 12 others.
The silver fern: A New Zealand icon for over 160 years, worn proudly by many generations. The fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future. The bright blue represents our clear atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, over which all New Zealanders, or their ancestors, crossed to get here. The Southern Cross represents our geographic location in the antipodes. It has been used as a navigational aid for centuries and it helped guide early settlers to our islands.
Chair of the panel, Professor John Burrows says:
. . . “We would like to thank everyone for their design suggestions and we’ve been impressed with the very high standard. The Panel made a unanimous decision and selected flag designs we believe best reflect New Zealand’s identity, as shared with us in the values and themes that New Zealanders expressed throughout this process.
In reviewing alternatives, we were guided that a potential new flag should unmistakably be from New Zealand and celebrate us as a progressive, inclusive nation that is connected to its environment, and has a sense of its past and vision for its future.
The Panel has made its preliminary selection of flag designs that it believes best represent the range of suggestions it has received. It is important that those designs are timeless, can work in a variety of contexts, are simple, uncluttered, balanced and have good contrast,” said Professor Burrows. . .
Public meetings didn’t attract many people. That isn’t surprising these days and the process has engendered a lot of interest:
• 10,292 alternative designs published
• 850,000+ online visits
• 6,000+ visits to workshops and information stands
• 1.18m+ people reached by Facebook
• 146,000+ views of the NZ flag history video
• 43,000+ New Zealanders have shared what they stand for (online & via post)
For the statiscially minded:
In an open letter the panel says:
We want to thank everyone for the 10,292 designs you’ve suggested. Each of these was viewed by every Panel member. We have been impressed with the very high standard and greatly appreciate the thought and hard work that went into these designs. As a Panel, we have now selected a long list of designs for further investigation as part of the design review process.
A great flag should be distinctive and so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory. A great flag is timeless and communicates swiftly and potently the essence of the country it represents. A flag should carry sufficient dignity to be appropriate for all situations in which New Zealanders might be represented. It should speak to all Kiwis. Our hope is that New Zealanders will see themselves reflected in these flags’ symbols, colour and stories.
In reviewing flag designs, first and foremost, we were guided by what thousands of Kiwis across a range of communities told us when they shared what is special to them about New Zealand. This provided the Panel, and flag designers, with valuable direction as to how New Zealanders see our country and how those values might best be expressed in a new flag.
The message was clear, and the Panel agreed. A potential new flag should unmistakably be from New Zealand and celebrate us as a progressive, inclusive nation that is connected to its environment, and has a sense of its past and a vision for its future.
In finalising the long list we invited a number of cultural (including tikanga), vexillology (the study of flags), art and design experts to review the selection, to ensure the designs are workable and there are no known impediments. Detailed due diligence will now be completed on these designs, including robust intellectual property checks.
As a Panel, we’ve been appointed by government to determine the 4 alternative flag designs in a neutral and unbiased way. We are committed to doing that. We have selected for the long list designs that we believe best reflect the values New Zealanders have shared with us and you can view these in the long list gallery:
By mid-September we will select the 4 alternatives which eligible voters will rank in the first binding referendum later this year. This will be the opportunity for people to express their preferences and make choices. We encourage you to make sure you are enrolled to vote so that you can take part in this nationally significant process. In March next year, New Zealand will make history when it votes between the current flag and the preferred alternative.
Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa.
Flag Consideration Panel:
- Prof John Burrows (Chair), ONZM, QC
- Nicky Bell
- Peter Chin, CNZM
- Julie Christie, ONZM
- Rod Drury
- Kate De Goldi (Deputy Chair)
- Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM
- Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM
- Stephen Jones
- Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE
- Malcolm Mulholland
- Hana O’Regan.
And for those who aren’t sure if we should be considering a change:
The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.
There are more than 7000 in the gallery.
Submissions close tomorrow.
The top three at Rate the Flag when I checked last night were:
Designed by: Geoffrey Joe
This is a re-bound of Grant Pascoe’s ‘Pikopiko’ (https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/the-nz-flag-your-chance-to-decide/gallery/design/5641) with the added sky blue and southern-cross.
By Chris Roberts:
Simple. Modern. Clean. Distinctive.
The two contrasting colours used are white and deep blue. White is used for the stars of the Southern Cross and the rolling cloud. The deep blue background represents both the clean skies and the Pacific Ocean surrounding New Zealand.
The Flag Consideration Panel is inviting people to upload designs for a new flag.
There are more than 5000 in the gallery.
This one is Star Skyped Koru by Christopher Hall.