3. Maybe in a few yearsPresumably when people say this, they mean we should wait till the older generation are gone before changing the flag, so they won’t be upset about it. But every time the flag debate resurfaces, people already get worried and upset about it, and that is not likely to stop. The debate, and all the flag designs that have been shown here and around the world, will continue for as long as the present flag remains, regardless of any referendum. Once we have a new flag, all the talk and the flag designs that aren’t chosen will fade into oblivion. So in that respect, the sooner we get on with it the better.
If we change the flag after the older generation are gone, we’ll just be left feeling guilty that we went against their wishes. I say it's better to seek their blessing now, and have them live the rest of their lives knowing the history of the current flag will continue (be enhanced even), and that we will continue to honour them and the sacrifices they made (see Page 1). If our flag with the Union Jack inspired loyalty in past wars, then rest assured we'd be just as passionate about our flag and country with a flag that shows only New Zealand. As long as the right new design is chosen, and people realise the old flag won't suddenly disappear, then opponents of change might even come to like the new flag as well.
Of course, some people think the time to change is "when we become a republic". However, that might never happen, so it is pointless in waiting until then. A new flag (without the Union Jack) would give us a huge sense of freedom and independence, and we don't need to become a republic to achieve that (explained on Page 2). Canada changed their flag half a century ago and have not become a republic, and we could do likewise. In hindsight, the obvious time to change the flag was when we became an independent Dominion, but it wasn't publicly debated, and we just carried on with the largely British-design flag we had.
Choosing a new flag designBack in 2004, the main flag-change proponents suggested that the final choice of design would be made by a panel of "independent" prominent New Zealanders, followed by a public vote to choose between that flag design and the current flag. That approach worried me. Any panel of "experts" is bound to get it wrong, and we could still end up with the flag we have now (plus a lot of wasted time and money). To my way of thinking, there needs to be a workable and accepted alternative, so we’re not just left with more years of exhausting debate.
I thought a better way of deciding which new flag design we have would be to gauge clear popular opinion of all the designs on offer and then perhaps three or four suitable designs would be offered for public vote, so the final choice of flag is made by the people. That way we all get to have our say, and can live with the decision knowing it was made in a very fair way. If enough people choose to get behind the whole process, and we got on with it, then it could actually be rather fun waiting to see which new design we have.
As it turns out, the official 2015/16 referendum more-or-less fits with my thinking. The public and professional designers have put forward design ideas; an appointed panel has selected a shortlist of suitable designs; then the public will get to vote on that short-list. The design with the most votes will then go up against our current flag in a second referendum. Even if you're opposed to a new flag, it's in everyone's interests to rank their most-favoured design/s in the FIRST referendum (in case one of the options becomes our national flag). You can vote how you want in the second referendum, but if you abstain from voting in the first referendum, you might well wish you'd had your say and voted for a better design. Your vote is important! Remember, both referendums are binding, and the outcome is likely to be long-lasting.
Some people think the first referendum should be to decide whether the majority even want to change the flag. However, this would give an inaccurate result, as many people are afraid to vote yes to change (in case we end up with a flag they wouldn't want). This way, we will know what the new flag will be, and can safely vote yes or no to change, based on what is before us.
What if there’s nothing we like?Over the last decade and more, some people (or groups) have promoted their own design as "the new flag", plus there have been numerous designs that have not been seen so publicly. During the official referendum process, over 10,000 flag ideas were submitted to the gallery of designs at flag.govt.nz. Not all of them would be suitable, but the Selection Panel were given the responsibility of choosing a shortlist of designs that would be acceptable, even if the flag we personally like best is not the one eventually chosen. Their official longlist of 40 designs was made public in August 2015. (Original selection below).
On 1st September 2015, the Panel announced the final 4 designs in the shortlist, with a fifth one added later (see below and in more detail via the Index page). You can see them flying via the Flagtest link on the Index page. In Nov/Dec 2015, a referendum was held where the public voted to decide which of these five designs would go forward to the second referendum. The winner was the Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue). In March 2016, voters will choose between the new flag and our present flag. This vote will determine if our flag will be changing or not.
It's also helpful to consider the vertical view (top left remains top left as per convention).
Flagtest.nz numbers to see them flying are 54, 2166, 2172, 32074 and 24310. (See Index page).
How they might look being waved in a crowd situation (plus very small).
Click here to see the new and current flag among other flags of the world.
And how they would look with our team at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
For the history behind the silver fern, see Page 4 – about halfway down.
The selected alternative will go up against the current flag in the second referendum.
Some of the many comments seen on a British news website in December 2015:
"Now that's a good flag."
"This is tough comig from an aussie, but that is a great flag"
"I absolutely love this. I'm British and will be sorry to see the Union Jack go but it is time to move on. This flag is beautiful and Kiwis should be proud of it."
"I like this one better. I don't like the current flag, because I never know if it's New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, or some other Pacific Island. There are too many that look similar to it. This one is very unique and still cool. I say do it!"
"i like it, probably the coolest flag design ever..... makes me consider moving to New Zealand"
"That is an awesome flag. I think you guys should go for it!"
"Its a lovely flag. Probably the nicest one out there if it wins the referendum."
"It's a great design, represents them really well"
"It's a mighty fine flag for a mighty fine country, no one will be in any doubt which country either!"
"I like it as it is a depiction of the past and the future!!"
"very very nice combination of the old and the new then becoming a new thing altogether"
"Best looking international flag out there!! Looks great!"
"Wooooowwww, that's wonderful and soooo kiwi!!"
"cool, distinctive, like Canada's flag."
"Wow Awesome. . ..Most beautiful flag"
"LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!!! Can I say LOVE enough times!!! It's GORGEOUS!!!!!!"
"What a beautiful design. They do not need to carry our Union emblem on their flag now, they are all grown up and independent."
It’s such a big stepChanging the flag probably seems a little scary for most of us, but if we can be more comfortable with the idea in general, and the design to be used, then the transition will be made a lot easier. Once it's done, it'll be a relief to have the debate finally over, and we'll wonder why we left it so long. Anyone who doubts they’ll ever get used to a new flag need only think back to the old national anthem. How many people now would still rather have "God Save the Queen"? Hearing our own uniquely New Zealand anthem at an Olympic Games medal ceremony is awesome – seeing our own entirely New Zealand flag would be incredible.
Incidentally, well done to NZReo for producing all the words to our anthem and the haka for Maori Language Week some years ago. This little black and white card was a brilliant idea and I wish every New Zealander had one. It was also the inspiration for my original flag design. New Zealand pride – absolutely. That's exactly the message we should see in our flag.