1. A flag steeped in history – Is this the answer?Even if we do have a new flag, there are ways to retain the meaning of our present flag. While some of us are quite happy with our national flag, others wish our flag instilled much more pride, by being unique, and showing us unmistakeably as New Zealanders. The desire to see ourselves, and our own country (rather than a colonial flag, still dominated by Britain), grows stronger with each generation, and a new flag seems inevitable at some stage.
If that's the eventual reality, then we should get on with it now. The people who went through the war years deserve to have their say and be considered in the process. Changing our flag will be hard for some, but if we work around the things that upset people, we can reach an acceptable solution. This website shows that it doesn't have to be a black flag, and we don't need to be a republic, but we do need a national flag that unites us all as New Zealanders.
The first thing to understand is that changing our flag doesn't alter our Government, the Treaty, our relationship with Britain, the Monarchy or the Commonwealth. It's a cosmetic change only, and it's as harmless as singing our New Zealand anthem in place of "God Save the Queen".
It also helps to realise that other Commonwealth countries had a flag like ours. New Zealand and Australia lag behind in having our own unique flag, and the Queen will be happy for us to achieve that. Below is a sample of the many changes made to flags of the old British Empire. This is just a picture from J-S that included New Zealand. There are lots more online from A-Z.
There were numerous flags that looked much like ours (including national and state ensigns).
The main purpose of any national flag is to identify and represent that particular nation and all its citizens. So the task of our flag is not to represent Britain (or any other nations), but to uniquely identify this country. At the moment we have a two-nation flag, that favours those of us with British ancestry, while excluding many others. We need a proper Flag of New Zealand. That doesn't mean having to include something for all the different people here. A design that identifies the country itself will automatically include all New Zealanders.
Although I want a new flag myself, I also know the current flag has very real meaning for some of us – especially among older people. It's important to remember that a new flag is not about getting rid of our past – or the meaning in our present flag. It's about having a national flag that shows our own country. If each side of the debate would consider the other, an agreeable solution could be to have a new flag, but also keep the old flag for particular purposes. (Canada has successfully done this with their flag/s). Let me explain more....
War veterans especially, should be reassured that the old flag can still be used at Anzac Day parades and funerals for example, and if RSAs or others want to continue flying it every day, I see no reason why they shouldn't do so for as long as they want (in the same way that people fly silver-fern flags, now). As well as that, a national tradition of flying the old flag with the new one on Anzac Day would show huge respect, and future generations would readily understand its meaning – far more than seeing the present flag on its own. (This idea isn't meant to glorify war, but to remember why peace is so important to maintain). With Australia's flag also flown on this day, we would acknowledge our shared history and the Anzac bond.
Some people are concerned about us forgetting our British heritage, but there are numerous reminders in old buildings and place-names, and it doesn't have to be on our flag. We'd still be connected through the Monarchy, plus our Coat of Arms shows our beginnings. Even so, there is a way we could remember our link with Britain in our flag/s (every year, and be proud of it). Imagine a Waitangi Day ceremony that begins with the Treaty proceedings, and then takes us through to the present day, with the aid of our various flags. Here is what I envisage:
Step 1: The Union flag and the original Maori flag are raised to commemorate the signing of the Treaty – an Agreement giving rights and protections to Maori and the European settlers.
Step 2: The current national flag and the modern Maori flag are raised to symbolise the next stage of our development, and the events that have shaped us thus far. It doesn't matter which flag we identify with – we can still feel part of the proceedings.
Step 3: A new national flag is raised (one without the Union Jack), that is clearly about this country, and therefore represents us all. This flag marks a greater equality and understanding between us, and means we can all go forward together as New Zealanders.
This new flag, and the whole ceremony (a symbolic journey to nationhood), would be much more inclusive for everyone, no matter how long we have been here, or where we are from. Instead of Waitangi Day being "just a day off" (as it is for some of us), we might then see it as a national day of celebration for all New Zealanders. Onlookers might even bring along their own flags to show pride in their own particular heritage (Scottish, Dutch, Indian etc). Our flags and our cultures would be respected and preserved, and then the new flag would bring us all together as united and unique New Zealanders. The ceremony could be repeated all around the country, and would give us the reason that's needed, to really celebrate our nationhood in the way that other countries do.
As well as creating a greater pride in our flag/s and our country, this could also have a major beneficial impact on our race relations. Each year, we would be reminded of how Maori and Pakeha came together as two separate peoples (recognising that each had something to offer the other), and joined in formal partnership to create a better country for all of us. With this equal and inclusive image, Waitangi Day and our amazing Treaty might finally be understood by us all. Perhaps we might even be motivated to willingly adhere to its principles, and to act with fairness, moderation, and goodwill from both sides. At the same time, we might also show greater tolerance and pride in celebrating our wider diversity.
The combined flags on these two days (Anzac Day and Waitangi Day) have a powerful depth of meaning, and I find I want to keep the old flag for these occasions, rather than replace it altogether. In these scenarios, I would feel proud of the current flag (and our British heritage), whereas at the moment, our flag seems like a constant reminder of Britain and British arrogance, and a reason to want more independence (explained on Page 2).
If we keep the current flag for these ceremonial occasions, it means we can choose a new flag that is deliberately about New Zealand only, without feeling that we're dishonouring the meaning and history of the current design. I know there'll still be people upset about it changing at all, but at least this way, the old flag is not gone completely, and for many of us, its importance will not be diminished, but increased.
Another good reason for keeping the old flag, is that all those companies who've used some form of the design in their product or company logo will still be able to use them (and have added prestige from the obvious longevity). With all these visible reminders, the current flag and its history will not be forgotten, and combined with the spirit inherent in the new flag, can only mean an even greater pride in our past, present, and future.