Kiwis speak out on changing flag

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 17:37 11/03/2014
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Street poll on whether the NZ flag should be changed.

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The Royal Returned and Services Association continues to oppose proposals for a change of flag, saying it should be changed only if a substantial majority of the population support it.

Prime Minister John Key said today that if he remained in the job after this year's election, a referendum on a new flag would be held during the next parliamentary term. A cross-parliamentary working group would be set up to recommend the best way to have a referendum, which would be held before the 2017 election.

New Zealanders from outside Parliament would be included in the working group.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum, the timing of the process means next year's centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli will be commemorated under the current flag.

RSA national president Don McIver said the RSA's national executive decided some years ago it would oppose any change of flag. Support from a substantial majority - probably two-thirds - of the population should be needed before any change was made.

"The most significant reason is that we've had the flag for 110 years," McIver said.

"It's historic, it's symbolic.

"The symbolism on the flag makes sense to New Zealand with the Southern Cross, the blue of the ocean, and with the Union Jack which still represents our association with the Commonwealth.

"And it's iconic. New Zealand soldiers have served under it, and New Zealanders have died under it."

Monarchy New Zealand is more relaxed about the possibility of a change of flag. It does not think such a move would put this country's link to the monarchy at risk.

"Our position is that we don't have a position," chairman Sean Palmer said.

"Monarchy NZ's focus is on the role and place of the monarchy in New Zealand and our constitution, and that wouldn't be affected by any flag that we use."

The choice of symbols on the flag would not influence the monarchy.

"It's nothing to do with becoming a republic," Palmer said.

He also would not be surprised to see the Duchess of Cambridge, who will visit New Zealand next month with Prince William and baby Prince George, wear a silver fern brooch at some time.

Former Waitakere mayor Sir Bob Harvey, a longtime campaigner for a change of flag, said Key's proposal was a great opportunity.

However, from hard and punishing experience he knew the issue could be fraught.

"It's a very, very emotional issue and I think that people should be aware that this isn't about a new set of cufflinks, it's really about the national psyche," Harvey said.

In the past he had thought the green koru flag designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser came very, very close to the right flag, but he had moved away from that position.

Now the silver fern on black was among his top choices.

"I think we would absolutely grow to love the silver fern on the black flag," Harvey said.

Black was dramatic and sensual and reached deep into the psyche.

"If you are going to brand a country ... you need a commitment to be bold, and the silver fern on black is really, really bold."

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Harvey also paid tribute to the years of effort Wellington businessman Lloyd Morrison, who died of leukaemia in 2012, put into trying to change the flag.

Had Morrison not died, "I think we would have been much further down the road [to a new flag]".

- Fairfax Media

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