Invercargill teen on star-studded flag panel

James Hargest College year 12 student Stephen Jones has been selected to help decide the final four flag choices for a ...

James Hargest College year 12 student Stephen Jones has been selected to help decide the final four flag choices for a possible new NZ flag.

An Invercargill teen is enjoying the "huge opportunity" of sitting on a panel of high-profile New Zealanders who will shortlist four alternative New Zealand flag designs.

Stephen Jones, a James Hargest College year 12 student and Invercargill youth council member, is on the 12-person panel, which includes former All Black Sir Brian Lochore, former discus champion Beatrice Faumuina, Saatchi and Saatchi New Zealand chief executive Nicky Bell, former Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and emeritus professor John Burrows.  

Jones did not know why he was invited onto the panel.

"I am unsure how I was chosen, but I am really pleased I have been chosen," he said.

He had enjoyed meeting the well-known New Zealanders on the panel, saying they were "all great people".

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said members had been selected after cross-party nominations from MPs.

English said the panel's role was to consider and oversee a New Zealand flag public engagement process which begins in May.

New Zealanders would be invited to send in designs or ideas regarding a possible alternative flag and panel members would shortlist four of the flag designs.

A postal referendum vote will be held later this year inviting voters to rank the four flag designs in order of preference.

The winning design would then run off against the current New Zealand flag in a second referendum vote next year.

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The flag referendum process is expected to cost taxpayers more than $25m.

Jones, who has had media training for the role, said he didn't have an opinion as to whether New Zealand needed a new flag, but he wanted to hear the public's opinion.

He was getting paid $640 per meeting - the same amount as the other panel members - and three meetings had already been held, he said.

He planned to put the money away for his university days. 

It is unclear how many meetings the panelists will have before the decision on a new flag is made.

Jones was representing the youth of New Zealand on the panel, city councillors heard at a meeting this week.

Invercargill city councillor Lindsay Thomas said he knew Jones would do a good job.

"If you look at the panel and who he is going to be rubbing shoulders with, it's a huge opportunity." 

The 12 panellists are: 

Chair: Emeritus professor John Burrows, former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury.

Deputy chair - Kate De Goldi, writer and reviewer.

Nicky Bell - Chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand.

Peter Chin - Former Mayor of Dunedin.

Julie Christie - Director of Julie Christie Inc.

Rod Drury - Chief executive of Xero and technology entrepreneur.

Beatrice Faumuina - Olympian, Commonwealth gold medallist.

Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones - Former Chief of NZ Defence Force.

Stephen Jones - Invercargill Youth Councillor, Invercargill 

Sir Brian Lochore - Former All Blacks captain, coach and administrator.

Malcolm Mulholland - Academic and flag historian.

Hana O'Regan - Academic, Māori studies and te reo Māori.

 - The Southland Times


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