NZ flag should unite, not divide

Last updated 09:50 31/01/2014

MICHAEL EADE: New Zealand Aotearoa alternative flag.

Janis Barbour said her flag incorporated the two flags we already have - one symbolising British history, the other symbolising Maori culture.

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Prime Minister John Key is right. The Government does have a responsibility to put the issue of our flag to the public, and while it may not be the biggest issue at the moment, it is still an important one.

Labour Party internal affairs spokesman Trevor Mallard agrees "it is time for a change".

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman speaks of a need for a flag "centred on a growing sense of national identity".

Even NZ First leader Winston Peters acknowledged the confusion created by the similarities between the New Zealand and Australian flags.

What is remarkable about these statements is the unity. Rarely have I seen such cross-party support on any issue, and while there may be agreement that the flag needs to be changed, there is seemingly no consensus as to what it should be changed to.

The more you look, the more designs you find; an evergrowing pile of ferns, koru, spirals, kiwi, stars, green, blue, red, white, silver and black. Reminiscent of our people, our culture, heritage, the landscape, the sea. The list and permutations are endless. But I don't think it is that complicated.

I have not met many young people who identify with the current flag. Red, blue and white are not our national colours.

In its current form, the flag does not invoke the depth of emotion one would hope for from our youth, and the flag is all but absent from sporting events. Instead you have the all-inclusive crowd "blackout" serving in its stead.

Conversely, I have not met many elderly who would identify with, say, the Hundertwasser flag, and despite many people's preference for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, rightly or wrongly I fear it would create more division than unity.

Mana leader Hone Harawira wants something "more reflective of our history", and while his preference for the Tino Rangatiratanga may not fly, there is a larger point that remains - Maori must be consulted. Any flag representative of New Zealand/Aotearoa must reflect both Pakeha and Maori aspirations.

Returned and Services Association president Don McIvor's concerns must also be addressed after he said "the current flag has a significant emotional hold on our membership".

The concerns of the RSA and Maori must be given weight when discussing changing the flag.

As Key said, changing the flag is a "constitutional matter" and any change without Maori support could conceivably be seen as a betrayal of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Equally, any change without the overwhelming support of the RSA membership would be a betrayal of a sacrifice too often paid for with blood.

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Any attempt to remove the Union Jack will be seen by some as the slippery slope - the first steps in a move towards republicanism, a potentially unnecessary taxpayer-funded presidency, or as an attempt to downplay one of the Treaty partners and thus by association the Treaty's constitutional significance.


Do not let the desire for a new flag descend into arguments on unrelated republican matters.

Our flag needs to speak to all - young and old, Pakeha and Maori, newly arrived immigrants, multi-generational New Zealanders, as well as the men and women of our armed services and the ubiquitous Kiwi sports fanatic.

The answer is sometimes less is more.

Don't change the flag. Just change the blue to black. A simple compromise.

Symbols are amazing things. They can mean many things to many people. Such a simple change could address the concerns of many. The RSA, the older generation and the pro-Commonwealth faction would have their continuity, Maori would have Te Korekore, Te Whei Ao, Te Ao Marama represented for all to see, and the sports fan a flag they could wave with pride without fear of being mistaken for an Australian.

The acting director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Canterbury, Christoph Bartneck, said: "It becomes increasingly difficult to create a colour scheme that is popular and unique."

What is more uniquely Kiwi than black? 

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