The New Zealand flag looks very similar to the Australian flag, and is often confused for the flag of their friends ‘across the ditch.’ As Roman Mars from 99% Invisible has said in a TED talk, people can get pretty impassioned about flags, and the Kiwi’s have been arguing over theirs for decades. However, in just a few weeks the country could have a new flag that many Kiwis have already embraced.
Last year, the countries Prime Minister, John Key, proposed a series of referendums on the flag issue, inviting people to submit new design designs. More than ten thousand alternative flag designs were considered later that year. Eventually, a panel narrowed the selection to five designs, then by referendum a final design was picked.
The new design, featuring New Zealand’s silver fern, a black corner, and the same Southern Cross the flag has now, was created by Kyle Lockwood, a New Zealand architectural designer who actually lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Despite living in Australia, Lockwood is keenly involved in matters of New Zealand national interest. He first published a variation of his New Zealand fern flag design in 2003, and in 2013 he created a successful campaign to bring back ten-year passports for New Zealanders who since 2005 could only have a five-year passport. However, polls suggest that his success with the passport campaign is unlikely to be repeated in the flag referendum.
Personally, I like the proposed new design. Post-colonial New Zealand is very much its own country with its own heritage and strong identity, I don’t think it needs to have the United Kingdom’s flag as part of theirs. Yes, there is history there, but flags can and have changed. For example, Canada adopted the Maple Leaf flag we all know today little more than fifty years ago.
If the new flag of New Zealand triumphs in the March referendum I wonder if that will jar Australia into taking a look at its flag. It too features the Union flag of the United Kingdom which many find somewhat objectionable in today’s Australia that has moved far beyond its British colonial history.