Say ‘Yay’, not ‘Nay’, to this New Zealand Flag


In 2017, we will get a chance to have our chance to choose what is arguably the most important symbol for our country; our national flag.

I remember asking Jack Marshall in 1972, at a political meeting in Palmerston North’s State Theatre; when would we finally get a flag that looks like our own, and not like that of Australia? I forget what he said. But we might note that 1972 was a proud year for New Zealand. And one reason for that pride is that we heard for the first time God Defend New Zealand in place of God Save the Queen at the Olympic Games. The world did not fall apart.

Some say New Zealand became a nation in 1840, others in 1907, still others in 1947 with the signing of the Statute of Westminster. 1972 might be a more accurate year; we actually started to accept that we were not parked off the coast of Essex. (Living in the UK in 1975, I voted in the EEC referendum in favour of the UK staying in the European Economic Community – the EEC, now EU – that it had joined in 1972.)

But we have one final step to take. We must choose a flag that symbolises Aotearoa New Zealand; not Australia, not the United Kingdom. We know that we are not ‘on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge’. It’s now time to let the rest of the world know that.

The only possible reason for delay in getting a flag that identifies us would be the lack of a flag that we can all feel good about. Now we have the stunningly beautiful Kyle Lockwood designed flag (below). Let’s get behind this design, just as we got behind MMP in the 2002 referendum. In 2024, with our new flag, we will look back to 2014 and wonder what on earth we were so cheery about.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 6.35.02 am’s_New_Zealand_Flag.svg

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I worry about the negativity of the political left in New Zealand. On Q+A (7 December) a number of new MPs were asked about the flag issue. National’s Chris Bishop and Maori’s Marama Fox embraced the idea of a new flag. The Green’s James Shaw supported the idea half-heartedly; he couldn’t resist saying that it was “a distraction”.

I was deeply disappointed with Stuart Nash’s (Labour) very negative response. Nash contrived to juxtapose the flag issue with that of homelessness. (Ironically Labour’s housing policy is focussed on enabling people to buy homes; to address the issue of homelessness you must focus on the rental market. The home ownership debate is indeed a distraction from the issue of homelessness.) Stuart Nash then went on to whine about the $25m estimated cost of the new flag campaign. (See mySantanomics 101 for a whimsical take on the argument against miserliness.)

I was equally disappointed with Tracey Martin from New Zealand First. New Zealand First, supposedly anationalist party – not traditional left – will most likely be a part of our next Labour-led government. Yet she came out wholly against a new flag.

I think some ‘nationalists’ are not true nationalists; rather they yearn for the old days of the British Empire. The Union Jack in our flag represents mother England’s bosom, and the likeness to Australia’s flag serves as an anglo security blanket in this antipodean region of the world. New Zealand First has the ring more of an Anglo-Maori party than a party that really wishes to promote New Zealand’s independent identity to the world.

Then there’s the argument that we fought under the present flag that identifies us as South British. But, of course, in both world wars we were actually fighting for the British Empire, not for New Zealand as such. Kyle Lockwood’s flag does nothing to diminish the sacrifices of those who fought in those wars.

It seems to be people on the left who most bring up the distraction argument against gaining a proper flag of our own. Maybe this concern with distractions reflects our inner Methodism? Yet when the same-sex marriage issue randomly (literally randomly, as a result of a ballot) distracted us in 2012, the left (by and large) embraced this, and many on the right did the same. This successful campaign was largely about symbolism, because the prior civil union legislation had granted all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples. Symbols can be important.

Let’s finally put the empire to rest, and put our left-wing nay-sayer instincts to rest also. Kiwis identifying as ‘Better British’ (to use Jamie Belich’s pertinent phrase) is so twentieth century. Let’s finally show the world that we are an independent people with a rich indigenous heritage, and a tolerant multicultural attitude to twenty-first century life. We are a pacific Pacific people. (Let the fern become a national symbol of peace; of reaching out.)

Let’s adopt a flag that is our own, and is seen to be our own. Choose Lyle Lockwood’s magnificent design.


  1. Sorry Keith but if, for some stupid, narcissistic reason, we do change the flag to make Key’s ego even larger, the only flag we can use is the United Tribes federation flag of 1835.

    Anything else is just some art project with zero meaning & zero history which means zero to New Zealand.

  2. Sorry Keith. I think we should change the flag, but I don’t like this design much. There was no need to stick with those colours. The fern is going to be damned hard to copy. (Without looking, how many fronds are there?) And there’s something disconnected about the two motifs – they’re just plonked on the space with no relationship.

    But most of all, the flag can wait another term and not be a legacy for That Man.

    • I agree. The design of this flag with its disconected juxtapositions of disparate symbols, is in my opinion, sterile and artificial.

      It doesnt say anything to me, either about this country’s creation or the contribution and unique relationship of Maori to the creation of the country.

      It represents nothing.

      • Agreed, and that white fern thing still looks suspiciously like a white feather. Not an ideal symbol to my mind.

        • It’s OK if non-NZers see the fern as a white feather; an international symbol of peace. It also serves as a chiefly symbol – symbol of mana – in our country.

          At Parihaka (see this sermon), and on the Chathams, the white feather symbolised both peace and chiefly mana.

          A little ambiguity – between fern and feather – may not be a bad thing.

  3. This new flag is clunky and corny, it has no finesse or class, anyway Nz just doesn’t really exist anymore, more like a big cow splat on the flag would look more realistic, or a river with no water runnning down it. Or maybe we should just have a montage of the world flags as we are being colonised again, so the Auckland house prices stay high $! I agree with@ MATTHEW.

  4. A change to the national flag should only be considered when New Zealand undergoes significant constitutional change. This would be when NZ becomes a republic and the removal of the Union flag can be justified. An example of this is South Africa who adopted their current flag when a new constitution provided full democracy in 1994 and Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president under the new flag. What is currently being suggested by Key is simply an exercise in rebranding as if NZ was a corporation and not a sovereign state.

  5. I have to disagree.

    The current flag with its Union Jack in the corner came about because of the working out of real historic forces.

    For good or ill, Flag of the Dominion of New Zealand represents the historical fact that Aotearoa was settled (invaded), and taken over, and renamed by the British Empire.

    While there is an argument to change the flag in some time in the future, to represent a change in social conditions. That time has not come yet, particullary while continuing injustices arising from colonialism and imperialism in this country still remain to be addressed. (Or in John Key’s case, admitted that they even ocurred).

    John Key’s wish to change the flag is not out of any wish to make New Zealand more liberal or free. John Key’s wish to change the flag is closely tied to his wish to cover up our violent history of colonialism and imperialism and racism.

    It is also a symbolic representation of John Key’s wish to give away our sovereignty to new foreign corporate rulers under the TPPA.

    Therefore at this time calling for a change to the flag is more result of repressive social forces than progressive ones.

    The flag that John Key favours, the silver fern on a black background is a trade marked corporate logo the rights to which are held by the advertising company that represents the All Blacks.

    If New Zealand adopts this flag, New Zealand will become the first country in the world with a privatised flag.

    While the flag depicted above here, is not as offensive as John Key’s corporate logo, it is still an artificial imposition that will help draw a veil over this country’s past.

    New Zealand already has another flag, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag which recognises the primacy and role of Maori in the history and making of this country. After a long struggle The Tino flag has gained some measure of officlal recognition. Which on some officiall occasions particullarly Waitangi day is given equal status with the Flag Of The Dominion.

    This symbolic recognition of our dual history needs to be expanded.

    The artificial imposition of a new New Zealand flag will undo this hard Mahi and the Tino Rangatiratanga flag will demoted to third place.

    There is another reason to oppose any change to the flag at this time.

    At this time the Extreme Right do not have a banner to rally under.

    By supporting the Right in changing the flag the Left will be creating a whip for our on backs. This is because the old flag will become a standard for the extreme Right, who like the European nazis hanker back to a mythical white imperial utopia that never existed

    • New Zealand Maori signed a treaty with representatives of the British Crown whose banner was the Union Jack.

      My feeling is that changing the flag is an attempt to distance us from this history.

      Maori did not sign a treaty with faceless foreign corporate rulers and their local toadies whose banner is some, disconected, apart from history, artificial fruit salad.

      In my opinion changing the flag is an attempt to distance us from this history.

      The duty of Leftists is to condemn the change as undemocratic imposition and subjection to corporate New Zealand as well as being a huge waste of public money when we have so many other pressing social needs.

      What this move really represents is that the wishes and preoccupations of the corporate sector has more importance and priority in our society than any other sector. We should not buy into it.

        • It is not democratic.

          What the flag looks like is a preoccuption of the 1%

          (And the only reason we are having a referendum on the matter is John Key and his corporate goons could not quite get away with forcing their odd preoccupation with the flag on us by dictat)

          The change in the flag is a representation of the sell out of our sovereignty to corporate interests under the TPPA.
          the change in the flag is a representation of the move away from social provision of state housing.
          The change in the flag is a representation of the sell off of our environment to the deep sea oil drilling companies.
          The change in the flag is a representation of a move to a surviellance society.
          All great social changes are accompanied by a changes in the symbolism.
          The proposed change to our flag is a symbolic representation of the tightening corporate control of New Zealand.

          Howabout just for a minute let us bypass the tiny minority of corporate parasites driving these social changes that require a flag change to accompany them.

          Just imagine if just for once we asked the average person in the street what they thought the most pressing issue they think we should have a referendum on. I doubt whether changing the flag would be at the top of most people’s list.

          How about food in schools programs?

          Or deep sea oil drilling?

          Or fracking?

          Or the State House sell off and privatisation?

          Or the new surveillance laws?

          Or how about the TPPA?

          Now, that would be a good one.

          From the NZ Herald:

          Do you support NZ’s involvement in theTPP agreement?


          75 – Yes
          1419 – No

          We will not be having a referendum on any of these above issues, because the 1% would lose every one of them.

  6. Much prefer Frizzle’s flag also …I’ve really grown to dislike red, white & blue …for some weird reason .
    I’d be keen to have another flag but like someone earlier said , I don’t want Key to leave a new flag as a legacy , let him leave a ruined country , a ruined economy and a huge divide between rich and poor ..let THAT be his ‘legacy’ .

  7. “Flag needs to ‘scream NZ’: John Key”

    Of course what John Key really means is; “Flag needs to ‘Scream Corporate Control of NZ”

    Because symbolism is important.

    Changing the flag is the needed symbolic representation of the very real social changes to our sovereignty and social welfare state that John Key and his government are currently implementing.

    John Key’s favoured flag, the silver fern on a black background, is a registered corporate logo who’s copyright is held by the advertising firm that represents the All Blacks.
    If New Zealand adopts this flag, we will be the first country in the world with a ‘privatised’ flag.

    As such, this is a very apt symbolic representation of the new reality he is trying to create.

    All the other historically unconnected artificial replacements are not much better.

    • The silver fern on black is the only decent design proposed. The others are all too complicated. The only real test is that a school age child has to be able to draw a reasonable facsimile of the flag – any flag a kid can’t draw well should be out.

      It doesn’t matter that it is a corporate logo. An act of parliament is all that is required to nationalise the symbol, and to be honest an advertising company would be pretty proud of putting that on its boilerplate. The All Blacks can’t complain – they compete as the national team of New Zealand, a title for which they pay nothing.

  8. Who are the people pushing for the flag change?

    The Business Round Table, the ACT Party, The Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

    In the 1990s these groups all joined togehter to promote a petition to change the flag.

    I well remember that during this time you couldn’t go to any major sporting or other public event than to see the odd sight of these business type people trying to get names for their petition.

    Needless to say it didn’t go anywhere.

    Nobody else cares about the petty preoccupations of the business sector.

    Well almost nobody. Obviously the National government take the narrow interests of these Right Wing business and lobby groups very seriously.

  9. The changing of the New Zealand flag has been deliberately trotted out by John Key as a distraction from the issues of Dirty Politics. I don’t see it as a vital issue, and even if it were, I would prioritise it much lower than inequality, housing, health and education.

    So, sorry, can’t say I support any move, Left or Right to change the flag. Let’s concentrate on more important matters first.

  10. Hey Keith- I love your economic anslyse. Your aguments for flag change, while not compelling, have merit. But your taste in flags doesnt quite measure up. B-) Im neutral abour the whole rhing but what is really lacking is Maori voice on this and their design sugesstions from those who favour change.

  11. When I first saw this flag design about 6 years ago I instantly fell in love with it. It’s just such a great clean design and a good compromise of old (the legacy colours) and new (the silver fern).

    I have felt for a long time, since I was about 15, that we needed a new flag to better distinguish our nation. Later I also realised that we really need this to help change Kiwis mindsets, shift the zietgiest so to speak, and get rid of this lingering fugue, this habit of being a colony that is limiting New Zealand from embracing the idea of becoming a truly independent country.

    About the colours: red, white and blue are the most common flag colours and I suspect there is a good reason for this. There are several countries that don’t have there national colours on there flag too, such as the country with the most famous national colour: the Netherlands.

    Earlier this year I revisited the idea of the national flag and found I would make one small revision to Kyle Lockwood’s design and that is to change the stars to pure white. I’ll upload my modification shortly and also my reasons as to why I think this.

  12. Changing the flag is a fucking stupid idea and I can’t believe people are actually considering it . It’s a waste of energy , time and will delete our history .
    It’s also sinister and suggests to me that the race is on to Banana Republicanise NZ / Aotearoa to enable jonky-stien to sell us to his Israeli mates for the small mountain of debt he’s lured us in to . That , and the brainless , on – going debates on which flag is prettier will ensure further divisions in an already divided populace . Why the fuck do you think jonky’s mooted the idea ?
    Maori and non Maori should stop whining like spoilt little children and stand shoulder to shoulder against Corporate tyranny and the Banksters , not bitch on about historical slights . Sorry Maori people but we non Maori are here to stay . Get over it . We have far bigger problems and that’s where we should focus our attention .

  13. At its core what the TPPA represents is a profound betrayal of the interests and wishes of the New Zealand people.

    To highlight the fact that this is a betrayal. What I would like to see at all future rallys against the TPPA is a sea of New Zealand flags. (Both the Flag of the Dominion and the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag)

    As well as uniting the huge majority of New Zealanders of all political persuasions that are provenly opposed to this sell out. This huge display of our National symbol would confound the traitors seeking to sell us out. (particullarly as they are proposing their own flag)

    For all its quirky failings, the current New Zealand flag came into vogue with the collapse of the British Empire and to some extent represents that hard gained independence.

    “With humanbeings perception is everything”

    Symbolism is important:
    To appease our new foreign trading partners, and to symbolise the loss of our hard gained sovreignty, under the TPPA, the government want to change the flag.

    Before I visited the Middle East I had no appreciation of flags at all.
    They left me rather Ho hum.

    But to see the police and the army ordered to attack the protesters in Tahrir Square confounded by the fact that the protesters were all flying the Egyptian National flag, this caused a reevaluation by the police and the soldiers;
    “Who are the traitors? Who are those with the best interests of the nation and the Egyption people at heart?” they had to ask themselves. As a result the army, and to some extent the police as well, were paralysed to act against the protesters. And the real traitors of the Egyptian people became revealed as the government of the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

    As well as flying the New Zealand Flag we need to publicy burn John Key’s favoured corporate flag at every anti-TPPA rally.

    (And sorry Keith, but probably some to those fruit salad ones as well)

    – See more at:

  14. If we have to change the flag lets replace the Southern Cross with Matariki (Pleades). And at least acknowledge the existence of Maori culture in Aotearoa. Even Air NZ does although it won’t hire women with tattooed Maori motives visible to squeamish passengers. Make the Union Jack less prominent if we have to have it to depict our rather short colonial history.
    If we change constitutionally to a Republic then probably we will have to include an increasingly so called multi-cultural nation. For that we will need a much bigger flag incorporating all sorts of motiffs reflecting this.

    • Have you seen the insignia of a Subaru car? Do you know what ‘Subaru’ means?

      The Matariki cluster is much more prominent in the northern than in the southern hemisphere sky. That’s its significance in NZ. It’s only visible to us in the evening sky in summer. Its significance to Maori is in large part because it is not visible in Aotearoa for most of the year. Crux on the other hand is visible all year in NZ; it is the quintessential symbol of southern temperate lands.

  15. Will New Zealand become a world leader again?

    Will we become the first country in the world to have a privatised flag?

    A Kiwi who uses a silver fern symbol on his Twitter account has been warned about copyright infringement by a government agency.

    The New Zealander said he chose the fern for his profile picture and background because it was a “symbol of who I am”.

    But last week he received an email from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise asking him to remove it.

    “While it’s great promotion and we’re sure it’s unintentional, the Fern Mark is a registered trademark and unfortunately this use is breaching copyright,” the email said.

    The Rugby Union was defending its version of the silver fern “very closely” for the same reason, Mr Wells said.

    NZTE marketing director Nick Swallow said its silver fern was a registered trademark “and we need to be able to protect it”.

    “If we don’t, we weaken our intellectual property rights, including the ability to enforce more serious commercially-based infringements.”

    Mr Swallow acknowledged that use by individuals was usually with “the best of intentions”.

    “When we come across this, we get in touch to explain its status and why it is available only for licensed use.

    So all you flag flapping iconoclasts out there. Watch out!

  16. How about shiny reflective stars, or solar powered flashing lights?

    A new flag should look like a flag from this century.

  17. The question is will we as individuals have to pay a piecemeal licencing fee every time we display the new flag, (or its variants)?

    Or, will the government have to pay millions to buy the rights outright from its current private commercial license holders?

    I’m picking the latter, so more freebie taxpayer funds get handed directly to John Key’s corporate mates.

    As Mike Hosking says: “Happy Days!”

  18. Poverty, inequality, environmental destruction, increasing debt, erosion of citizens’ rights, disestablished privacy? No, it’s the flag, people, the flag!

    I am sure National and neofeudalism are equally grateful for you buying into the great diversion and identifying what really matters.

  19. Wow, everyone is so negative. The funny thing is that if the Maori King or someone similar had pushed this flag design you would all love it!

  20. Isn’t there another issue here – changing the flag is necessary under conditions that allow the TPPA to be legally enforced. Related to international trade laws?

    • Hi Ian, I’d like to genuinely know why and how the changing of our flag allows the TPPA to be legally enforced? Cheers

  21. Im going to vote for the Flag I like best and think bests represents New Zealand.

    Not the flag that Im told that i have to vote for.

    Not a flag I think John Key likes or dislikes.

    Not the Flag that Minto and Hone says “this is the only flag you must vote for”

    My country my choice.

    And if the country ends up voting for the flag I dislike the most, so be it, its the one the country wants.

  22. I will be a minority here; I have to agree with Keith. I think the left are too political for their own liking sometimes, and they tend to over think things. Yeah, Key’s a prick and the government is heartless, I can’t wait for them to go.

    But I think a change of flag is in the best interest of the nation. At least it is a move away from being a slave to England and Australia; and I like the proposed flag, it is a compromise but it is something I could get use to. I think it works.

    From there, we can then look to remove National from government and get the government we want in, and make real change. But as a kiwi, I think a bit of national pride is something we can all aspire to. I hate Rugby, but I will always cheer the All Blacks… We need to celebrate who we are sometimes, and not always let politics get in the way of some national pride and the ability to take the piss out of each other!

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