Odd alignments in the flag debate



Two years ago I welcomed John Key’s promise to hold a flag referendum. At last we could get rid of the Union Jack from our flag and have one that didn’t look like Australia’s. Many on the left had long argued for a flag change and now we had some significant support from the right.

Now it seems that many leftists will be joining the Anglophiles in voting to keep our present colonial flag. Let’s look at the reasons they give for changing their stance and the counter-arguments.

1. The referendum is a waste of taxpayers’ money. That is essentially an argument for never having a referendum, because it will always cost money. However, I do accept that some of the early expenditure – to find out about our “values” – was unnecessary.

2. Changing the flag isn’t a priority. Obviously, combating the TPPA or dealing with the housing crisis are more urgent issues, but it is not a zero sum game. Changing the flag is about us developing a greater sense of nationhood, which has progressive ramifications across other political issues. The Union Jack in our flag symbolises a neo-colonial mentality which is still present, even if the imperial power we now tip our hat to is usually the United States. A greater sense of independence would mean we’d be less trusting of America over the TPPA or New Zealand’s participation in America’s wars.  Be careful about using the “it isn’t a priority” argument.  It’s regularly used by politicians to avoid dealing with controversial issues: like marijuana law reform, assisted dying legislation and improving the abortion laws.

3. Changing the flag is a diversion. I find that argument a bit patronising to New Zealanders. We are grown up enough to engage with the flag issue, or not, as we wish. We are only diverted to the extent we want to be diverted. And there are some important underlying political issues in the flag debate, as I have explained above.

4. Who cares about the flag anyhow? Isn’t flag-waving a reactionary nationalist exercise? I have considerable sympathy for that stance, particularly when you see how patriotism and flag-waving is used by the political right in America, Britain, Australia, France, etc. But if we are going to wave a flag at to wave at international sports events, etc., I prefer it wasn’t our present colonial flag.

5. It’s John Key’s flag. John Key was still a money-trader when Kyle Lockwood designed the flag back in 2001. Before John Key got involved there were many people (including myself) campaigning for a flag change – many of whom liked the Lockwood design. It won flag design competitions.

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6. The Lockwood design is too bad to vote for. Fair enough if you really don’t like it don’t vote for it. People differ on what is a good design and a lot of people will disagree with any design chosen. Given the way symbols have been used in New Zealand in recent years the most popular flag was always going to have either a fern or a koru on it, and perhaps a southern cross. Kyle Lockwood’s design won because it combined two of these symbols and for traditionalists it didn’t depart too much from the original flag, with a southern cross on a blue background.

7. The process to select an alternative flag was just so bad. True, the selection committee was weak on design expertise. It should have done some development work on the best, or most popular, designs. Also, the process of selecting the final four designs for the initial referendum was clearly flawed. Two of the final four designs (the black and white koru and fern ones) were duds. Better and more popular designs, like the modified Hundertwasser koru or Otis Frizzell’s koru and stars, could have been in the final four.

8. We can have another go at changing the flag at a future time (perhaps when John Key has gone). The truth is that you’ve got to seize chances to bring about progressive change as they arise. Really, which party is going to start another referendum process any time soon? Labour??

9. The campaign for the fern flag is a John Key, National Party, business leaders and elite sportspeople campaign. To me the first rule of politics is that you judge an issue on whether it is progressive or not, rather than who is supporting it. It is good if some on the right support a progressive issue. National Party supporters like Dan Carter might have been more in the media, but the Change the New Zealand Flag campaign also includes a lot of people not aligned to National, like Roger Hall and Oscar Knightly. International sportspeople like Silver Fern Maria Tutaia have good reasons to support a flag change, particularly when the Aussie and NZ flags get mixed up at international events. And we shouldn’t be against business people wanting a more distinctive New Zealand branding.

10. A defeat for the fern flag will be a defeat for John Key. I’m afraid the opposite is true. Of course, John Key has too closely identified himself with the fern flag design. But if people who want a flag change for good and genuine reasons see Labour and the left responsible for keeping the colonial flag then the only political victor, unfortunately, will be John Key and his National Party.


  1. 11. The silver fern isn’t silver, it’s white and looks more like a feather. A white feather? Know what that means? On a flag? Really?

    • Old trope. The white feather was never used on flags and it’s so out of date that our soldiers drew what looked like white feathers (ferns) on their vehicles in World War II without thinking about whether they’d be mistaken for cowards.

      • The Silver Fern has been a symbol of the NZ forces since the Boer war.
        Maybe they knew that they were no more cowards than the next guy and were comfortable to have a powerful symbol of their nationhood on there vehicles.

  2. Interesting point of view from a genuinely progressive commentator. The fact is that this flag does contain pretty much what you would expect a new flag to have and is pretty inclusive in the symbols and colours it uses. I personally don’t mind it that much and was debating whether I should vote for it or not, given I don’t like this government. So this blog is helpful.

  3. Thanks Keith, intelligent analysis as one would expect from you . However the design was not properly considered. The colours simply do not work. Thus it is ugly. Black and blue???? get a grip. Never will those two colours work. The Fern is too heavily stylized to ever be truly effective. The red stars are tacked on as sop to our present flag.The Fern is white it simply will not work . As a suggestion for the aesthetically challenged I suggest folks look at the the Black Caps test cricket shirt. It has a more authentically designed fern( lets use an accurate botanical rendition) which is black on a white background. Stunning. Simple . Effective.

    • Someone has the new design flying near our place and as much as I hate Key, and the process, and most of the people on the design committee… and the way it was so obviously rigged, I still think it looks miles better than the current flag.

      Hell, I even know the fern will blur from a distance and that we could have had a much better design but I just can’t get past how horrible our old flag looks in comparison.

      And it has a stupid Union jack on it.

      Key Derangement Syndrome may or may not exist, but I do think a lot of people on the left are failing to look at this objectively.

  4. Changing the NZ flag is an abysmal idea born of a knee jerk brain fart with odours of pompous arrogance and with more than a hint of tart stupidity. It’s the kind of brain fart that makes a dog sneeze. And it’s only one chromosome away from book burning after a days witch hunting.
    All Maori people ? Would you rather have been the American colony you are soon to become or are you ok with a more interesting history of colonisation than being slaughtered and/or then driven onto reservations where you were saturated with ethyl alcohol until your spirits rose drunkenly up into oblivion to disappear behind neon signs showing the way to the casinos built for your fun and convenience by your all-bought-and-paid-for Whanau? By contrast, your colonisers regularly come here, all contrite an’ shit and pay you, what I believe, is genuine respect by honouring your customs and traditions. Not bad considering…, I’m deeply afraid to say.
    The flag change fuck-up is one thing only. It’s a For Sale sign.
    And before Maori people get all hot and bothered at me and my opinions about colonisers? I’m half Irish and half Scot. Before you guys knew what a musket could do to blood and bones my Whanau were being butchered in their beds by the British but if you think it’s tough being a part of the British Commonwealth ? You just wait until Aotearoa’s a subsidiary of a U$A Corporation. Those boys and girls are going to make Donald Trump look like a geriatric Tele Tubby with a drippy,rubber diddle.
    There’s only one way to deal with the jonky-phile’s flag fetish? Not have a fucking bar of it.

  5. I still prefer the Laser Kiwi… http://www4.pcmag.com/media/images/466325-new-zealand-s-online-design-our-new-flag-contest.jpg?thumb=y&width=740&height=426 *sighs*

    On a slightly more serious note, there’s one point Keith has omitted; that any flag change should be conducted as a thorough review of this country’s identity.

    Key didn’t help the process by returning to knighthoods – thereby saying one moment that we are still tied to Great Britain, whilst suggesting a flag change to make our emblem supposedly independent from Britain. Mixed messages for certain?

    Changing the flag should be part and parcel of a discussion regarding our statehood and move to republicanism.

    That would make a whole lot more sense. After all, if a flag is a symbol of our nationhood, what symbolism can there possibly be when we still have a Head of State on the far side of the planet?

    The only symbolism I can see is that we are changing a design on a piece of cloth so it doesn’t look like a piece of cloth from a nearby country.

    It certainly doesn’t convey any measure of greater independence.

    I will be voting to keep the current flag. Because, to me, changing the design isn’t symbolising anything.

    • I’m 100% with you Frank. Laser Kiwi is the only flag I would have voted for. It would not only look great on military uniforms, but be a constant talking point every time it was flown at international sporting events.

      “It’s regularly used by politicians to avoid dealing with controversial issues: like marijuana law reform, assisted dying legislation and improving the abortion laws.”

      Which is precisely why I think it was a missed opportunity to not include one or both of those issues on this very referendum and made it, you know, actually worth taking part in. Until we know for certain how many do and don’t support change, nothing is going to happen. A referendum would be a perfect starting point to get the conversation going about these important social issues. Knowing the people’s support (or lack there of) would tell us if they’re a non-starter or not. And to think it could have been done for effectively zero additional cost!

      • I think Laser kiwi would have said a whooole lot more about us than just about anything else, that we don’t take ourselves overly seriously and it would forever remind us to never do.

    • Really?? “any flag change should be conducted as a thorough review of this country’s identity.” Gosh no. Identity by committee is the last thing I bloody well want. Identity is as we do, not as we say we do.

    • I agree! I like the symbolism of the Returned Services Fern/ ANZAC with the Soldiers struggling up hill into oblivion. Pretty much sums up your average New Zealanders.

    • Thank you for cementing in place my reservations, Frank. Like you, I’ll vote for the current flag. I’ll vote for change when our national identity is also being debated.

  6. The silver fern will be our next flag because that is the one that John Key and his corporate buddies want. I ‘d be willing to bet on it. It has already been printed – ad nauseum – all over the place. If we think we have a voice in this, think again. Go ahead and vote and see what difference it will make, meanwhile, all that money could have been spent helping properly house and feed children in need and properly funding food banks etc.
    There is always enough money for tppa schmoozing and the military budget and donkeys dirty little deep sea oil and other corporate dealings but there is just never much money for those in need in our country – thank you Bill English and Steven Joyce as well.
    Their promised upcoming increase for the vets; benefit folks and the disabled etc. will – likely ? – not be more than enough to cover an extra cup of coffee a week. But – we will find enough for pay rises for lazy, do nothing mp’s and have jonky donkys new flag, the ” corporate fern flag. ” This flag issue is a win for donky and his natz govt. and not a win for the people of NZ – yet again. It is an intentional diversion away from much more important issues. Good on ya, donky jonky, you are an amazing leader – cough choke.

  7. It comes down to a big missed opportunity. I don’t know exactly who framed the terms of the first referendum but it produced four poor choices, picked by a team of execs. Why not, for instance, poll on the 40 short list? We’re able to count to 40 considering local council elections. Or use some sort of pilot study e.g. internet polling or street canvassing. The preferential voting system is almost pointless with so few choices listed. It’s a big decision and could have been spread out over a longer period, even adding it to the next general election ballot to save money. But methinks there may have been a bit of political/ego reasoning to have it out sooner.

    Sure, they had a roadshow but the appetite for change wasn’t there to begin with. So if the committee picked those four ferns (including the furled koru) based on such low turnouts, these opinions are heavily skewed and it’s no wonder the current flag maintains 2/3rds support.

    By all means, use the fern as a sporting emblem, but it doesn’t have to be the same as the banner for the whole country.

    When I asked people (from several different European countries) what they thought was representative of NZ they either couldn’t think of anything or said “hobbits”. From this unscientific poll I conclude that the people of the world do not think of us as ferns, and judging from the resistance to change, neither do we.

    • Personally, as an Australian, I’d rather change our flag than change your fleg to that fishy fishbone-cum-coward-feather on an ISIS background (with a Southern Cross to appease the RSA and old diggers).

      We’ve got the Wallaby, which is cool, but a duckbilled platypus kicking a rugby ball over an “H” to beat the All Blecks, would be just as cool as your Laser Kiwi.

      But we’re smirking in OZ, even though we are having to take some of your Kiwi bludgers refugees in Bondi that earn $53,001 a year on the dole. Your new fleg won’t cost just $26 million (plus advertising costs which yous should find out how much with one of your OIA requests). It’ll cost squllions to change every flag in NZ, every letterhead and emblem around the world.

      I have better (and Cheaper) ideas.

      You keep your flag. We’ll keep our flag and we spend $2.6 million bucks on a cool website so that anyone wanting to know about the differences between your traditional Kiwi Flag and our Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie Flag oi.

      OR We’ll run some gold ribbon around the outside of our flag and you run some silver ribbon around your fleg. Key problem sorted. Oi.

  8. I can’t wait for the neocolonial union-jack flag to go. Anything flag is better than one with a union-jack on it.
    I want a republic as well, but this will not happen for a long long time, if vote for the union jack flag remaining is any indication.

      • That is never going to happen as 26 million dollars is far too much for some people. Alot of the cost is mail, imagine with postage stamps costs going up over time just more and more expensive.

        Is Canada a republic? They must be more talented then NZers, able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

        • Obviously not. Canada is still divided over their contentious flag change, often flying their old original one at ceremonies. NZ hasn’t had a discussion over becoming a republic yet, no doubt that will arise when the Queen dies. Ironic then that John key is ramming a flag change down our throats when he is a self confessed ardent monarchist !!!

        • No Canada is not a republic but voted I n a left wing government again as a enjoyed under in 1969, that cared about the middle class and lower class more than you greediness folk did it see.

          The flag change in Canada was done very differently and was debated and agreed by all parties and taken to the country as a whole during federal elections not as this foisted corporate plan paid by the taxpayer who have sent the message in polls continuously but were over ruled by you lot you shameless idiots , we shall remember.

    • You might want to consider what being a republic involves, a constitutional monarchy is very stable and quite frankly probably costs a whole lot less than constantly having to elect presidents who will need vast amounts of money to buy your votes.
      This is one issue that I would advise all to be very careful what they wish for

        • Rather HRH than a bum-selfie taking, selfish little me, me who names her kids after points of the compass

      • Most parliamentary republics have presidents, but this position is largely ceremonial; notable examples include Germany, India, Ireland, Israel and Italy.

        In these, the president (who can be anyone of stature in the country) is NOT elected directly by the people but appointed by the elected representatives, (say, MPs) by discussion and general consensus.

        See the following link. It has extensive details including…

        Advantages of presidential systems

        3.1 Direct elections
        3.2 Separation of powers
        3.3 Speed and decisiveness
        3.4 Stability

        4 Criticism and disadvantages

        etc etc


        • On figureheads, I think I’d rather royalty (but more along the lines of Scandinavian royalty) than one who takes photos of their butts in the mirror and posts them online

      • PM John key doesn’t give a stuff about the vast amounts of money he is spending on his flag change. I am just pointing out a more valid reason for changing our flag and am not personally advocating for or objecting to NZ becoming a republic, that discussion is for all of NZ to have sometime in the future. After WW2 Britain gave NZ a choice to remain within the commonwealth or become a republic. NZ decided to remain in commonwealth.

        • A country can become a Republic and do away with the British royal as the head of state and STILL remain a member of the commonwealth of countries if the country so decides.There are 53 nations in the Common Wealth and 32 of them are Republics.

          ‘A republic in the Commonwealth of Nations is any one of the 32 sovereign states of the Commonwealth of Nations with a republican form of government. Though, with the exception of the former Portuguese possession of Mozambique and the former Belgian trust territory of Rwanda, they are all former British possessions, in contrast to the 16 Commonwealth realms they do not have Elizabeth II or another monarch as their Head of state. Elizabeth II is still the titular Head of the Commonwealth in a personal capacity, but this role does not carry with it any power, but acts as a symbol of the free association of Commonwealth members.[1]’



          • Thanks for clarifying that Clemgeopin. Can’t do an edit, but hopefully people will know what I meant. NZ was given a choice after the war.

      • A president would be appointed by two thirds of parliment
        New Zealanders would not get a vote and the cost would be funded the same as the current govener general.
        The reason the republic referendem failed in Australia is because there was no direct vote to elect a president by the people simply because it is a constitutional position like the current govener general
        Before any flag change we must start with a consitution first then go from there
        The current monarch wont go on forever and sooner or later we will be forced to look at where we go from here
        If Key was any leader at all he would have reconised this and not stumbled ahead discrediting the whole process and would have had New Zealanders on side with what is an important issue

  9. The flag ‘debate’ is a HUGE distraction, to keep people from thinking about what they need to think about and what they should be preparing for.

    The fact is, New Zealand won’t even exist in its present form a decade from now and probably won’t exist at all two or three decades from now because:

    1. the global financial system is on its last legs and is being propped up via money-printing and negative interest rates. Following Japan’s announcement of negative interest rates a couple of weeks ago we see that German Bunds have now gone negative. The crisis is NOW.

    2. global extraction of conventional oil peaked over 2005 to 2008 and extraction of unconventional oil is in deep trouble and set to decline very soon. The crisis is NOW.

    3. climate change has ‘leaped’ to a new level of Abrupt Climate Change, with all that implies, including rapid meltdown of the Arctic and massive sea level rise on top of the ever-worsening climate instability we have been experiencing. The crisis is NOW.

    4. population overshoot and the stampede to perceived safety as everything turns to custard overseas has created a shocking mess in numerous locations in NZ, and the government is doing nothing about any of it, other than making everything worse by encouraging even more mass migration to prop up the commercial sector of the economy. The crisis is NOW.

    It seems that politicians and most political commentators are determined to not address any of the life-threatening issues that needed to be addressed long ago and just want to persist with discussion of irrelevant matters like flags and corporatized sport.

  10. The proposed new flag is a d.o.g.
    It was not even the first choice of most
    Black and blue is a combination best suited to a bruise (one could argue then that it is appropriate, I suppose)
    The fern is HORRENDOUS doesn’t even come close to a depiction of one
    There is NO element of Maori design in this flag and if we change I think we must have that

    We can do waaaay better and if we settle for second (or worse) best then we are well and truly stuck with it, if we keep the old one for now, we WILL be able to revisit it later, it will just most likely be when Key is no longer PM.
    I find the hypocrisy of wanting to rid the flag of the Union Jack while re-introducing titular honours just a teeny bit hard to swallow

    • Not keen on Sir and Dames either. We should have our quirky understated honour system (oxymoron). More fitting with our culture.
      Not imports from the UK like the Union-Jack.

  11. I loved “Red Peak” and definitely would have voted for it, so to some extent, my opinions are sour grapes I think, but:

    3. I believe it’s naive to think it’s not a diversion. It’s working. It’s working on us.

    5. Regardless of when it was designed, I think it was finessed into being the flag of choice because of the combination of the All Blacks and National party “brands”.

    10. You’ve drawn a very long bow there. I think genuine people who put that much thought into it would be more likely to blame Key for serving up a flag that was so unacceptable.

    11. It’s literally a whitewash. No reference at all to Tangata Whenua.

    • You do know that the Silver Fern is a motif in Maori art, right? That the Koru is just a derivative form of the silver fern unfurling? It’s certainly not a flag that makes any effort to represent Maori adequately, but saying it has absolutely no reference is not correct.

      I also really dislike the argument that this a diversion. We are adults. Regardless of what Key’s intention is, we can pay attention to both small and large issues. It’s only a distraction if you let it take over your interest, outrage, etc… in other issues.

      • Maori art features no fern such as that one, we mean recognisable Maori art, it IS the only thing that truly distinguishes us from other countries

        • See now you’re shifting the goal posts. I admitted quite freely that a westernised Silver Fern emblem is at best a poor nod to Maori. But it’s not the same thing as absolutely no reference, various Silver Fern motifs (including on the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, which features one of the more obvious koru-as-fern-unfurling images, albeit as a metaphor) have been part of Maori symbolism for a long time, and it IS an allusion to Maori, however indirect.

          Insufficient, sure. Non-existent? Nope.

  12. am voting to keep existing flag as this exercise is a rather meaningless “rebranding” being decoupled as it is from a binding republican debate, Key leapt on restoring knighthoods but wants to delete the Union Jack from the flag…

    ugly as the “butchers apron” is, it is a constant visual reminder of British Imperialism’s brutal historical role here for us now in the post colonial era, it would be a tragedy indeed if that all goes down the memory hole before Māori get justice

  13. Lockwood’s flag was always going to beat out the other flags in the first round, that is the way John key planned it. John key made the process political and corrupt, and completely ignored the majority, who clearly made it known on National’s social media page that they had no stomach for change.

    But why is Keith Locke passing the buck and blaming Labour and the left?
    Not only is National itself divided on Key’s flag change, MANY ON THE RIGHT DO NOT WANT IT EITHER

    I think Mr Locke is wrong, despite actively campaigning for the flag of his choice, and now trying to distance himself so late in his game, John key is looking at another political defeat. This is not Labour’s fault or the left’s fault, that fault lies squarely on the shoulders of John key.

    So sick and tired of Labour and the left getting unfairly blamed for John key’s obvious cock ups.

  14. Say what you will Keith, this flag business has now become irrevocably linked to a political backlash. Even if the new flag won, it would never be able to fly free of all the political smudgery and skullduggery associated with it.

    Not to see that is to not see the obvious.

    It is simply a fact now. Anything else is just sentiment…

    • Most flag changes in the past have been very controversial when passed but have become enormously popular as quickly as a decade later. That includes Canada’s flag, which nowadays everyone agrees is an excellent example of how to come up with a bold, simple, and representative flag.

      If the new flag becomes a thing, I think we’ll forget both JK’s involvement and the controversy after a while. (But if we do change, I doubt it will end up being as respected as Canada’s)

      Now, if it fails, I have no doubt the narrative will be that it was a personal failure on JK’s behalf. Which is probably not entirely incorrect.

    • Well said Mr/Ms Bark. That’s like saying the the Northland by-election is apolitical and just a protest vote because it couldn’t change the Govt.

      Key is being booed where he speaks outside of Parliament. Are they booing the flag debacle? The TPPA? Are the booers a group of women who don’t like a grubby man pulling waitress’s hair with impunity? Booing is a political act?

      And voting against a flag that the PM favours is a political act. As is retaining the current flag tells the PM where to put his “Lockwood fleg”, especially after his victory speech lie on Election Night 2014, to be ‘more inclusive and listen to Kiwis! ‘ Bullshit!

      Well listen to the referendum Johnny Boy. We don’t want your poxy flag. We want you to resign! End of.

  15. I drove past a motel last night that was flying 3 of these monstrosities.They’re a bloody embarrassment. Hence I am now enrolled to vote again, so I can have a go at helping relegate this tea towel to the annals of bad humor.

  16. Former Parliamentary researcher and a National Party campaign director Grant McLachlan: The flag process is not New Zealand Idol

    “Steven Joyce’s former private secretary should never have been selected as the senior advisor to the panel. The Director of the New Zealand Flag Project, Kylie Archer, also has a CV that raises too many questions. Were John Key’s public statements during the process the result of information leaked from panel meetings?

    Celebrity is not a substitute for expertise. Matt Holmes, the Nike designer formerly from Fisher & Paykel, has no experience or skills relevant to flag design (vexillology). In fact, none of the advisory group did.

    For a national flag, the advisory group should have drawn on the expertise of several vexillologists. Fiji did.

    Two leading vexillologists told me that they offered the government advice but were turned away. Several at the recent world congress of vexillologists shared similar stories.

    What we’ve seen are celebrity panel members choosing celebrity advisors selecting celebrity designers’ designs.

    Of the 10,000+ entries, it seems more than a coincidence that Kyle Lockwood, Sven Baker, Andrew Fyfe, Otis Frizell and Alofi Kanter all had multiple designs that made the long-list of 40. Considering that Sven Baker’s designs were so different – and most were of little national resonance – perceived bias is an obvious concern.”

    “Everything the National Party has done around the flag debate is dodgy.”


    • That would be the same Grant McLachlan who was fired from his Parliamentary job and also makes a lasting (and negative) impression on everyone he meets.

      • He’s a Nat, so what do you expect?
        Just posted a “right wing” perspective, demonstrating that not all who oppose the flag change is from the “left.”

  17. 1. A simple yes/no single ref would have covered it. As far as finding out – the panel ignored more than 90% of the suggestions – how is that listening and finding out?
    2. Like it or not we are still part of the British Commonwealth, change that, then think abt a flag to celebrate change. Union Jack is still relevant, even if you don’t like it.
    3. & yet here you are diverting attention away from the importance of the TPPA. The media is dominated with flag diversions.
    4. I care about the flag. I care that my father & grandfather fought for (yes its in their diaries) and were buried with the flag. Many of us appreciate & respect their sacrifice enough to honour the symbols they stood for.
    5. Just because you and a few others like a cartoon stylised flag, doesn’t mean the rest of NZ has such poor taste or expectation for our national symbol. John Key has dominated this debate of his own doing – like it or not, it’s his flag.
    6. No one should start a flag referendum until there is an overwhelming request from the people. You & a few mates is NOT an overwhelming request.
    7. This lockwood design only made it to first because so many picked it as their third option – the process was flawed, like the cartoon flag that was chosen.
    8. The flag shouldn’t be changed until there is a good reason to change it. Just because someone can’t tell the difference between 4 and 5 or white & red, is not reason to change, especially when there is just one NZ child not getting its basic needs met due to lack of money.
    9. Fortunately many of us can recognise propaganda when we see it. The imbalance in the discussion, advertising and this campaign was appalling. Yes, John Key is to blame, his committee was heavily weighted with his supporters.
    10. Rubbish. We already have one person priming us with propaganda, your point number 10 is exactly the same & like most of what Key says smacks of desperation. The flag debate does not reflect on Labour at all. A few points up you mentioned it was insulting the think kiwis weren’t intelligent enough, and you end your comments with an insult to them, insinuating they aren’t intelligent enough to work out who is responsible and who isn’t. Nice one Keith.

    • John Key REFUSED point blank to have a yes/no ref first The reason he refused is because he knew his referendum would be defeated from the outset. There was nothing democratic whatsoever in John key’s flag referendums.

  18. Thanks for your analysis Keith. I must say that while I want a flag change, I disagree with some of your sentiment on this and I will vote to keep the current flag because – 1. the Lockwood flag contains only colonial symbols (the silver fern is something that Pakeha settlers started using, not Maori, the blue is still reminiscent of the royal navy blue ensign etc etc), 2. The Lockwood flag is being so strongly associated with Key, despite how some non-Key supporters want it, which is bad blood for our country and he will be remembered for it much much more than how most of us progressives will reject this flag, 3. It is an extremely poorly designed flag and appears like a bacon packet logo, 4. I will also vote no because the flag process is such a farce, without careful community, cultural and aesthetic consultation and for that reason alone it does not deserve to become our flag, 5. We need constitutional reform first, not a flag change, as we need as much reasoning as possible to find a new flag, as doing it the opposite way is giving us a flag option that does not represent our country (the Lockwood Flag), 6. The Lockwood flag is way way too divisive to be made our flag, and 7. there is big money backing the Lockwood flag and this undermines our democracy – why vote for something being forced on us like this? Many people will spit on it and burn it because it is tarnished with Key’s politics. To assume that any cultural object is not political is naive – this Lockwood flag is already very politically changed and not at all in a good way for our country. Surely at least some of these issues should tell you that the Lockwood flag is not right. Why replace one colonial flag with yet another? It’s not worth it. We will get more chances to change the flag.

    • A really good argument, M H. I wouldn’t be surprised if there WAS a flag change sooner than later – and a change to a republic maybe as there has been so much discussion about it with so many different people. BUT that Lockwood flag is god damn insane as a flag and I think – once the ‘ anything but the union jack’ guys settle down and look at the vulgar thing we’re stuck with (hopefully not!) they might just feel a bit of a buyers regret.

  19. Oh far too apologist from a retired, once ? self proclaimed ‘progressive’ /lefty Green where is the heart in this cognitive or ego rationale? The NZ flag ‘choice’ has been stage managed in the extreme. It has been an obvious mess, lets keep people power on this one , keep the current flag and say NO to TPP/TiSA in NZ , there is at least a token *submission* process on not ratifying the largely secret ‘non trade’ US power deals. National supporters must be squirming and it not even tied to the Republican debate.No Maori or bicultural input what would the late Ranginui Walker have said in a challenge /whero to this expedience.Greens could work with more Labour and NZ First on this and the deeper crises we face on unfair trade.

  20. I don’t like the current flag but will reluctantly vote for it because of;

    “6. The Lockwood design is too bad to vote for.”
    I just can’t bear the thought of spending millions to exchange one colonialist flag with a meaningless sporting logo which is how I see the potential new flag. That new flag says nothing to me about me or mine and yes we are kiwis and yes my relatives fought in many wars and have ferns on their foreign graves. I’m not one of those that sees myself reflected in sports and the war dead.

    We should have got advice from the people who designed Tino Rangatiratanga they know how to make something beautiful and meaningful. Our new national flag should blend with and echo this flag, our current flag and other universals such as our love of our landscape, our Tangata Whenua and our migrant history as the Red Peak did attempt to do.

    “7. The process to select an alternative flag was just so bad”
    A process that creates winners and ( lots of) losers is not a way to focus on our national identity and draw us together as a nation. This flag choice process and vote will, whoever wins, create a large number of pissed off losers. I guess Key and his mates are hoping they’ll be mostly the current losers ie the dispossessed and the poor in this country. However they might well be that bastion of respectability and all things ANZAC the RSA ….

  21. This is a weak and unconvincing argument, especially point 4 ” I have considerable sympathy for that stance, particularly when you see how patriotism and flag-waving is used by the political right in America, Britain, Australia, France, etc. But if we are going to wave a flag at to wave at international sports events, etc., I prefer it wasn’t our present colonial flag.” What a grand ambition – rich and poor, left and right, all NZers getting together and waving a silver fern at an All Blacks match. It’s this kind of de-politicised, sports oriented, corporate logo version of Nationalism the Lockwood design represents, I don’t see anything progressive about it at all. I’m going to quite proudly deface my ballot with some form of FJK logo, and I agree with the points made against so called leftists who will vote for the butchers apron – BUT, tbh, if someone pointed a gun to my head and forced me to vote for one of these two crap options, I would opt for the butchers apron, at least it has genuine political and historical substance (even if bad substance)

  22. Good on you Keith – my thoughts entirely, even if they do upset a few comrades. Just as some of us on the left occasionally hold our noses and vote Labour to give our electorate vote to slightly less tory bastards, then we need to do the same to achieve a slightly less archaic flag.

  23. ‘Regardless of the flag referendum result, the ‘debate’ since 2010 has worked as a great mechanism of diversion (& in debates is a logical flaw that Prof T E Damer in “Attacking Unreasonable Arguments” could point out). As I make clear in “The Matador: John Key and His Flag of Tricks” on http://www.snoopman.net.nz, the TPP-TTIP-TISA mega treaties seek to draw 77 states into the orbit of a US-centred empire. “It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA” can’t even get the media to cover the TPP submissions process (which closes on March 11).

    Keith Locke, do you believe most NZers know there is a TPP submissions deadline that closes in 2 Friday’s time? I’ve tried my best to capture the news media’s attention on the Matador’s ruse, but what is needed is prominent ‘lefties’ such as yourself to combine your voices to make the media focus attention on the government’s flagrant flag-waving diversion.

  24. The Lockwood flags look like something you’d see flying over a discount import Nissan yard in the burbs. So probably effective pre-coding for certain thinking patterns, but not mine personally. I hate symbolism overload. To me, the Southern Cross is the most culturally neutral/secular symbol we can ask for in NZ. It’s the stars above, and one common thing our ancestors all had was navigation. Stick them on a nice St Andrew blue and you’ve got the seas around and the stars above, two things which speak to our demographic and geographic realities. Remove the Union Flag from the corner, and we already have a winner of a design. It’s kinda new worldy, kinda Scandinavian, kinda Commonwealth, but without looking like we tried to Jackson Pollock clip art some haphazard assemblage of ‘New Zealandness’, which is what the Lockwoods feel like to me.

  25. If we must change the flag I would like to see the 1835 United tribes flag with the southern cross considered. I know many people want to shed the beast ages of colonialism represented by the Union Jack, but why? We were a colony. It’s part of our history surely? Even Hawaii has it on their flag as a nod to the past.

  26. If we must change the flag I would like to see the 1835 United tribes flag with the southern cross considered. I know many people want to shed the last vestages of colonialism represented by the Union Jack, but why? We were a colony. It’s part of our history surely? Even Hawaii has it on their flag as a nod to the past.

  27. In regards to your comments about the cost Keith, yes, no matter how it had been done, it would cosy money. But $30 MILLION for Pete’s Sake???? At a time when that kind of money could have been put to far better use (ie: Health!)???
    Perhaps we don’t need the Union Jack on it anymore, as the British Commonwealth exists pretty much in name only. So for those in favour of change, how about we simply drop the Union Jack, then enlarge and centre the Southern Cross?
    It has been handled badly; it reeks of political – if not personal- agenda; and very little – if anything- will be gained from a flag change.

  28. I see FJK has his mindless minimum wage trolls hard at work on the flag change issue, they’re doing well on this page.

  29. I’m disappointed that this man doesn’t believe we are intelligent enough to work out for ourselves how we will vote. He has a very closed mind and I am surprised this article was published.

  30. For me, I LOATHE the All Blacks and everything they represent (domestic violence, thuggery, corporate sport etc etc) and I loathe John Key for so blatantly lobbying for HIS choice – it seems we aren’t allowed to make up our own minds, the PM ( a few of his sporting buddies) have to take every opportunity they can he can to tell us how to vote.

    I would happily vote for change and a better flag, as in a design that evokes emotions in me – i love New Zealand but due to John Keys lobbying the new flag represents a National Party banner. If he truly wanted it to be apolotical he should kept HIS politics out of it.

    National Party blue + All Blacks silver fern = everything I loathe about this country I otherwise LOVE

    • Don’t beat around the bush Tim, say what you really mean!

      The PrSlime Minister in his World Cup Supporters gear mincing down the stage? The PrSlime Minister in his 3-way handshake that has become synonymous with being a try-hard? The PrSlime Minister clinker-cleaning in the changing sheds after a Rugbyy World Cup win, that has become another “political photo-op”? The same PrSlime Minister in yet another changing shed during the Cricket World Cup? Auckland Nines instead of Waitangi celebrations? Knighthoods? NZer of the Year and a plethora of Kiwi Wannabe-Kardashian-Moths willing to throw their dignity and reputation behind Keyflag. And that f-ng Lockwood Flag lapel badge on the PrSlime Minister’s Armani Suit every chance he gets.

      But it’s not political is it?

      Better Keytruda than Keyflag! Better current flag than Keyflag!

      And btw Tim…..stop beating around the flagpole, tell it like it is!

  31. A change of flag will happen sometime in the future either when we want to be a Republic or want a written constitution or when people consistently indicate, through different media polls, an overwhelming desire for change of our flag.

    None of those things happened this time. The whole exercise was the result of a stupid brainwave and expensive uncalled for ego trip.
    There was no prior referendum or even a series of media polls before hand to see if the people were keen to change our flag in the first place at this time.

    From among the thousands of designs, the expertise lacking panel chose FOUR fern designs without giving us a genuine choice.
    (The Koru is also a fern- A baby fern.) A pretty stupid selection panel

    But now that there is a referendum anyway, it is up to the PEOPLE to decide and vote whichever way they prefer. I do not want to be stuck with the new flag as it just done not appeal to me much. I am voting to keep our flag for now.

    This whole exercise has been a manipulating rubbish process.

    Having learnt from this disgraceful and awful present process, hopefully a future process will be a much better and fairer one.

  32. Disagree with you on most counts Keith.
    John Key hasn’t just totally over politicized the referenda. It isn’t just about whether to adopt a new flag or not, it has become virtually an extra-parliamentary vote of confidence on his government.
    And that is bad because he gets to make the rules to suit himself, unlike proper elections where he has to follow the rules already laid down.
    The only thing Key hasn’t said yet is a sulky threat to resign if NZ rejects his flag preference. I am waiting for this and I think it will come.
    Key will take rejection here as a personal insult, just as he will count it a personal glory if his baby is chosen.
    These referenda are expensive and unnecessary. The first question should have been do we change yes or no, and it could easily have been included in the next election with a further referendum to be held in the case of a yes vote.
    It has been conducted in a very shoddy manner and I don’t think we should thank Key for that.

  33. Yes what puzzles me is that this is a fast and a diversion from the TPPA as the flag referendum came out as delayed exactly until the TPPA ratification came out also.

    Second concern I have is that Key is falsely using a common white fern used and belongs on hillsides and vales in every continent I have lived so this fern is not a Kiwi fern it is a global found plant!!!!

    Why use a common fern on our flag then????

  34. I am going to vote for the current flag which I can see out my window flying at the neighbouring primary school.
    If I had to look at JK’s vanity flag 5 days a week it would drive me nuts.


  36. Keith’s argument seems to be that since the current flag is bad (colonialist past etc), anything would be better. Ecocidal, neo-liberal capitalism is bad too, so if offered the chance to change to feudalism, we should take it, right Keith? I’m gagging for change, but not every possible change is an improvement, and we need to think critically about what changes we support and why.

    I think Geoff Murphy summed it up nicely in his comments about needing to agree as a country on how the story of colonial NZ and its union jack flag ends, before a new story can begin, with a new flag to represent it.

  37. Aw Keith, changing the flag because the union jack is colonialist while we’re still basically a colony (more of the US now, but not a sovereign nation) would just be a triumph of style over substance. Let’s actually change the substance. This bullshit is like painting over rust and fooling ourselves that we have a new car. Let’s turn into a grown up nation that can stand on our own feet first. We’ve nearly done it in the past, but neoliberalism has dragged us back to colonial status. Once we get there, I’d love to see the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.
    Not the United Tribes one by the way – that belongs to the Hokianga.

  38. Kia ora,

    some relevant history in imagery

    ‘Greetings to our soldier boy’. A Christmas card sent from New Zealand to a soldier overseas during the First World War.

    At this time Pākehā often referred to New Zealand affectionately as ‘Maoriland’, and the fernleaf was an increasingly common motif for the Dominion. Here the New Zealand flag flutters in front of – but does not obscure – the Union Jack.


    This New Zealand national Blue Ensign flag was flown at Quinn’s Post, Gallipoli, in 1915. The flag was brought back to New Zealand by Private John Taylor, Canterbury Battalion.


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