New Zealand Flag Debate Essay Rubric

NZ flag debate is 'cultural issue', not political



Kyle Lockwood

David is a fan of Kyle Lockwood's flag design incorporating the southern cross and silver fern.

Just over a decade ago, the late businessman and arts philanthropist Lloyd Morrison organised a group of movers and shakers to drive a petition with the intention of compelling the government to present a referendum asking if New Zealanders wanted a change of flag.

His thoroughly researched website is still online, complete with endorsements from many community leaders.

I was one of those who canvassed people for the petition, which fell short by several thousand signatures before the deadline prior to the election - the idea being that the referendum would have been included with the election ballot papers, thereby saving a considerable amount of money.

A decade later, I'm disappointed that so many people seem to view the current referendum as a political smokescreen.

They're not wrong in saying that this government needs to do more to address the gap between rich and poor, or that $26 million is a huge amount of money. However, the flag debate is only political in a peripheral sense.

It is primarily a cultural issue, and I sincerely hope the New Zealand public can look past the way the process is being managed, and vote for a flag that truly represents our modern, mature, multicultural nation.

I am proud of my British heritage (as well as my Irish and American heritage), but I don't believe that the Union Jack has any place on our flag. India, Canada, Jamaica, Samoa, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and a whole host of other Commonwealth countries have already come to this conclusion - now it's our turn.


* Backlash overtakes flag referendum website

* Hundreds of designs for New Zealand's next flag

* Winston Peters labels handling of flag debate 'undemocratic'

My worry is that the naysayers are dissing the concept of a flag change for all the wrong reasons, be it that they don't like the personalities involved (someone has to drive the change - it may as well be the government that has the power to do something about it); the political agendas (I don't like the TPPA either, but this is a completely separate issue); the erroneous idea that our forefathers fought and died for our flag (most of them rest under headstones with silver ferns); or misinformation about how it will affect our status as a Commonwealth country or constitutional monarchy (we will still be both).

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To see the positive effects of a flag change, we need look no further than Canada.

It went through similar debate in the 1960s, but nobody can deny that the result is an iconic symbol of Canada. It's simple, stylish, recognisable, distinctly Canadian and - very importantly - timeless.

At the start of the process, the Canadians soon figured out they needed a symbol that would stand the test of time, embracing all Canadian cultures. A natural icon from the land was the ideal choice.


* Why voting on the future of New Zealand's flag matters

* Reimagining New Zealand's flag

* What about New Zealand's other flags?

I'm pretty sure that most New Zealanders feel a strong connection to the land, not too dissimilar to the way that the tangata whenua have for centuries. We have an ideal opportunity to create a symbol of our country that will stand out as distinctly New Zealand, something our oft-confused current flag does not do.

For this reason, I like versions that keep elements of the current flag, mixed with natural symbols of our homeland, such as Kyle Lockwood's version (the current southern cross with the silver fern, but red and blue rather than black) or Dick Frizzell's version(combining the southern cross and Hundertwasser's koru, which could also be interpreted as a wave or mountain).

Both are not too busy, look attractive and distinctive when flying (an essential characteristic of a good flag), are not easily confused with other flags, embrace all the people of our land, and represent our independent South Pacific nation to the world in a fresh and vibrant manner.

The big difference between our flag change process and the one that took place in Canada is that the Canadian people were not given the final choice of flag: after much bitter debate, it was selected in parliament by closure.

It would be a real shame if, due to the more democratic nature of our process, change was stymied because of apathy, falsehoods or red herrings.

If the majority of the population really does believe that our quaint, colonial, dominion flag represents a modern Aotearoa New Zealand, then I shall reluctantly abide by that decision. But people should be able to look at the possibility of change without some of the ridiculous scaremongering and rhetoric that seems to be filling the headlines.

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Vote for positive reasons in NZ flag referendum




New Zealand's current flag is up against Kyle Lockwood's alternative in the second binding referendum.

The flag referendum has led to a passionate and sometimes heated debate. That debate is something we are all lucky enough to participate in as a result of living in a peaceful and democratic society.

One thing that should concern all of us however is the number of reasons being advanced by various advocates in support of their respective positions, which are incredibly negative and in reality make no sense.

To me, the chief two such reasons are the following:

1. The referendum is a waste of money and therefore people should vote against any change.

This argument misses the point. Whether the money should have been spent on a flag referendum is now irrelevant. The money has and will be spent. Voting against a change of flag will not change that fact.

* Flag debate: Full coverage
* Mike Yardley: Flag change campaign has been 'farcical'
* Poll: two-thirds want to keep flag

2. John Key has led the push for a flag change and therefore people should vote against the flag change for political reasons.

Are we really not smart enough or mature enough to realise that it doesn't matter who put the referendum on the agenda? Am I wrong in thinking that a change of flag was also Labour party policy?

Regardless of this, again, this argument misses the point. Whether John Key has pushed this referendum (as opposed to anyone else) is not going to change the fact that the referendum is going ahead.


So my plea to all New Zealand voters - whichever way you choose to vote in the referendum, vote for positive reasons.

If you vote against the change, vote that way because you believe the current flag represents us best as a nation; or because you believe that it is a part of our history that should be retained; or even simply because you prefer the current flag to the proposed alternative.

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If you vote for change, vote for that change because you like the alternative; because you believe that it best represents New Zealand; or even, as some have suggested, because their kids like the alternative better and they may well spend a large part of their lives with the flag we vote for.

* A Kiwi's Canadian perspective on NZ flag debate
* Our flag flutters in remote Norwegian fjord
* Go back to the drawing board on NZ flag
* Winning design 'represents all New Zealanders'

Voting for negative reasons such as those outlined above wastes the privilege that we are all lucky enough to enjoy - the privilege to have our say on matters that we wish to have that say on.

This is the very right that our overseas servicemen fought and died for. Anyone else find it ironic that the sacrifice they made to secure that for us is now being used as an argument against the exercise of that right?

Me personally, I've actually changed my view over the past year or so.

I've always been a fan of our current flag and I probably would not have pushed for a change at this stage. Having seen the alternative flag flying over the past few months however, I believe that design is more indicative of us as a country and I have come to prefer the alternative flag design.

That is my view only and I'll fight for the right of all New Zealanders to vote as they wish. Just vote the way you do for positive reasons.

* Comments on this article have now closed.

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