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Time For A New Flag

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

This week, the New Zealand Herald has been running a campaign calling for a new flag. I couldn't agree more.

This was reinforced to me recently while crossing the Anzac Bridge in Sydney. Atop the bridge fly the two flags of the Anzac nations. Personally (along with most New Zealanders) I can distinguish our flag from the Australian ensign. However, to a foreign visitor who is not familiar with Australasia, it can be confusing to discern one flag from another.

Australia and New Zealand's respective decisions to adopt the British Union Jack ensign design and the Southern Cross at dominionhood a century ago has created this confusion. Besides, the retention of the Union Jack in the top left hand corner of both flags has some visitors probably thinking that we are still distant colonies of the UK. Probably it has had to be pointed out to some visitors on occasion that we're not.

Australia is now moving inexorably towards becoming a republic. With that change, will come a new flag which better represents Australia's modern national identity. We are moving (albeit at a slower pace) in the same direction. But a flag change for us shouldn't come at the time when we eventually become a republic. As the Canadians have shown, it can be achieved while the Queen is still head of state. Their simple red maple leaf flag design, adopted in 1965 (just two years before the centennial of the Canadian federation), reflects their identity as a nation with a dual British-French heritage.

For any new New Zealand flag, I believe it must be designed to reflect our Maori, Pacific, and multicultural identities. Just up the road from where I live, a local business is flying one of the most frequently mentioned alternatives, that of a Southern Cross and silver fern against a purely black background. Perhaps any new flag should incorporate the excellent tino rangatiratanga design in some way too. And, being a socialist, I would favour the retention of the red stars representing the Southern Cross.

I would favour any new flag design being placed before voters at a binding referendum held in conjunction with a general election.

While the adoption of a new flag is not a top political priority right now, I forsee that it will become one, especially when Australia opts to become a republic. Even if we still retain our links to the British monarchy at that point in time the adoption of a new flag might, in my opinion, swing undecided voters towards accepting republican status for this country.

And that wouldn't be too bad a thing.

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