New Zealand to hold referendum on national flag

A man holds a New Zealand flag at a ceremony in Christchurch on 22 February 2012 Mr Key said that the current flag represented a "post-colonial era" that had passed

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New Zealand is to hold a referendum on whether to change the national flag, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

Mr Key, who on Monday called an election for 20 September, said the vote would be held within three years.

The current flag shows the Southern Cross constellation and includes the Union Jack - the UK's national flag - in one corner.

Mr Key said the flag represented a period of history from which New Zealand had moved on.

"It's my belief... that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed," he said in a speech at Victoria University.

"The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom."

"I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag."

Mr Key said that he liked the silver fern - popularised by national teams including the All Blacks - as an option, saying efforts by New Zealand's athletes gave "the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity".

But he said he was open to all ideas and that retaining the current flag was "a very possible outcome of this process".

'No need'

A group of cross-party lawmakers would oversee the vote process and a steering group would seek public submissions for new flag designs, he said.

An All Black supporter waves a flag during a New Zealand All Blacks IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 fan day on 18 September 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand Mr Key said his preference was for the silver fern, currently associated with national sports teams

Mr Key said there was no move to cut ties with the British monarchy.

"We retain a strong and important constitutional link to the monarchy and I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go," he said.

It is not clear to what extent there is support for changing the flag. One poll late last month showed only 28% of respondents wanted to change the flag, compared to 72% who were happy with the current version.

Representatives of service personnel have argued that troops have fought and died under the existing flag.

"The view of the RSA is there is no need to change the flag,'' Don McIver, national president of the Returned and Services Association (RSA), was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The opposition Labour party has said it supports the process.

"We're not going to differ or divide from the government on this issue. It's a broad constitutional issue, if the country wants a debate about the flag so be it, but it's not the primary issue for this election," leader David Cunliffe said.

The polls have been scheduled so that a new government will be in place by the G20 meeting due to take place in Australia in mid-November.

Mr Key's National Party currently has a sizeable lead over the Labour opposition, polls show.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    A moth eaten rag on a worm eaten pole doesn't seem likely to stir a man's soul, but tis the deeds that were done 'neath that moth eaten rag, when pole was a staff and the rag was a flag. Funny how in the new global world, where one can be in New Zealand in days, the UK Government wants to distance them and tie us to the EU, remember the deeds, if we join anyone it should be NZ, Canada & Oz.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Sorry Mods! I better rephrase that to get back on topic
    136. brewers23 REPLY.
    " Queen Elizabeth will still be queen Elizabeth the first of New Zealand, as she is of Canada and Australia"
    Yeah but not forever. Unfortunately soon, next in line for the throne are the two sweeties
    New Zealand....change your!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    136. brewers23 Nice Post but the British Empire is long gone ,
    Hopefully we are just not another State of the USA (yet)
    Queen Elizabeth will still be queen Elizabeth
    but unfortunately when she dies,
    King Charles (the Village Idiot)and Queen Camilla (The wicked witch of the West )
    will reign over this once great and proud country
    God Help Us All..

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Dave1506. I am an ex pat in the UK not Australia.
    Kiwis have been looking to change the flag for decades and although John Key is possibly a Southern hemisphere Putin and he has strong links to FX markets after brokering in Wall street before turning his hand to professional liar. And why NZ FX rate is strong - see NZ policy on CGT and immigration.
    However, the NZ flag is still very Australian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    The union flag is not only present on the flags of various commonwealth countries, it is also present on the flag of the 50th state of the USA, and they don't see the need to change it, ultimately though this is a decision for NZ alone. Queen Elizabeth will still be queen Elizabeth the first of New Zealand, as she is of Canada and Australia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    The only reason to leave New Zealand for Australia is the pension arrangements as they are much better for someone in Australia with the citizenship of either nation. The flag will hopefully be decided on by the people not by some vote seeker, who wants a licence for their own vanity. Perhaps John Key should suggest his own portrait for the flag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I'm a Kiwi ex pat. I want the flag to change but only so it can be different from our neighbours to the west. Accents, flags, pavlova etc it's challenging being an Aust-zealander.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I like your humour stevo! Sounds like a typical money-wasting exercise that politicians adore.

    Personally, I think the flag is instantly recognisable, just like the UK's, the USA's and Australia's etc. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!'

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    @127. temporarily out of order "Please stay away" lol, no problem. Your government has made it increasing difficult for commonwealth citizens to get in for work anyway - of course if we want an operation on your NHS it's easy - lots of TV programs over here about Eastern European pickpockets doing that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Anything that helps to diminish our outdated, expensive royals is welcome.
    They seem very keen on the 'commonwealth', even though their greed and wealth is anything but 'common'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Mr Mugabe, NZ just wants to change its national flag, you not merely changed the national flag but also drove away those ex-Europeans. This is not very nice. Britain is already full to take them all back to their homeland

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I think the NZ Politicians should form a Committee to decide the best option - say 20 Members. They should visit 20 other Countries to look whats out there flapping in the wind. They could appoint Design Consultants to interpret ideas. It could be put to a National Referendum with lots of TV ads and spokespeople appointed in the for and against Camps. Result, White Fern on a White background!

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Quite possibly maybe Robert Mugabe is available to become head of state, does wonders for the economy. Politicians deciding change that effects a national symbol should put it to a plebiscite this is an ideal opportunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    @ 119.Steve
    "UK putting such high departure taxes on flights to NZ that we now have to fly in and out of Paris or Rome first to visit UK cheaply".

    Why would you want to visit a country you clearly dislike so much. Or put another way, as you clearly dislike my country so much, PLEASE STAY AWAY!

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Entirely the choice of NZ. If they decide to change their flag good on them, if not then fair enough. It won't matter to me one iota.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Who can blame them?

    What have we to offer them? Youth unemployment, corrupt/broke banks, warmongering politicians, two-tier justice, rigged elections, failing NHS, hopeless border control, fracking, widening inequality, GCHQ spying...the list goes on.

    I say good luck to them. If they only make half as many mistakes as we have they will do fine while we sink gracelessly into the shining sea...

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    if a forign power attacks troops under the union flag they will be attacking the brittish nation and her commonwealth as a whole and suffer the consequences. this is that important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Makes sense. Foreign countries with a union jack are merely signs of the empire. When Scotland leaves we may all need to change our union jacks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    @119 Steve

    There may be several reasons for New Zealanders to remove the Union Flag from their own. But the immature ones probably aren't the best to go with.

    WW1 = NZ men fought out of duty.

    WW2 = NZ men fought because if they hadn't, the Axis powers would have come for your country as well in time.

    And the cost of flights? Seriously?

    How old are you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Recent poll indicated 72% of Kiwis wished to retain the flag as it is.

    Poll currently running on news site indicates the same at 33% saying waste of time and money, 27.4% the flag is fine and 39.6% for change.


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