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New Zealand - Proposals for a new flag

Last modified: 2002-10-26 by sam lockton
Keywords: proposal: new zealand | leaf | fern | southern cross | koru | korukouwhaiwhai | hundertwasser (friedensreich) |
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Fern Leaf

It looks like some form of fern leaf has a good chance of becoming the next flag of New Zealand.
Todd Mills, 7 September 1998

[ Fern leaf proposal ]
James Dignan, 15 November 1997

The "Fern Leaf" is based on the Canadian model, and features mid-blue vertical bands on either side of a white central square containing a black fern leaf. The blue is about the same shade as on the Romanian flag. The fern leaf is the same as the symbol used by New Zealandís international sports teams.
James Dignan

It looks like the Canadian flag, but is Blue, White, Blue with a black fern leaf in the centre. This was symbolic in a multitude of ways: we are like Canada, a commonwealth member proud of our identity. We are represented by the fern leaf. We are an island nation in the middle of the ocean (white between blue). We have two main races (black on white). The blue and white come from the British flag, the black and white from traditional Maori colours. It has also been suggested that the white should be bordered in red, the third colour in both of these traditional sets of three. The blue-white-blue can also represent the sea, mountains and sky (although this would make more sense if the stripes were horizontal).
James Dignan, 25 July 1995

This is one of the flags I mentioned as having been suggested as a new New Zealand flag (although since debate on the subject seems pretty low-key, itís not one often seen).
James Dignan, 15 November 1997

[ Fern leaf proposal ]
by Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

By reading the results of this poll [organized by FlagWire], it appear that people voting in favour of a new flag for New Zealand often mentioned the Black flag with the silver fern present on the rugby team (All Blacks) jersey.
Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

Recently, there have been a number of calls for a change to the New Zealand flag. The most notable was in a document entitled "New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010", saying that a distinctive flag would be advisable for New Zealand in terms of visability in tourism. The alternative design proposed was the one already mentioned [above], being the black flag with the white (technically silver) fern leaf. The government, however, has said that a change of flag is not a priority, and that a good deal
more discussion would be required before any change could be made. (Speaking for myself, I favour a change of flag, but not necessarily to the one proposed. Black and white are NZ's sporting colours, but not really our national colours. The proposal I prefer most isn't actually on the FOTW website, but is essentially the same design but with the fern enlarged so as to touch the top and bottom edged, dividing the flag in to two sections. The one on the left was blue and the one on the right was green. One variant had a small white southern cross in the canton, as well.)
Thomas Robinson, 17 May 2001

Southern Cross designs

[ Southern Cross designs ]
by James Dignan

This proposal emphasises New Zealandís location as a green land at the bottom of a blue ocean, and is the design I like the most of the four. It doesnít use the fern, but retains the traditional four-star Southern Cross used at present. The flag consists of three uneven horizontal stripes, ratio (approx) 14:1:5, of dark or mid-blue, gold and green, with the four stars of the southern cross in white (Iíve also seen it with the white and gold reversed, i.e., stars gold, stripe white).
James Dignan

[ Southern Cross designs ]
by James Dignan, 21 August 1996

This is another version of the Southern Cross flag proposal that Iíve seen recently. It is very similar to the current flag, but a lighter shade of blue, no Union Jack canton, and with a slightly larger and more centrally placed Southern Cross.
James Dignan, 21 August 1996

Koru flag

[ Koru flag ]
by John Harrison, 11 September 1998

This is the well known Koru flag, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lives in the Far North of NZ. The Hundertwasser flag (I have had one for about 14 years) is 1:2 height to width and, though often appear creamy, were produced white. Technically this is not a Maori flag, as you will note although the koru is a Maori motif, the flag was designed by an Austrian and does not have a direct Maori cultural significance. As far as I know the Hundertwasser flag has been around since the 1970ís ó my first positive memories of it would have been in the early 1980ís but believe I first saw it in about 1979. (Iíve had mine since about 1984.)
John Harrison, 11 September 1998

This has gained considerable popularity in the northern North Island (where most of the Maori population is found). It also has a reasonable following among New Zealand whites, or pakeha as they are called in Maori, especially with alternative lifestylers. The flag is based (roughly) on a type of Maori pattern known as koru, or korukouwhaiwhai, which has flowing spirals representing young fern leaves. Because of this, the flag is green and white (to represent the fern and sky), rather than the traditional Maori colours of white, black and red. The flag is divided diagonally (party per bend sinister), starting at the bottom corner by the flagpole, with white over green. However, as it approaches the top on the fly side, the green curls over into a spiral shape. The green is a deep yellowish leafy green, rather than the rich green normally seen on flags.
James Dignan

This flag is likely to be seen fluttering from the mast stays of the yacht of an aging hippy, or from a rough stake in the ground next to a meditation retreat in the ďbushĒ (NZ for forest). The flag is by no means official or endorsed, and was only one (foreign) manís idea for a flag, but it is well recognised and embraced by a percentage of New Zealanders who identify with it. Alternative lifestyle has long ago passed as being the ďin thingĒ so that percentage would be likely to be declining.
John Harrison, 15 September 1998

Past Attempts to Change the New Zealand Flag

Notes from a paper entitled "Past Attempts to Change the New Zealand Flag" by John Moody, New Zealand
(Note that these notes are somewhat abbreviated - I could only write so fast! It would be appreciated if any NZers (or others) could fill in any gaps in the chronology.)
Considerable discussion has arisen over the past 40 years surrounding the appropriateness of the New Zealand flag. Those who want change note that it is a colonial flag, not truly representative of an independent New Zealand, that it is too similar to the Australian flag, and that it does not represent the modern multicultural New Zealand. Those who wish to retain the present flag note that it reflects New Zealand's historical ties with UK, that there is no good alternative, and that New Zealanders have fought and died under it.
One of the first proposals was by Clark Titman and appeared in 1967. It showed a red-white-blue-white-red horizontally striped flag, in a ratio of approximately 3:1:8:1:3, with the white fimbriated red stars of the Southern Cross on the centre of the blue stripe. The chronology of change continues from there:

May 1973: Labour Party Congress - a call to change the flag was squashed.

Mov 1979: a proposal to place the silver fern on the fly appeared.

1980: several suggestions arose, including one from the government to consider a new flag, and a newspaper article calling for the same. One suggestion was to use the NZ-ZN in blue and red on a white field, from the flag that was used for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

Early 1980's: D.A. Bayle introduced a blue-white-blue flag with a blue koru as a proposal.

March 1983: F. Hundertwasser introduced the green koru.

1984: a black and white koru with stars was proposed, and a black flag with four white fimbriated red stars was suggested from a newspaper competition.

Dec 1988: a modified Titman proposal (almost identical to an AusFlag proposal in 1997 for Australia) .

1989: at a party conference a call for a new flag was defeated 144:156.

1990: the winning flag in another newspaper competition was a blue-white-green horizontally striped flag, ratios about 8:2:3, with four white stars on the blue stripe in the fly. Another flag seen around 1990 was a blue-yellow-green horizontally striped flag in approximately 10:1:8 ratio.

1994: J. Park proposed a black flag, the UJ in the canton, with white kiwi and ferns in the fly.

1998: James Dignan initiated discussion leading to a white fern above a red diagonal on a black field.

1999: above design modified to white fern on black.

May 2000: proposed designs still appearing, including black-white-green tricolour, with four gold stars and a koru.

The current situation (July 2001) is that change is being resisted. Decals proclaiming "Keep it this way" are seen on cars. By NZ law, a 65% majority is needed to change the flag, and a recent bill was lost. Opinion polls (1999) showed that there was 24% in favour of change, and 64% opposed, but when presented with the white fern on black, these numbers changed to 33% in favour of the fern, 60% opposed.
The silver fern is increasingly being seen on the streets. It was first used by the Allblacks rugby team, and is a native species. One of its earliest uses as a New Zealand emblem was on headstones of WW1 servicemen.
Rob Raeside, 1 August 2001

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