Little’s hypocrisy on the flag referendum

July 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little yesterday demanded the Government stop the flag referendum saying there was no need for one.

Here’s Labour’s official policy from 2014:

Labour will: review the design of the New Zealand flag involving flag design experts and with full public consultation and involvement.

We believe that the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public.

And in case that isn’t clear enough, here’s his personal views from last October:

Q: Should NZ change its flag: What’s your personal opinion? Should there be a referendum? If you want the flag changed, what’s your favourite design?

A: Yes, my personal opinion is we should have something more relevant to an independent, small Asia/Pacific nation. I think a referendum is a suitable way to deal with an issue that can be very polarising. I don’t like the idea of the silver fern on a black background. The elements I would like to see in a flag are the Southern Cross, blue for the sea, green for the land and mountains, and a reference to our Maori heritage.

So Little’s demand yesterday to scrap the referendum is pure hypocrisy.  He’s now against it, because the PM proposed it.

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Flag designs I’d vote for

July 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


This is from the Herald.

I think we can find a better flag that the current design, and am pleased for the first time in our history we’ll get a vote on it. But I’ll only vote for a flag that is better – not for change for it’s own sake.

Of the 15 above, the ones I’d vote for above the current design are:

  • 5 – Kyle Lockwood’s Silver Fern
  • 10 – Silver Fern
  • 11 – Silver Fern with Southern Cross

Key Derangement Syndrome example

May 14th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There are many examples of Key Derangement Syndrome, but you don’t normally see them from political scientists who are touted as neutral political commentators.

I have no problem with any person in NZ being as vehement against John Key as they want. That is their right. But when they do, it does raise the question of whether they can put their visceral distaste to one side, when commenting.

Today’s example is the submission on the flag bill by Dr Jon Johannson. It is full of vitriol about John Key, and endless swipes at him. It’s the sort of submission you normally see from a hard core activist, not a political scientist. Some extracts:

I raise with the committee for its consideration, also, whether it is a good precedent for a government to launch a binding referendum on a subject that is important mostly to only one individual, the Prime Minister

So swipe no 1.

It also creates a contradictory situation where the governing party is willing to spend $26 million of taxpayers’ money on two referendums not sought by the public, and, in addition, however much more that will be spent on advertising as part of an attempt to manipulate voters towards its leader’s preferred fern design for the flag

Swipe No 2.

The twin referendum process to change the New Zealand flag, which was raised by only one person, the Prime Minister

It was an announced policy before the 2014 election. The Government got re-elected on the basis of having said there will be a referendum.

Anyway Swipe 3.

He cannot have it both ways. Nor is he our King. 

Yes, you seriously have a leading political academic labeling the PM as having King like delusions.

Swipe 4.

The New Zealand Flag Referendum Bill sets this prospect back, not forward, as the Prime Minister seems acutely aware of given his strong defence of New Zealand as an constitutional monarchy, his now seven year odyssey of fawning over the monarchy in a fashion not seen in a New Zealand Prime Minister since Sid Holland in the 1950s

Swipe 5. Key is now a fawner of the monarchy.

Given the factors raised above there is nevertheless a precedent that would satisfy the Prime Minister’s need for a legacy while also resolving the issues raised in this submission. Sir Robert Muldoon organised a knighthood for himself during his third term. John Key could save the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and satisfy his own ambitions if he chose, instead, to simply follow his predecessor’s example.

Swipe 6.

As I said Dr Johansson has every right to rant against John Key, call him names, insult him, say he thinks he is a King, and call him a fawning toady to the Royal Family. But we have the right to take that into account when evaluating what he says publicly on politics.

I’m someone of very strong views on political issues. But I’ve never done a submission to a parliamentary committee that is so nasty and vehement against a politician, and never would. It reads more like an angry blog post, than a considered parliamentary submission.

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Will we be the last to change?

May 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


This graphic from the Herald shows Commonwealth flags 50 years ago, and flags today. It tells a strong story.

For the first time in our history we’re going to get to actually vote ourselves on what our flag should be. That is a good thing.


Labour’s games on the flag

May 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes in the NZ Herald:

This is where Labour comes in, apparently determined to sabotage the process. Labour is a relatively pro-republic party in which most MPs favour a change of flag. Despite that, it has set about political point-scoring, even if doing so undermines the very process that might result in that flag change.

Their primary objection is the order of the questions in the referendums. They argue New Zealanders should first be asked whether they want a change – and have a second referendum only if the majority want change.

Labour claims it is an effort to save money. What codswallop. Labour’s objections are an effort to rain on the Prime Minister’s parade and get headlines.

The Ministry of Justice advised against putting the change question first. That was because for many people not entrenched in either camp, the final decision will depend on what the alternative is.

Absolutely. I made this point to the select committee. The proposed question is Do you want this flag or this flag – a simple binary choice between two flags. Labour want it to be Do you want to change the flag, without defining what the change is.This is not about asking Do you prefer Flag A to Flag B, but do you think Flag B is a bad flag. They’re quite different questions.

If we’re going to spend money on a referendum, it should be one with a meaningful question, not a meaningless one.

Had the Government gone against that advice, Labour would probably now be accusing it of penny pinching over a matter of national identity. Labour’s approach is rather selfish and short-sighted and if it has the effect of tainting the entire process, the party might rue it.

Labour short-sighted? Never.

Labour has also taken to feeding the perception that it is a “vanity project” for John Key. This primarily comes down to sour grapes. Labour wants a new flag. But they don’t want Key to be the one whose name is linked to it. They want it for themselves.


Questioning referendums is one thing, but trying to influence people’s votes out of puerile political spite is a different matter. It may be true that Key is keen on a legacy, but it should be irrelevant. The referendums are on the flag, not on the political parties or personalities.

In reality, Key has a better chance of securing the change than Labour would. Key is a monarchist so there is far less suspicion about his longer-term motives. It is not being seen as the thin end of the wedge to republicanism. Labour’s current leader, Andrew Little, favours a flag change as part of a wider move towards a republic. Yet NZ is likely to inch towards republicanism rather than gallop.

The referendums will allow New Zealanders an opportunity to vote on the design of our flag for the first time in our history. A real pity that Labour are trying to prevent this.

The referendum process is now before a select committee and the Flag Consideration Panel has started its work of consulting about an alternative. This is the first chance New Zealanders have had to vote on the flag. The politicians would do New Zealand a favour by simply shutting up and letting the public get on with it for themselves.


Instead you had the farcical sight of MPs such as Trevor Mallard and Winston Peters lining up to submit to the select committee (I was scheduled in between them!), despite the fact they get to debate the bill at the four House considerations. Peters demanded he gets more time than every one else, which delayed things so much other submitters were told that they had to come back another day – despite having been scheduled on, and taken time off work.

Time indeed for the politicians to allow the public their say.


Flag politics

May 7th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

More recently, however, traditionalists have also been bolstered by a growing force within the political Left: Key Derangement Syndrome.

This is a case of strange bedfellows in many ways, because those who loathe Key are also apt to resent the supposed colonial overtones of the Blue Ensign.

What has become clear, however, is that for many self-styled progressives, this concern simply cannot compete with the desire to thwart the Prime Minister.

Correctly perceiving that a new flag would be the visible legacy of his premiership, Key’s detractors are not going to let consistency get in the way of attempting to frustrate him.

Former advocates of state profligacy have been transformed into guardians of the public purse, criticizing the cost of the referendums.

People usually obsessed on the minutiae of Wellington politics now condemn symbolic navel gazing about our identity as a distraction from the things that really matter.

Of course, those positions will naturally change if the next Labour Prime Minister wants a new flag.

It has been interesting watching many on the left become determined to prevent a successful referendum on changing the flag – simply because John Key proposed it. You know that if Helen Clark had proposed it, they’d be praising her for her nationbuilding efforts.


Submission on NZ Flag Referendums Bill

April 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

    The overall Bill

  2. I support the bill, without amendment.

    Order of Referendums

  3. Some groups and people have advocated that the first referendum should include a question on whether voters wish to change the flag, and if there is not a majority, there is no second referendum.
  4. I oppose such a move. It could result in no vote occurring on an alternative design, even though a majority would vote for the alternative design.
  5. Such a change could deny a design supported by a majority of voters, being voted on.
  6. It is quite possible a large number of voters could vote at the first referendum that they do not want change, yet could be persuaded that the alternate design is preferable to the current design and vote for it, even though they did not have a problem with the current design. There is a difference between finding the current design acceptable, and saying that no other design could be better.
  7. A flag is not an electoral system. A flag is simply a design, and the most informed way to vote is choosing between the current design and an alternative design.
  8. An electoral system can produce outcomes such as a disproportional Parliament, a lack of women, a majority Government which allows voters to decide they want change, regardless of the alternative. But a vote on a flag makes no sense without knowing the alternative.

    Method of Voting

  9. I am disappointed that only overseas based voters will be allowed to return their votes via the Internet. There is no sound public policy reasons that voters in NZ should not be able to do so also.
  10. Postal voting is a dying method of voting. Restricting the referendum for those in NZ to postal voting is likely to lead to a low turnout, which could undermine the moral legitimacy of any vote.
  11. The turnout for postal referendums in recent times has been declining from 80% in 1997 to 56% in 2009 to 45% in 2013.
  12. While it is probably too late to make the necessary arrangements for this referendum, planning should commence for future referendums as postal referendums will not be viable in the not too distant future. Younger New Zealanders simply have no relationship with a post office.

Thank you for considering this submission.

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Against an informed choice

April 15th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First is supporting a campaign for the referendum on changing the flag to first ask whether people want it changed at all.

Winston Peters said his party was backing a “fight for the flag” campaign by the Returned and Services Association (RSA).

“New Zealand First backs the RSA’s call for the first referendum to simply ask, ‘Do you want to change the flag?’ If the majority say ‘no’ then that should be it,” Mr Peters said.

The RSA and Winston are against changing the flag (as is their right), so they want a referendum process that will result in no change.

Basically they want a blind vote, where people don’t even know what the alternate design is. They’re scared that if New Zealanders get to vote on an alternate design vs current design, the public may vote for change. So they’re trying to change the process to stop there being an informed vote.

The Government got re-elected with a referendum as an election promise. I believe they should keep their promise. And I think New Zealanders deserve a referendum that is meaningful – ie a vote between two flags – the current one, and a proposed new one.

Canadian_Red_Ensign_1957-1965.svg Flag_of_Canada.svg

Above is the old flag of Canada, and the new one. I doubt even 1% of Canadians would now ever want to go back to the old flag, even though it was very controversial at the time. Canada now has a flag which the entire world recognises as a symbol of Canada. We can do the same.


Flag consultation panel

February 26th, 2015 at 10:44 am by David Farrar

The Government has announced the members of the Flag Consultation Panel, which will oversee the public engagement process, invite proposed designs and short-list four designs for the first referendum later this year. That referendum will be a preferential ballot where people rank the alternatives in order, with the winning one going to a second referendum against the current flag.

The panel was nominated by members of the cross-party parliamentary group consisting of representatives from National, Labour, Greens, Maori, ACT and United Future.

The panel members are:

  • Professor John Burrows, ONZM, QC of Christchurch who was co-chair of the Constitutional Advisory Panel (chair).
  • Kate de Goldi of Wellington, writer and reviewer (deputy chair)
  • Nicky Bell – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand and board director, Auckland
  • Peter Chin, CNZM – Former Mayor of Dunedin, director and trustee, Dunedin
  • Julie Christie,  ONZM – Director of Julie Christie Inc. and board member, Auckland
  • Rod Drury – CEO of Xero and technology entrepreneur, Havelock North
  • Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM – Olympian, Commonwealth gold medallist, ASB Head of Talent & People Strategy, board member and trustee, Waitakere
  • Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM – Former Chief of NZ Defence Force, Wellington
  • Stephen Jones – Invercargill Youth Councillor, Invercargill
  • Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE – Former All Blacks captain, coach and administrator, Masterton
  • Malcolm Mulholland – Academic and flag historian, Palmerston North
  • Hana O’Regan – Academic, Māori studies and te reo Māori,  Christchurch

I’m looking forward to the various designs. My strong preference is that the silver fern should be prominent, and that it should be a simple design without too many elements.


Half Mast Occasions

February 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died, some on the left complained about the fact NZ had flags at half mast to mark his death. It is of course standard procedure to do half mast for the death of any reigning head of state, and none of them complained when the same happened for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, despite his terrible human rights record.

I got curious about how often in the last decade NZ flags have flown at half mast and why, so I asked the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. It has occurred 38 times.

I’ve split them into categories.

Death of Foreign Head of State

  1. Pope John Paul II, 2005
  2. Prince Rainer III of Monaco, 2005
  3. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, 2005
  4. King Tupou of Tonga, 2006
  5. Samoan Head of State, 2007
  6. King Tupou V of Tonga, 2012
  7. President Chavez of Venezuela, 2013
  8. President Sata of Zambia, 2014
  9. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, 2015

Of interest is that flags were lowered in 2005 for King Fahd, and as far as I can see not a single person complained. However when there is a National Government in power, it becomes a major media story!

Death of New Zealanders

  1. David Lange 2005
  2. Rod Donald 2006
  3. Maori Queen 2006
  4. Sir Edmund Hillary 2008 (twice)
  5. NZ soldiers killed in service 2009, 2010, 2011 (x5), 2011 (x6)
  6. Pike River 2010 (twice)
  7. Christchurch Earthquake 2011, 2011, 2012
  8. Sir Paul Reeves 2011
  9. WWI centenary 2014


  1. Asia Boxing Day tsunami 2005
  2. London bombings 2005
  3. Samoa tsunami 2009

Call for Australia to change flag also

January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian broadcaster Ray Martin writes:

I recently snapped a shot of Sydney’s iconic Anzac Bridge, with its supersized Aussie and Kiwi statues posted like armed sentinels at the western end, in the dawn’s ethereal light.

It was part of a photo essay I’m cobbling together for April 25 this special year.

The commemoration of Gallipoli — and those first, wide-eyed Anzacs who jumped ashore — is about to wash over our collective emotions, on both sides of the ditch. In 1915 our brothers died on that godforsaken Turkish peninsula at the appalling rate of 45 Anzacs a day.

But. When I focused on the high Anzac Bridge flagpole all I could see was a fluttering Union Jack. The Southern Cross — with it’s familiar Federation Star — was somehow lost in the flag’s folds.

I smiled to myself, thinking how appropriate it was — given that most of the 10,920 Anzac boys who died at Gallipoli had fought under the Union Jack.

Or, occasionally the red Australian ensign.

The mythology — and rampant misinformation — about Australians “dying under the flag” boggles the mind. It’s just not true.

For neither of the two World Wars.

And it is the silver fern which is on most of the graves at Gallipol – our effective national symbol.

In fact the silver fern was used by our soldiers in the Boer War, and was also on the medals presented to soldiers who served in that campaign.

A commenter, Greenjacket, notes:

Are you aware that the symbol of the famous NZ Division in WW1 and WW2 was a white fern on a black background? The symbol on every NZ army vehicle and on every sign to indicate the location of a NZ unit was black square with a white silver ferm emblem. In at least two operations, NZ troops were ordered to conceal their identities by concealing their white fern on a black background symbol, and NZ troops were loathe to do so as they were so proud of it, so the Germans were able to quickly identify where the crack NZ Division was moving. When NZ soldiers identified themselves, they did so with the silver fern on a black background. The NZ Army of today proudly carries on this tradition.

History Geek also has details about the long use of the Silver Fern by the military.

Meanwhile, New Zealand (whom we condescendingly pat on the head as a bit rustic and slow in all but rugby) has decided to seize ‘the one hundred year anniversary’ of Gallipoli to launch a fair-dinkum flag debate.

Unlike us, our Anzac mates have decided it’s time to grow up and become truly independent.

“We want a new flag design”, conservative Prime Minister John Key declared, “a flag that says ‘New Zealand’, in the same way that the maple leaf says ‘Canada’ or the Union Jack says ‘Britain’. Without a word being spoken.”

(Incidentally, the Canadians ditched the Union Jack in 1965.)

Quite frankly, the Kiwis are tired of being mistaken for Australia in the sporting world, with a flag “dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom”.

How refreshingly laudable is that?

It would be great indeed to have a flag that is universally recognised as representing NZ.


Peters against public having a say

November 18th, 2014 at 7:06 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First is boycotting a committee which will decide how the public votes on the national flag, saying the referendum was an expensive exercise which took attention away from greater priorities.

Peters has spent 20 years advocating referendums, yet when it is on an issue he personally disagrees with, he is against the public being able to have a say.

“A change of flag might need to be considered but now is not the time. Poverty and housing are at crisis level, it’s no time for a government to be raising a distraction,” Mr Peters said.

The public and the Government are quite capable of dealing with more than one issue at a time. Also poverty is not at crisis level. Peters is using that as an excuse to deny the public a say – because he disagrees. National had a clear election commitment to hold a referendum if re-elected, and they were. They first referendum will be next year and it will all be wrapped up in early 2016 – well before the next election.

The first referendum in late 2015 will ask New Zealanders to vote on a range of alternative flags chosen by the Flag Consideration Panel.

A second referendum in April 2016 will be a run-off between the most popular alternative flag and the current national flag.

It will be fascinating to see which flags make it through to the first referendum.

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John Oliver on Key and NZ Flag

November 4th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Oliver is in great form as he skewers John Key and the flag issue.

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Our next flag?

October 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


The Kyle Lockwood flag

Stuff reports:

he first of two referendums on changing New Zealand’s flag could be held as early as next year, with a decision made in early 2016.

Prime Minister John Key used his address to the Returned Services Association (RSA) National Conference today, to lay out his case for a new Kiwi ensign.

Talking to media after the speech, he said he would be writing to the leaders of all other parties within four days to ask them to choose a representative to take part in a cross-party panel on the issue.

Key said he had received official advice that outlined a two-step referendum. It would see a public consultation period on possible designs.

The cross-party panel would likely pick the top three to five designs which would go to a referendum to pick the most preferred.

That would then be pitted against the current flag in a second referendum, where people would either vote to change or keep the status quo. 

I think that is the way to go. First have New Zealanders vote on their preferred alternative, and then have New Zealanders vote on that design vs the current NZ flag.

That advice still had to be considered and voted on by committee, but Key said he hoped the first referendum could be held before the end of next year, with a final decision by April 2016.

He gave an assurance to RSA members that New Zealand’s contributions to World War I would be recognised under the current flag at centenary commemorations in New Zealand and Gallipoli next year. 

Key would not support any change that undermined the role of the defence force, but he did not believe a new flag design would do that.

“If you got to any of the Commonwealth war graves [in Europe] what you actually see on the war graves is the silver fern. It’s not the New Zealand flag. 

“When people say New Zealanders were buried under that flag, that’s technically correct when the flag was on the coffin, but it’s not true in terms of being on their headstones,” Key said. 

The silver fern has become a de facto symbol for New Zealand and New Zealanders. It is time we had it on our flag.

The Prime Minister had softened his preference for a silver fern on a black background, saying it was unlikely to be a popular option.

He had swayed more toward a design by Kyle Lockwood, which retained New Zealand’s current flag colours, with a Silver Fern and a southern cross. 

My preference is still for the silver fern on black, as it would be as instantly recognizable as the Canadian Maple Leaf. However also a big fan of the Kyle Lockwood design and see both as vastly superior to the status quo.

I’d love to do a poll of 1,000 non New Zealanders and Australians, and show them the NZ Flag and Australian flag and ask them to pick which flag belongs to which country. I suspect the proportions getting it right will be barely more than the 50/50 of random guessing.


Labour joins National in promising a flag referendum

September 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour would also review the design of the New Zealand flag, with the party saying “the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public”.

“We would however support the ability of the RSA and similar organisations to continue to fly the current flag if they so wish. New Zealand changed its national anthem from ‘God Save the Queen’ on a gradual, optional basis and that process worked,” the policy statement says.

Prime Minister John Key has also already announced a referendum would be held on the flag in the next parliamentary term, saying it was his personal preference to see it changed.

This is good. It means that New Zealanders should get to have a vote on the flag, regardless of who wins the election.

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Maybe not

March 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

flag 07

A reader has sent in this design for a new flag. It’s, umm, very memorable. He explains it represents NZ with:

  • Mountains to the sea
  • Fertile land
  • Birds
  • Happy people
  • Beaches
  • Fish

Would be amusing to have as our flag just for the looks at Olympic Games when it goes up the flagpole for a medal!


Another flag design

March 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

NZ flag suggestion


Sent in by another reader. They note:

Interesting suggestion on your blog post on 18 March. This one (attached) has been floating around for a while, pre-dating as far as I am aware the one you posted. I don’t know who designed it, so can’t give it credit.

It strikes a chord with pretty well everyone who sees it – incorporates the fern and black portion, as well as the red Southern Cross stars. I think it’s a cleaner design (simpler, less busy) than the one with red substituted for the black portion.

Less red is not a bad thing :-)


An alternate flag design

March 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

New Flag Lineup


Sent in by a reader. Not bad. I like it.


Key on flag

March 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Some good insights from the PM on the flag issue, from his speech at Victoria University:

Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognise and can identify today.

Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag.

I doubt there would be a single Canadian who would go back.

Long decades of sweat and effort by our sportsmen and women in many codes over countless competitions give the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity, and a head start in our national consciousness.

For example, it’s our silver fern, rather than our flag, that’s etched in the crosses marking the final resting place of all New Zealanders who are interred in Commonwealth War Graves overseas.

I did not know that.

Interestingly, it’s the maple leaf that’s etched in the crosses of Canada’s fallen in those same cemeteries.  

The power of a strong symbol.

We want a design that says “New Zealand” in the same way that the maple leaf says “Canada”, or the Union Jack says “Britain,” without a word being spoken, or a bar of those countries’ anthems being heard.

We want a design that says “New Zealand,” whether it’s stitched on a Kiwi traveller’s backpack outside a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations, or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive every working day.


UPDATE: A reader has sent in this picture, which illustrates the point about graves:



Key flags flag debate for next term

March 11th, 2014 at 12:17 pm by David Farrar

The PM has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today outlined a plan to hold a public discussion and vote next parliamentary term on New Zealand’s flag.

In a speech at Victoria University today, Mr Key said it was his belief that the design of the current flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

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

He outlined a plan for a cross-party group of MPs to recommend the best referenda process, and a steering group to ensure the public has the opportunity to engage in discussion on the flag and to submit design ideas.

“It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders.  All voices need an opportunity to be heard,” he says.

“A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.  This decision is bigger than party politics.”

Mr Key says that should he have the privilege of remaining Prime Minister after the general election in September, he would write to leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament asking them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

The group would recommend the best referenda process to follow, and also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group which would be primarily responsible for ensuring the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

“One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

“I would like to see the referenda process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.”

This is a sensible pragmatic way forward. There isn’t enough time for a referendum with this election, and there was a risk that people would say Key is using the flag issue as a distraction. By saying he would seek a referendum or referenda during the next term, he indicates commitment to letting people decide the issue for themselves through a referendum – but not at the expense of overshadowing other issues.

In terms of a process, my preference is:

  1. Cross-party group selects steering group
  2. Steering group calls for designs
  3. Steering group short-lists designs
  4. Steering group selects four possible alternative designs to to voted on. Maybe have an option that people could petition to have another design added to the ballot, if they think a worthy one has been missed out.
  5. An initial referendum where people vote on the alternative design – preferably with a ranked ballot paper of preferences.
  6. The alternative design that gets over 50% support after preferences goes to a second referendum
  7. A final binding referendum with a simple binary choice between the current NZ flag and the alternative design

The flag debate

February 17th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Fewer than two in five Kiwis want to retain the current flag, despite its defenders arguing it is the standard our troops fought and died for.

A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll has found that only 38.6 per cent do not want a change to the current blue ensign incorporating the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.

But with almost 19 per cent “not bothered either way”, the call for a change, put on the table for debate by Prime Minister John Key earlier this month, is hardly overwhelming either.

The survey found that just under 18 per cent wanted the flag replaced with the silver fern – Key’s personal favourite – while another 23.7 per cent want a change to something other than the silver fern.

Key said the result was a strong starting point, with a narrow majority even before a campaign had begun. “My instinct would be that more coverage would more strongly make the case for change. I take a lot of heart from the poll.”

So 42% support change and 39% oppose it. That is a pretty good starting position.

Here’s what I would do, to facilitate New Zealanders being able to make an informed decision on the flag. A simple three step process.

  1. Launch a design competition and panel to consider alternate flag designs and short-list four of them.
  2. Have a referendum with the general election where voters vote for their preferred alternate design to go up against the current design out of the four short-listed designs.
  3. Then around six to twelve months after that referendum, have a binding final referendum where the design that won the first referendum goes up against the current design

I think having two separate votes is essential. You need a clear simple A vs B choice for the final vote, where NZers have had time to consider the merits of the alternate design to the status quo.

The first referendum is also essential, as that gives the final alternate design legitimacy. You will never get wide-spread agreement on an alternate design that is foisted on people. But people will get behind the winner of a fair vote, even if they had a preference for another design.

I have a preference for the silver fern on black design. But if that didn’t win the first referendum, I’d probably support whatever design does win so long as it is an improvement upon the status quo which I find absolutely unappealing and far too similar to Australia’s.


A two stage flag referendum?

January 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

What is needed is a two-stage referendum, like the two-stage referendum on MMP. The first, held at the general election, should ask if people want a change. If a majority does, a year later another vote could choose the design.

There should be a nationwide design competition, with an independent body choosing a shortlist of three designs. Voters could then choose by a process of preferential voting. That way, the new flag would have majority support.

I like the idea of a two stage referendum, but the order the Dom Post proposes is flawed in my view. People won’t vote for a change without knowing what the alternative is.

I’d do an initial vote at the election to choose an alternative from say four designs.

Then once an alternative design has been chosen, have a stand alone referendum where you choose between the current NZ flag and the design which won the earlier vote.


Will we get to vote on the flag this year?

January 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key’s tentative proposal to change the national flag has wide support within Parliament, although he admits that debate about an alternative design could distract people from more important issues during election year.

Mr Key planned to discuss a new flag with senior ministers and possibly put it to a referendum as part of this year’s election.

He said that finding a consensus on a new flag would be difficult and if ministers backed a change, the Government would decide on a design and ask the public to vote for or against it.

“We have to make it simple,” he said yesterday.

The flag could be changed by legislation, but Mr Key said it was a constitutional issue and required consultation.

He publicly backed replacing the flag with a silver fern in 2010.

Young Kiwis have already adopted the silver fern as the de facto flag. When Kiwis backpack overseas, they often wear the fern. You see it at sporting events. I know several people who have a tattoo of it. I’ve yet to find anyone who has a tattoo of the current NZ flag!

The proposal was backed by most political parties yesterday.

Labour Party deputy leader David Parker said it was not an important issue, but he supported a change to a red, white and blue design by an unnamed Dunedin designer which incorporated Maori and colonial influences.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said the present flag “smacks of British imperialism” and recommended the Union Jack be removed.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who negotiated with the Government to get a Maori flag flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day, said it was “time for for us to grow up and move on”.

He flew the Tino Rangitiratanga flag on his car but said any flag would be an improvement on the Union Jack and Southern Cross.

On this issue, I agree with Hone. I find the current flag absolutely uninspiring, and at a distance very difficult to differentiate from Australia’s.

I want a flag that will be our equivalent of the Canadian Maple Leaf – instantly recognisable as a NZ symbol.


The Silver Fern

February 7th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Amelia Wade at NZ Herald reports:

New Zealanders are adopting the Silver Fern as the national flag because they identify with it more than the Southern Cross, a leader for a republican movement claims.

Flag campaigner Lewis Holden said New Zealand needed a flag that Kiwis connected with and related to, rather than one which gets confused with the Australian flag. …

Mr Holden said it was evident at sports matches and events of national significance that New Zealanders preferred to wave the Silver Fern.

“And from pictures I’ve seen of the Waitangi Day pub crawl in London, very few people actually had New Zealand flags – they were all draped in Silver Ferns or Southern Crosses.”

I agree. You also see it with Kiwis hitchhiking around the world. The Silver Fern is the emblem of choice.

Labour spokesman for Arts, Culture & Heritage, Charles Chauvel, who put forward the New Zealand Flag Bill in 2010, said the Government needed to address the issue. …

Mr Chauvel’s bill, which is waiting to be drawn, seeks to create a commission which must spend 18 months seeking public input on the status of the national flag.

The commission would be appointed by the Prime Minister after consulting all parliamentary leaders.

As part of its functions, it would hold a nationwide competition for new flag designs, ranking the three that best reflect national identity, aspirations, culture and heritage.

While my personal preference is for the Silver Fern, I like the idea of a national competition. The final decision should be made by the public in a referendum.


A new New Zealand flag

October 17th, 2011 at 4:03 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff I salute New Zealand’s new national flag.

UPDATE: 39 comments at Stuff in under 30 minutes. Lots of people fired up on this one.

UPDATE2: Now almost 200 comments, and pretty much all since 3.30 pm which is normally the dead zone.

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