The flag debate is driving a wedge within the RSA.
The organisation has so far been a staunch campaigner for keeping the current New Zealand flag – but now some members think it’s gone too far.
The RSA has made submissions to the select committee, started a campaign called ‘Fight for our Flag’ and, after the alternate flag choices were revealed, encouraged members to boycott the first referendum by writing ‘we support the current flag’ on the ballot.
Now an uprising within the troops are calling for the RSA to abandon the campaign, which has already been allotted $20,000 of its budget.
Devonport RSA president Chris Mullane sent a letter to the National RSA last Thursday, articulating its members’ concerns about the campaign, telling them it “smacks of sour grapes” and demanding it be abandoned at the National RSA’s meeting next week.
Almost all of Devonport RSA’s 180 members had voted against the campaign at their latest meeting, he said.
Mullane said it wasn’t about him trying to force a flag change, although he would vote for a change.
He said the reason the members were upset was the the RSA was encouraging people to “play around with the democratic process”.
This is where the RSA has gone wrong. No one begrudges them campaigning for the status quo on the second referendum. But actively campaigning for people to spoil their ballots at the first referendum is not something that sits well with many of their members.