So New Zealand is contemplating changing the current flag representing the country with the winner of the five candidate flags in a process which is estimated to cost $26 million.
There are many Kiwis who feel that it is time that the Union Jack was removed from the identity of New Zealand. One argument for this change is that “a lot of other countries have changed their flag for no particular reason so why can’t we?” as if it were a shop refit, maybe to somehow propel a fresh start of some-sort without actually considering what that may involve.
Some Kiwis believe that the current flag is almost identical to the Australia flag and would prefer it’s change so people wouldn’t confuse the two countries. In this argument, it would appear to be for the benefit of others rather than themselves since Kiwis know the number of starts there are in their own flag right?
So which other countries have changed their flags?
Well, a good example happened in 1994 in South Africa. The reason for the change of flag was to symbolise a change of government, way of life and an end to Apartheid.
Libya had a good reason to change its flag and it wasn’t just because it was boring. They had a revolution in which they threw out the authoritarian regime of Muammar Qaddafi. The new flag is actually an old flag resurrected from the Kingdom of Libya which existed between 1951 to 1969.
The flag of Myanmar (Burma) was adopted in 2010 to replace the socialist flag. The change followed the 2008 change in the Constitution including the name of the country. The colours on the flag represent the virtues of solidarity, peace and tranquillity.
In 1965, after several years of debate, Canada changed its flag. The Maple Leaf was a popular symbol, politically neutral and most importantly, not British. Since its adoption, Canadians have put the flag on absolutely everything, making it the defining symbol of Canadianness (if that’s even a word!).
Even the United States of America had the Union Jack in the corner instead of the stars to go along with 13 red and white stripes which was changed when the Americans started to fight with the British.
There are a few others who changed their flag without much reason at all which includes Fiji; which Kiwis seem very happy to bring up to justify change to their own flag.
It would appear that there are a good few people in New Zealand who relate to the rationale of Canada changing the flag. However, when you read the history of Canada and about the British attacking the French and then the British and French attacking Egypt and Canada wanting to be completely neutral, I believe there is considerably more history and reason for Canada to change their identity than New Zealand.
So what good comes out of changing the New Zealand flag?
My personal view is that it is a short lived satisfaction to a few which is much the same as winning the Rugby word cup before a weekend later, normal life resumes, people still have debt, depression, broken marriages, homelessness, poverty and the thrill of feeling proud of your country winning in a sport on the world stage unites the country into a huge “hell yeah!” before carrying on as you were.
If you take the examples of deserved flag changes like South Africa, the flag change was a symbol of change, not the actual change itself. Why are we are spending $26 million on changing something that does not affect the daily life of you, your family or even loved ones who have died for their country?
Whether the flag changes or not, the silver fern is still present at the grave sites of service people around the world. The winning flag design incorporated the silver fern and the flag into one thing – so, are we changing the flag and the silver fern to this new identity or just the flag?
If the association to Great Britain is so distasteful and we as a nation are ready to untie ourselves from the monarchy, then removing ourselves from the Commonwealth is the change required which would be symbolised by a change in the flag.
A friend told me that New Zealand spend $26 million in 6 minutes on pay-outs in Welfare. Although I find this shocking that we are pouring money into a huge hole without an actual solution to our welfare problem, can we use this to justify spending the same amount of money on something as frivolous as a flag?
There are 148,000 children in New Zealand who are living in poverty and out of that amount 9% go without the basic every day things like school lunches. If we spent $26m on school lunches for those kids that money would last for over 200 days!
I’m not voting for a change of flag, but would back changes benefit all of New Zealand symbolised by a new country identity.