Silver ferns and flummery – why we should be fulminating against refurbishing the flag

“Well, unfurl my flannels from the rooftop,” Alf fumed when The Boss mused on whether NZ should have a new flag.

For the most part your hard-working representative has a huge respect for The Boss. But now and again…

Perhaps dear old John fell under the republican spell of that Obama feller while the pair of them were walloping golf balls around a course in Hawaii during the Christmas holidays. Alf refers, of course, to republicanism as distinct from monarchy, not Republican versus Democrat.

Whatever has smitten John Key, it has erased the regard he should hold for the Union Jack and Southern Cross components of the national flag (especially the Union Jack bit). He would have them replaced – ye gods – by a silver fern.

Praise be therefore for the work of the NZ Flag Institute.

It has issued a statement today to say:

New Zealand’s flag is 145 years old this year. This makes it the fifteenth oldest national flag in the world. That long history reflects the enviable political stability of this country.

However Prime Minister John Key wants to break that tradition. He has stated that he wants New Zealand to adopt a new flag.

The Prime Minister wants a black flag – the international symbol of anarchy – to replace our historic flag.

Opinion polls show little support for replacing the national flag. More significantly, there is no consensus on what a new flag might look like. It is unlikely that a symbol of political anarchy would be favoured by a majority of people.

Furthermore, no design proposed in recent years has received more than a fraction of the level of support of the current flag.

The New Zealand Flag Institute has suggested that perhaps it is the 100% Pure New Zealand brand which is in need of change, rather than our national flag.

Down south, while debate has been rekindled about our national flag, the Christchurch City Council has been pressured to fly a certain Maori flag.

Te Ata Tino Toa has launched a Facebook campaign urging people to send emails to the council voicing support for flying the flag from the Civic Offices on Waitangi Day and other significant occasions. The council has been reluctant to fly the flag because it is worried it could upset Ngai Tahu, who have indicated they do not consider the flag is representative of the iwi.

But Te Ata Tino Toa says the flag is the most recognised Maori flag and should be flown.

The group’s chairman, Te Ao Pritchard, said yesterday national consultations in 2009 had confirmed that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was the preferred Maori flag among Maori.

“After five years we’re surprised that Otautahi is dragging its feet with the flag issue. Council should be brave and fly the Maori flag with pride,” Pritchard said.

A report prepared for the council by civic and international relations manager Duncan Sandeman cautioned against singling out the distinctive black, white and red Tino Rangatiratanga flag because some runanga within the council’s territory favour other flags, most notably the United Tribes of New Zealand flag.

This only goes to show that if 15 per cent of the population – the indigenous bit – are at odds over which Maori flag to fly, what are the chances of a consensus being reached on a national flag?

It also raises questions about why a democratically elected local body should want to fly two flags, a symbol of division in its community.

On the national flag issue – by the way – we actually got some good old common sense from Mana leader Hone Harawira, who said John Key’s call for a national conversation about a new flag was an attempt to divert attention from more important matters.

“I have a personal favourite in terms of the flag but I don’t think that’s the major issue right now. I think we have families in desperate straits, struggling to get into houses. I suspect absolutely that John Key’s doing his best to take people’s minds off it by throwing up the odd red herring of the flag,” he says.

In the upshot, Christchurch City Council voted to fly only the New Zealand flag from the Civic Offices on Waitangi Day.

The councillors have decided they will not be rushed into making a decision on whether the distinctive black, white and red Te Tino Rangatiritanga flag should also be flown…

This is commendable.

More dubiously, the council will consult thoroughly with the local runanga and Ngai Tahu.

Yes, Alf knows the tino rangatiritanga flag has been recognised by the Government as the preferred national Maori flag since 2009 and it has been flown on government buildings and other sites of national significance, such as the Auckland Harbour Bridge, on Waitangi Day and other significant occasions.

He happens to think this is folly, attesting to a racially divided society.

He also knows that some local authorities, including the Dunedin and Wellington city councils, also fly the flag on Waitangi Day.

Christchurch has had the great good sense not to follow suit, until now.

But why doesn’t it consult all its citizens about how many bloody flags it flies?

One Response to Silver ferns and flummery – why we should be fulminating against refurbishing the flag

  1. Barry says:

    I’d like our present flag to stay. It shows our British heritage and our position under the Southern Cross. Those are our history and our location.

    Key must be stupid if he doesn’t think that most of the rest of the world would see the fern as the white flag of cowardice.

    Key would eventually try to get some ugly part-maaaardee-mordee-mowree-whatever-they-call-themselves garbage into any new flag, I think. I wouldn’t trust him.

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