Flag vote 'a waste of time' - historian

The four flags we have to choose from
The four flags we have to choose from

The Flag Consideration Panel is defending its choice of flags the public will vote on in November, following widespread backlash against the four competing designs.

The panel whittled down nearly 11,000 submitted designs to just four - three with the fern, one with a koru. Two of them are exactly the same design, but with different colours.

Of the dozen panellists, only one is credited with being an expert in flags – the rest notable for their achievements in areas like business, sports, politics and advertising.

One them, Xero chief executive Rod Drury, believes any of the final four could be New Zealand's new flag.

"As we went through it, it was really these ones that we gravitated through, and I can see them – I look at all those flags and I feel very proud," says Mr Drury.

But University of Auckland social historian Caroline Daley says the flags amount to little more than "logos" that come with their own baggage.

"I guess at this stage in our development as a country, these symbols that people are reaching for are so closely tied to either an airline – and we've got a fantastic national carrier, but is that really what New Zealand has become?" she said on the Paul Henry programme this morning, referring to the flag bearing a koru.

"The silver fern… it's not so long ago that the New Zealand Rugby Football Union was trying to trademark that image, and trying to stop other people using the silver fern – and now we're going to put it on a flag?"

Mr Drury says it was a deliberate choice to go with a recognisable symbol.

"Some of the abstract stuff didn't really connect as much as these flags coming forward, and I think all the panel felt that as we went through the process."

Panel chairman John Burrows says the fern on a black background, Prime Minister John Key's original pick, was too similar to the All Blacks' logo to make the cut.

One of the three designs bearing a silver fern, Alofi Kanter's 'Silver Fern (Black & White), bears a striking resemblance to existing logos for NZ Trade & Enterprise and Qualmark.

Meanwhile Andrew Fyfe's 'Koru' has been mockingly dubbed 'hypnoflag' by Twitter users, complete with its own parody account which already has nearly 400 followers.

Dr Daley says there's a lack of choice having three of the four designs based on ferns, and it's not the only symbol that represents New Zealand.

"We've also used the Union Jack, we've used the Southern Cross, we've used the kiwi – there are lots of symbols we've used, so why choose this one that is so closely tied, in many ways, [to sport]?

"I think a lot of people internationally think of New Zealand much more in terms of kiwis than they do of silver ferns."

She also criticises the 'Silver Fern (Black & White)' proposal as "botanically incorrect" – the fern's leaves are directly opposite one another, instead of alternating – suggesting New Zealand is now into genetic modification.

If she was forced to vote, Dr Daley says it'll be for the koru – but only because it's "not going to get through". Labour's Trevor Mallard has similar plans, telling the New Zealand Herald it's "absolutely awful" and he'll back it to ensure the current flag doesn't have strong competition.

Dr Daley says there's no reason to choose a new flag at the present time, calling it a "diversion tactic" by Mr Key to distract the public from more important issues.

"I just don't see why, when there's no big debate about this, when there's no public upswell of interest, we would waste our time with such an event."

A better time she believes would be when we ditch the monarchy and become a republic, and the Union Jack becomes inappropriate.

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