Dude, where’s my democracy?


We’re being short-changed New Zealand.

The support for Red Peak is swelling, and the Government just isn't listening. Or maybe they are, and they’re just ignoring it. Which is a shame, because to quote to Flag Consideration Committee (FCC): “to have a process that is seen as legitimate, and for the outcome to endure, it is important to do it properly.”

This argument is actually about so much more than one design, but in the charge for fair and proper process, it’s Red Peak that’s being flown high and proud.

When it first arrived, Red Peak didn’t make much of a splash, hidden amongst the other long-list entries.

Why the sudden popularity? What’s changed? Good question. My guess is people were so underwhelmed by the options, they needed to get behind something else, and it just so happened that an argument was being made for Red Peak at the same time.

That’s certainly what won me over.

The argument boils down to symbolism and the thought that has gone into the design - it is a well made argument. There are also arguments being made against Red Peak, which is fine, because in a democracy that’s what you do.

One argument is that you shouldn’t have to explain the meaning of a flag. But where is that written? Have these people seen flags? Most of them are symbolic, and having a back story is a wonderful thing. Who knows the meaning behind the Union Jack? The Stars and Stripes? The Tricolour? Each of those flags has a rich history with a backstory, and meaning.

In a really interesting discussion on Radio New Zealand, designer Sven Baker - a man with 5 flags in the top 39 - threw his weight behind Red Peak. Above all, he said the story is everything.

If you want to read about the meaning behind Red Peak, and I highly recommend you do, I'd be interested to know if it changes your thinking.

One of the FCC said it found people “struggled with abstract designs,” but that’s what flags are."

Flags are not picture books, nor do they need to be adorned with national animals, or plants and crests. Those things can co-exist quite happily.

Another suggestion is that this is all some lefty-liberal push to embarrass the Government.

Well the last time I checked, the likes of Rodney Hide, David Seymour and Mike Hosking were keen to see Red Peak added to the list.

Grant McLachlan, a former National party campaign director, has made a strong case that the Government is playing politics with the process.

“Too late!” some are crying.  Yeah, the final four have been selected, but at no point did the FCC seek public feedback on the 39-strong long list. Why not? Why not give us a chance to discuss those options?

Not so long ago the Prime Minister was defending the lack of attendance at FCC public meetings, saying much of the discussion would happen online at the pointy end of the debate. People were supposed to get behind their favourites and argue for them.

Well, here we are.

The Red Peak Facebook page now has 20,000 members, in just a week. That’s impressive. It’s also inspiring some wonderful interpretations.

(credit: Rachel Knight)

Tell me, of the four official options, which is generating as much discussion as Red Peak?

Sorry, says the PM, the decision’s been made.

What a cop-out.

When South Africa changed its flag, not only was the public were given six options to choose from when it became clear there were still some issues, the authorities went away and tinkered some more

The Result was an absolute beauty of a flag.

Even Canada - the flag-change poster child didn’t get it right the first time.

An underwhelming initial response meant the powers-that-be tottered off for another crack before settling on the maple leaf.

Last week I argued that I’d vote to keep the existing flag, rather than vote for any of the four options. The reaction to that confirmed I’m not the only one.

To me, that says this process is broken.

If a supporter of change becomes a supporter of the status quo, something’s wrong.

I’ve been told that my opinion is sour grapes and that if we included one favourite, where would it end? That ignores the point that at the moment. We have an election with three candidates from United Future, and one from New Zealand First.

People have pointed to the undoubted popularity of the two Lockwood designs for their inclusion over Red Peak.

The popularity of those designs is not in question, but how about the other two?

At any rate, popularity doesn’t always mean something’s the best.

Tui beer’s incredibly popular, but not everyone chooses to serve it at their wedding.

I notice the Government’s fleet of cars isn’t made up of Toyota Corollas.

The Feelers are NZ’s most popular local band, but I’m not sure they’ll ever write something better than this.  

I know there are conspiracy theories out there about this whole thing. Hell, I did a story on one.

Personally I don’t buy into them, but what I do agree with is that this process has been botched.

It feels rushed and we’re blundering through this process like a drunk making their way to bed at the end of a long night.

We all know how those nights feel the morning after.

Don’t we owe it to generations past and future to ensure that when we do make the change we do it as well as it can possibly be? Is anyone seriously suggesting this process has been perfect?

Look, I’m not arguing for anything to be taken away – I’m arguing for more choice, freedom for one another and giving people a fair go.

Those are things that define us as New Zealanders aren’t they?

This is our flag. Our identity. Our debate.

Collectively, we deserve better.