I hate our flag, here’s why I'm voting to keep it


I don’t care for our existing flag. It says nothing to me. It’s a relic of a bygone age, one that doesn’t represent our proud, youthful, multicultural nation. As such, I was thrilled when the government announced we would be having a referendum to ditch it.

But in March next year, I’ll be voting to keep our existing flag.

When the final four designs were unveiled, one by one, like the world’s dullest striptease, I was at first underwhelmed, then bewildered, then angry. What a wasted opportunity.

From more than 10,000 designs, we somehow end up with a trifecta of ferns and a monochrome koru.

Look, I understand the significance of the silver fern in New Zealand’s history. I understand why people identify with it. I understand why they may like those flags. But surely, surely, we could and should have been offered at least the opportunity to vote for something different.

The reaction has been overwhelming. A huge yawn echoing around the world.

Where is the variety, the vision?

It’s a Clayton’s referendum.

I have no problem with the Flag Consideration Committee (FCC) putting forward a silver fern option. I have a massive problem with them putting forward three. Two are exactly the same design! One of the designs is a direct rip-off of the NZTE logo! Come on, if it had to be just four options, how about one koru, one fern, one abstract, and one Maori-influenced design?

It boils down to this - if you don’t favour the fern or the koru – what do you vote for? It’s a simple matter of choice. For those who favour those options – that’s fine, but wouldn’t you prefer to know that your choice was truly the best design? That the winning flag has widespread support? That it inspires, and excites, and brings people together?

I now find myself in a bizarre situation – I’m considering voting to keep our existing flag, in the desperate hope that we get another chance to change it in a few decades time, and that we don’t completely and utterly balls it up the second time around.

As pointed out in Russell Brown’s Public Address blog, in making its selections the Flag Consideration Committee ignored a video outlining the principles of flag design that they had posted on their own site.

Several of the designs were directly lifted from existing designs. One had to be removed from the original long-list, because the FCC hadn’t checked out the copyright. Others were just plain horrendous.

The FCC included business leaders, sportspeople, former public officials, and not a solitary artist or designer. Would we choose a new national anthem without input from a musician or composer?

Regrettably, I didn’t submit a design, preferring to leave it to professionals. You know, proper designers, people who know what they are doing. In hindsight, had I known any old scratching on the back of a napkin could have made it to the final four; I’d have sent a whole portfolio in.

That said, there were plenty of good designs submitted and a few absolute gems. Some even made it to the long-list.

Red Peak is one. Admittedly it took me a while, but when I read the thoughts behind Aaron Dustin’s design (prompted by Rowan Simpson excellent argument) it clicked, it made sense. He used design principles. He put thought into his design and followed the brief. He made an argument for Red Peak that was clear, coherent and appealing.

Above all – it looks like a flag. That’s what really swayed me. Chuck it amongst other world flags, and it fits. Not really something that can be said about our other options.

I’m a fan.

I’d be proud to fly that flag.

Sadly, despite an impressive groundswell of support, and a determined rear-guard push to have it added to the short-list, it’s unlikely to be an option.

What a waste of an opportunity that comes around once in a lifetime. We’ve been presented with an underwhelming, polarising, unimaginative selection.

 Choosing from these four options we’re being presented with is like choosing which strain of flu you’d prefer to catch.

You don’t have to agree with my opinions of course, but I’d hope you agree that if we’re doing something as significant as changing our flag, we should be doing it well, ensuring the process is well thought-out, thorough, that it stands up to scrutiny.

This debacle of a process does not.

So, come the second referendum in early 2016, against all my instincts, I’ll be voting to keep our existing flag. I urge you to do likewise.