NZ Flag, NZ symbol

The people of New Zealand have democratically chosen to retain the flag adopted in 1902. Fair enough. A clear but smaller than expected majority either wanted to keep this flag or for a variety of reasons didn’t want the alternative flag.


The alternative was a bob each way flag, retaining some of the character of the existing flag but dropping the colonial union jack and including New Zealand’s most recognisable symbol, the silver fern on black (except the fern wasn’t silver).

So the country will continue with split identities – an official flag that features another flag and is often confused with our neighbours, Australia, and a unique and widely used symbol, the fern on black.

Here’s some examples of what New Zealand will be recognised by:












Some war service and family connections:





And so it goes on. Like it or not the fern is New Zealand’s symbol.

We will continue to have our over a hundred year old New Zealand flag.

And we will continue to use and be recognised by the silver fern in it’s many forms.


This is our reality.

Morgan versus Key on flag preference

Gareth Morgan has been given another opportunity to promote his flag change preferences in a Herald column – PM’s flag preference is underwhelming. He criticises Key for stating his preference for a new flag – while promoting, again, what he wants and doesn’t want.

Firstly the Prime Minister clearly wants his preference to be chosen and that does somewhat taint the integrity of using public referenda to arrive at a decision.

Why? Key has just one vote, like the rest of us. He’s doing far less promotion of his preference than Morgan is of his. Morgan is doing far more than anyone to influence the outcome of flag choice.

Mr Key has politicised the process, and so some will oppose whatever he prefers regardless, thereby undermining the entire exercise.

It would always be politicised no matter who initiated a flag change process. Yes, some will oppose Key’s choice just because he’s a politician they don’t like. They have a right to vote however they like. Some may oppose Morgan’s choice because he is using disproportionate influence with money and media access to promote it.

Morgan is trying to get his flag chosen amongst the final four.  He is trying to impose more influence than anyone, including Key.

The Prime Minister wants the silver fern. His rationale was spelt out in Saturday’s newspapers. He simply wants the flag to be a brand, he has no interest whatsoever in any meaning beyond that. It’s all about recognition for Mr Key.

Of course a flag is about recognition, that’s what they are for. But Morgan makes up “wants the flag to be a brand”. Key doesn’t say anything like that.

This is what he said in John Key: Why my vote will go to flag with the silver fern:

I believe a new flag can take the best of the past and project that into the future.

It can reflect a forward-looking, confident New Zealand that is asserting itself and building its own identity in the 21st century. Our flag can be the choice of New Zealanders rather than the 19th century adaptation of a British ensign.

Last Saturday night I wore a New Zealand Rugby Union tie with a silver fern on it. On my lapel I also wore a silver fern because it, to me, symbolises this country that I love and so proudly serve.

The All Blacks’ jersey had a silver fern on it, and around me were more of them. In a sense, the people have already spoken.

They have adopted a symbol that unites them as belonging to a young and proudly independent country that has achieved a lot and has more to do.

Our flag should tell that story.

Morgan’s version is quite different – he made it up.  Morgan went on:

It’s all about recognition for Mr Key. He loves the Canadian flag for that reason and he adorns himself with silver fern badges and insignia when he attends sports events. He notes the rugby crowd all have a silver fern somewhere on our attire when we roll up for the game. And that for Mr Key that means we have chosen or endorsed the fern as the symbol of who we are.

That logic’s pretty shallow.

Again, recognition is the primary function of a flag.

And Morgan’s analysis is very shallow. The silver fern is used far more widely than in rugby. It’s a symbol that’s common across a range of sports. And businesses. And the State already uses it extensively.

Our passports are black with large silver ferns front and back. It’s a widely used symbol. It is already New Zealand’s defacto symbol.

Morgan keeps repeating his dissing:

I suspect Mr Key’s thoughts on this issue don’t run much deeper than corporate branding. That’s disappointing don’t you think?

National flags more often than not tell a story about the formation of the nation, what its values are and what it stands for – as the Flag Consideration Panel’s first question to the public asked. They are not a logo – many firms will incorporate recognisable aspects of their nation’s various insignia within their own brands and logos.

To suggest the national flag should just be another corporate brand like this is underwhelming, a shallow facsimile of what a national flag could be.

It’s Morgan who keeps claiming the silver fern is just a brand, while saying andf implying that’s what Key has said, which is incorrect.

After a long diss of Key and the silver fern Morgan finally gets to make his own case.

Let’s get serious here. New Zealand has just undertaken a 40-year process to reinstitute the legitimate basis of how our nation was formed. The Treaty of Waitangi is recognised officially as the founding document now, it is incorporated already in over 300 laws and regulations.

New Zealand is seeking to honour, albeit belatedly, the truth of arrangements between indigenous peoples and subsequent migrants. This is a huge achievement, and a major differentiating factor between us and Australia, Canada or the US for that matter. We should be extremely proud of this – forgive me, but it means more than the All Blacks winning.

What better way to celebrate such a coming of age, than to adopt a flag that recognises that milestone, recognises that we have one of the most multicultural societies on earth, a society that also has a bicultural treaty at its heart – an agreement that establishes the legitimacy of all migrants to call themselves New Zealanders? This is our uniqueness. We have a wonderful opportunity here to present a flag that defines, who we the New Zealanders actually are.

This is the flag that Morgan thinks does all that and defines who we the New Zealanders actually are:


There is nothing about it that suggests ‘New Zealand’ to me.

The designers of it have written an explanation of the colours and shapes, as required in Morgan’s flag competition guidelines. But most people don’t read stories behind flags. For most people a flag is simply a visual image.

Flag noun: a piece of cloth used as the symbol of a nation, state, or organization

Morgan wants it to be more than a symbol, and has the money and access to media to push his own design and his own ideas on what it should all mean.

But he is misrepresenting what Key has said. He is misrepresenting by omission by not acknowledging how widely accepted the fern already is as a symbol of New Zealand

Morgan may end up being successful in pressuring the flag panel into including his design in the final four. That appears to be his current aim.

And he may then pile money into promoting his design (plus all the free publicity media give him).

He can promote his story as much as he likes.

But I think that most people won’t care about abstract stories attached to some basic shapes and colours.

New Zealanders will choose the flag that they feel most means New Zealand to them.