New Zealand is currently going through a process to see if we would like to change our national flag. The process is:
- Submissions of designs from the public.
- A flag consideration panel chooses four of the submitted designs.
- The selected four designs go to a first referendum to choose one.
- The winning alternative goes up against the existing flag in a second referendum.
Steps 1 and 2 have been completed, and the four designs chosen by the flag consideration panel were announced last week.
It is fair to say that public reaction to the final four has been less than enthusiastic – in fact, quite derisive. This response comes from both ends of the spectrum – those who don’t want the flag changed in the first place; and those who do but are disappointed with the low quality and variety in the chosen four. I fall in the latter camp.
Firstly, why do I want to change the existing New Zealand ensign? Well, quite simply because I don’t see why we should have another country’s flag in the place of honour on our own flag. Yes, we do have a history of being part of the the British Empire, and then the Commonwealth. But we’re a big boy now and are forging our own way. Plus that Union Jack is not so welcome to many of our Maori people, for whom it represents the colonising power.
I was so excited that we might get some really good choices for an alternative design to go against the current ensign. And in fact amongst the 10,000 submissions there were some great ones (some of mine were in the 10,000, but they weren’t the great ones!)
But, sadly, I’m in agreement with much of the population that the final four are too kitschy and more like corporate logos. The general feeling is that this is because either there was political interference, and/or there was no graphical or vexillogical expertise on the panel.
So I’m now stuck with the choice in the second referendum of voting for the design that is selected as the least bad in the first referendum, or I vote for the current ensign and hope that in a few years this process will occur again, but in a much more rigourous manner.
But, suddenly there is some hope on the horizon. For a people-driven flag is beginning to arise from the discarded submissions that, whilst unlikely to be part of the process, is certainly showing what could have been.
Red Peak was one of the 10,000 designs that were initially submitted and got to the top 40, but not into the final four. But for some reason it is now getting a real push on social media, and even mainstream media are beginning to report on it too.
Unlike most of the final four, Red Peak is an abstract flag. This has not pleased everyone, as many people want a literal picture of a fernleaf or another New Zealand icon on the flag (the fernleaf is a common emblem in New Zealand, especially in sports and the military).
But once you understand Red Peak, the New Zealand references are indeed there. But it is not as kitsch as drawing a huge fern and stars on a flag. The symbology is very subtle, but the flag itself is very strong.
I think this is a designer’s flag. It is properly thought-out, not just a collection of clip-art. And it follows the rules of good flag design.
As for those who say it is too abstract and doesn’t scream “New Zealand” – my artistic brother put together this graphic:
Sadly, Red Peak is unlikely to get into the first referendum, because the final four are now apparently locked in. But I for one am definitely going to fly it. Through an online pledge site, I’ve bought one of first-run production Red Peak flags, which will go up on the flagpole in my garden. And even though Red Peak is unlikely to become New Zealand’s national flag, I think it’ll become an historical collectors’ item in years to come.
Oh, and I support the increase in our refugee quota too. Whatever flag we fly, it is only a representation of who we actually are. Let’s make sure that it represents a caring country.