Disappointment and joy about the new New Zealand flag


New Zealand is currently going through a process to see if we would like to change our national flag. The process is:

  1. Submissions of designs from the public.
  2. A flag consideration panel chooses four of the submitted designs.
  3. The selected four designs go to a first referendum to choose one.
  4. 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.

final four

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.

nz flag

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.

on mountain

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.


14 thoughts on “Disappointment and joy about the new New Zealand flag

  1. Food for thought, Roly. Seeing the red peak flag explained like that is most interesting. Shame it did not make the final four.


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. I think a problem was that Red Peak was too flag-like (ie simple) which meant it was drowned out by all the curliques and swirls of the much more artisitic logo-style entries. But when you put one of those logo-style entries amongst real flags, it looks terrible. Whereas Red Peak feels totally at home with real flags. That’s my theory, anyway!

  2. I’m in the keep the current flag camp. But if it has to change, the Red Peak is the one I would go for too. The final four just don’t cut the mustard, I’m afraid.

  3. I agree the final four are all very similar. I do like the alternative peak one. The sad part is, if the old flag is kept, this is a massive waste of time and funds. Surely this could have been handled better. Just make it all by majority vote, not the opinion of a select few who might not have an idea in the first place.

    1. And I think it is highly likely the old flag will win, too. If so, when the debate comes up again in a decade or so, one would hope that it would be done better.

  4. Roly, your brothers comments are funny, but not very accurate. The Jack has a big white cross in the centre, which represents Wales.
    Your representation of the red peak flag is the clearest I have seen so far, not that I have looked hard.
    Good read though.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Phil. However, I’m not sure I agree with you about Wales. As I understand it, Wales is not represented in the Union Flag by the Welsh patron saint, (Saint David), as Wales was part of England when this flag first came about in the 1600s.

  5. Hi Arteis, Sorry But I am not interested in the red peak flag – don’t like the : White LAMBDA i.e Greek L in the middle of it – makes me think of the Ladies who love Ladies. If they [LESBOTHES] had not kidnapped one of the letters in my Alphabet – then maybe I would have liked the flag as it reminds me of the – LAMBDA of the Spartan shields [Shame on me a Greek and not sure how to spell the Greek word=> LAEKODAEMONES… I think …??? ].

    Anyway despite putting in a few flag entries I prefer that the flag stays as it is until at least 2018 – when we finish commemorating the First world war . John Key was a bit callous in bringing the ‘flag’ subject up until then . As for the UK –Union Jack – look up the history of the cross of Saint George – it may just surprise you . It started off with the Byzantines – then not sure –either Venice or Genoa . English ships sailed under – the flag of one of these republics in the Mediterranean so as to be under the protection of the Venetian or was it the Genoese navy . Then finally it was adapted as the flag of all England . So my culture is represented in the old flag . It also represents my Christian faith . Two of the 4 new choices have the Southern cross – that would suffice for me as it is a natural cross . But lets see what happens …!!!! Bye for now …

    Nick Papadopoulos. papafam@xtra.co.nz

    1. Thanks, Nick. I wasn’t aware of that history of the Union Jack. Nevertheless, my opinion and yours differ on having another country’s flag in the position of honour on our own flag – and that’s OK that we can disagree! And, yes, for those who know their ancient history, the chevron is indeed reminiscent of Sparta, which I think is no bad thing either!

    1. Whilst I presume your comment is tongue-in-cheek (?), it does raise a really good point, David. From the Maori point-of-view, our current flag is the same as we would feel about a Chinese flag being imposed on us in the near future.

I hope I've given you something to think about - please do leave a comment with your thoughts or reactions.

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