New Zealand Flag Referendum

New Zealand is just about to start on the second leg on the flag referendum.

I’m currently watching the flag debate that was run by Radio New Zealand this morning. Radio New Zealand have recently made a move to broadcasting some of their programs on television and streaming them on YouTube. This has been a good move and good use of the reduced cost of technology.

Unfortunately broadcast political debate seems like it might be improved by fewer politicians. They don’t listen to anyone and instead want to press their talking points and score points. Winston Peters and Maggie Barry were both pointless additions to the debate.

Apart from that, the debate was interesting and highlights some of the advantages of Radio New Zealand using the visual medium. The opening vox pop interviews were significantly improved by being able to see the interview subjects, especially the four women in Auckland dismissing the alternative flag by saying “this is yucky” and “I don’t think it goes with my eyes”. Comedy gold!

Having video also helped to explain that Maggie Barry is constantly talking over the top of the other guests because she is in a different room and it’s much easier to cross-talk when you’re remote.

The voting papers are being sent out at the moment, with voting taking place over the next three weeks.

It has been interesting to see this flag issue ebb and flow over the past twelve months.

First there were the public meetings that no one turned up to. For a politically driven process this was not a good start. At this point the process should’ve been reconsidered. It wasn’t.

I don’t usually read through the minutae of the political manifestos so was unaware of the political parties’ policies on flag change. Apparently the two major parties support change. However, this really seems to be the sort of change that needs to be driven by popular support rather than political will.

Then there was the public submission process. This created the greatest of all flag submissions amongst many others. What it didn’t generate was much serious debate about what we actually wanted from a flag.

What I am looking for in a flag is something that encompasses our country’s Maori, European and Pacific heritage, is simple and powerful, and doesn’t look like an All Blacks flag or a Black Caps flag.

Following the public sumbissions were the long list and the short list. Some worthy candidates were on the long list. Given the contents of the long list, the short list was disappointing. As someone (maybe Gareth Morgan) said, it was three ferns and a baby fern. We got the technicolour Kyle Lockwoods and two black and white sops.

As an example of the lack of interest in the whole process, I tried to watch the unveiling of the short list on television. None of the channels covered it live. This was, maybe, the biggest political event in generations and I was watching it on Periscope (remember when that was a thing?). Total apathy.

As a final sign of how the process was a complete failure, there was the rise of Red Peak. Of the five flags that made it on to the ballot paper, this is the only one that I thought I could actually live with in the future. It was understated yet powerful. The site showed some great images of how the image could be used.

I consider the addition of Red Peak to be a failed opportunity. Instead of simply adding Red Peak to the ballot paper, the whole process should’ve been re-examined. No-one asked why there was popular demand for a decent flag to be added to the short list. Politicians just gave us the faster horse we asked for.

As with everything in this flag debate, it Red Peak was divisive. Some embraced it. Some loathed it.

Then it was on to the initial flag referendum. Predictably one of the Kyle Lockwood flags won.

In the lead-up to the voting there were a number of places in Wellington that flew the five alternative flags. It made a real difference to me to be able to see the flags in person. Up until that point, I had considered the two Lockwoods to be identical and I didn’t understand why people had a preference. After seeing them in person, one became something I might be able to live with. The other just appeared hideous.

Unfortunately the one I thought to be hideous won selection to go through to the final round of this epic battle.

That battle commences today.

The process has been a disaster. The public have largely not embraced it and it has carried on despite the apathy. I believe that it was clear from very early on that this process was going to be a failure and the timetable should’ve been amended until popular support caught up with political will. It wasn’t.

The failed process created a failed outcome. the winner of the vote is the flag you might design if you were looking for just the minimum amount of change to the existing flag. It is the flag that you might take to the rugby or the cricket to support your team and drape over your bare shoulders.

It has been widely described as a tea towel and I believe that is an apt description.

I can’t vote for the poor result of a failed process. It has failed to produce a flag I can be proud of.

The only good thing about this process is that it has convinced me that I am ready for a flag change. This is something I wasn’t sure about 12 months ago. Better luck next time, maybe?






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s