Thursday, Waitangi Day, seems set to be marked by the usual round of protests and political distractions. Political commentator, Colin James, has just published a very thoughtful article on New Zealand as an advanced small country and the development of national self-identity – of which a flag is a symbol. http://www.colinjames.co.nz/national-day-for-a-leading-small-advanced-country/
We do need to change the flag. Not because of some thinly veiled Anglophobia – but because we owe it to ourselves as a young, increasingly vibrant and confident small country to use our voice independently on the global stage. A flag symbolises such independence of thinking. We no longer need to be an echo of a larger power – whether that be Britain, the US or any of our new larger trading partners.
My personal preference is for something indigenous, something distinctly New Zealand. A koru would be a good simple image. It would also be reflective of our nation’s bi-cultural roots. As Colin James points out we have been working through our own “Truth & Reconciliation” process. That work needs to be concluded fairly. Perhaps then we can increasingly see Waitangi Day as a day of celebration of real independence – rather than as a day of protest over failures to honour the Treaty.
Gaining national consensus around a new flag won’t be done in a short 6 month timeframe – but it can be done. Why not set down a two-stage, run off referendum with the first round to be run in October 2016 in conjunction with local authority elections – with the two highest polling options being run off in conjunction with the late 2017 General Election? While allowing plenty of time for discussions and campaigning it would also have the benefit of various options having two full years to be promoted and debated. Importantly it would also provide a point in time for a decision to be made.
*Acknowledgements to students Joyita Maka and Nick Wood who designed the two examples above as part of the NZ Flag competition.