Three flags prominently displaying a silver fern leaf and one with a Moari koru (which has been nicknamed the “hypnoflag”) make up the four designs short listed in New Zealand’s campaign for a new national flag. These four will go to public referendum by the end of the year but so far, public reaction has not been great.
An expert flag consideration panel settled on the four entries after pool of almost 10,300. Prime Minister John Key put the plan into motion last year when he called for the removal of Britain’s Union Jack from the current flag, stating that it represents a colonial era “whose time has passed.”
The fern is perhaps the strongest symbol of New Zealand, used for over 100 years by the likes of All Blacks, the national rugby team, as well as other New Zealand sports teams. In the Maori tradition, the fern symbolizes new life and growth, and New Zealanders lay ferns on the graves of soldiers who died in battle. The koru (Maori for loop) is in the shape of a spiral, and looks a bit like the rip-curl of a wave.
When I talked to Professor John Burrows after the longlist was announced last month, he described a country that felt two ways about changing the flag. “Soldiers fought and died in the World Wars to that flag, and people felt very loyal to it, which is something that I can understand,” says Burrows. “The other side is saying we have to look at it sometime–we are now an independent country. Now is as good as any time to do it.”
The public will be asked to rank the four designs in the first binding postal referendum this year, which will be held between November 20 and December 11. The second binding postal referendum will be held in March next year and will ask voters to choose between the new flag and the current flag.