The PM says if ministers back a change, the Govt will
decide on a design and ask Kiwis to vote for or against it.
Photo: Getty Images
Prime Minister John Key's tentative proposal to change
the national flag has wide support within Parliament, although
he admits that debate about an alternative design could
distract people from more important issues during election
Mr Key planned to discuss a new flag with senior ministers
and possibly put it to a referendum as part of this year's
He said that finding a consensus on a new flag would be
difficult and if ministers backed a change, the Government
would decide on a design and ask the public to vote for or
"We have to make it simple," he said yesterday.
The flag could be changed by legislation, but Mr Key said it
was a constitutional issue and required consultation.
He publicly backed replacing the flag with a silver fern in
At the time, the Herald ran a campaign to change the flag and
found more than half of the members of the Order of New
Zealand supported a change.
Asked whether a flag debate could overshadow the Government's
messages about more important issues such as the economy, Mr
Key said: "That's always a risk and that's one of the things
we would have to consider."
The proposal was backed by most political parties yesterday.
Labour Party deputy leader David Parker said it was not an
important issue, but he supported a change to a red, white
and blue design by an unnamed Dunedin designer which
incorporated Maori and colonial influences.
United Future leader Peter Dunne said the present flag
"smacks of British imperialism" and recommended the Union
Jack be removed.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who negotiated with the
Government to get a Maori flag flown from the Auckland
Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day, said it was "time for for us
to grow up and move on".
He flew the Tino Rangitiratanga flag on his car but said any
flag would be an improvement on the Union Jack and Southern
The present flag dates from 1865, when the British Government
asked vessels in its colonies to fly flags with the Blue
Ensign. In 1869, Governor Sir George Bowen directed that the
Southern Cross be added, as the constellation could be seen
only in the Southern Hemisphere.
The present design was adopted as the national flag in 1902.
Yesterday, there were questions about the timing of any
change and the design of a new flag.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said an alternative
could not be found within eight months, and Greens co-leader
Russel Norman said he supported a change, but the design
should not be left to the Cabinet.
Act Party leader John Banks opposed any change, saying New
Zealand soldiers had fought and died under the flag in many
A Herald on Sunday poll found that 42 per cent of those
surveyed preferred the current flag and 39 per cent favoured
the silver fern.