New Zealanders will get a vote on a new national flag
regardless of who is in the next government, as the main
parties say they will back Prime Minister John Key's plan to
hold a public referendum away from the glare of an election
Mr Key unveiled plans yesterday to allow New Zealanders to
vote for an alternative to the century-old Union Jack and
Southern Cross, which, he said, symbolised a colonial era
"whose time has passed".
A public referendum would be held during next parliamentary
term, and separately from the 2017 election, with guidance
from a cross-party group of MPs and an independent panel of
Labour and Greens backed Mr Key's proposal to treat the issue
dispassionately by debating it outside of an election period,
though Labour leader David Cunliffe said it was still a
distraction from more important issues, such as inequality.
Mr Key said that holding a referendum in the next term gave
time for widespread public consultation.
It would also mean that the World War I centenary next year
would be commemorated under the flag which soldiers fought
and died for in Gallipoli.
The Returned Services Association has been one of the most
outspoken critics of changing the flag.
Mr Key said he did not underestimate the significance of the
flag to soldiers, "but being respectful of our history does
not lock us permanently in the past".
The process outlined by the Government did not rule out
retaining the current national flag.
Mr Key made clear his preference for a change from a flag
that represented a country moving from the 18th century to
the 19th century - a time before superpowers, air travel,
world wars, the rise of Asia and New Zealand's greater role
in the Pacific.
Choosing a new flag did not mean becoming isolationist or
anti-monarchist, but was "one more step in the evolution of
modern New Zealand".
Mr Key said: "We want a design that says 'New Zealand'
whether it's stitched on a Kiwi traveller's backpack outside
a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations,
or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive
every working day."
A new cross-party group of MPs would decide the finer points
of the voting process.
Mr Key noted that a two-stage referendum would create more
confidence in the final result. New Zealanders could first
vote for the best alternative flag from three or four
options, then vote on the winning design versus the existing
Massey University senior researcher Malcolm Mulholland said
that the process outlined by the Government met all the
criteria for changing a national flag.
It had no political bias, involved all parties, and allowed
- Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald