‘Flag man’s’ ambitious plan to triple number of poles has hit a snag

Wānaka’s Ben Suncin, known by many as ‘the flag man'. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Wānaka’s Ben Suncin, known by many as ‘the flag man'. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Wānaka pensioner Ben Suncin has flags — 90 odd — and wants to fly them.

But what does a flag need?

A pole.

Mr Suncin has three poles. He wants nine.

But the plan to triple his pole collection has run into trouble.

Every morning for more than six years, the vexillophile has begun his day by selecting three of his flags to fly on the front lawn of his council-owned pensioner flat.

Situated on McDougall St, a busy main road used by many on the journey to and from Queenstown, Mr Suncin’s three flag poles have become such a Wānaka landmark for locals and visitors that he has become known by many as simply "the flag man".

"I just love flags. I really go overboard, I suppose you can say. I’m really dedicated to them. Because I don’t drink or smoke or that I thought, well, what other hobby can I get into?"

Last year, he approached the Queenstown-Lakes District Council about putting up six more poles.

He is still waiting for an answer either way.

Council property director Quintin Howard said discussions with Mr Suncin were ongoing.

The council though was proposing to sell his housing unit and others to the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust.

Mr Howard said it was important to balance private expenses incurred on council-managed housing against future considerations for the units.

The proposal to sell the units is going out for community consultation.

In the meantime, Mr Suncin is not going to let his dream die.

"I love my flags and it’s something that I’m not going to give up."

The fascination with flags has been with him since seemingly forever.

His brother’s role as a signalman in the Royal New Zealand Navy probably had something to do with it.

Mr Suncin volunteered as a flag bearer during several international events held at the Snow Farm, and said the opportunity to represent different nations on a platform broadcast around the world was a privilege he would never forget.

"It was such an honour holding their flag out. It made you feel proud."

His flags draw in all sorts of folk.

An Estonian couple were bemused to see their own flag flying so far from home.

"There was a knock on the door and they said, ‘excuse me, are you from Estonia?’

"I went, ‘no I’m not’, and I explained, I love flags and everything. And they said, ‘would we be allowed to stand underneath there while we get our photos taken?’

"You couldn't ask for a nicer day, what with the backdrop of the lake and the mountains.

"I was quite chuffed. I was like, well I’ve done something good for little old Wānaka."

When it came to choosing which flags to fly each day, Mr Suncin said he typically followed a geographical pattern, tracing a line across the world map — starting in the Pacific before venturing up through Asia, across the Middle East and into Africa and beyond.

Despite his ever-expanding collection, there are many flags Mr Suncin chooses not to fly for practical reasons.

He said he had lost count of the number of flags stolen over the years, and had fallen into the habit of bringing them inside every evening.

"If you leave them out at night, they won’t be there in the morning."