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This month it’s decision time, as New Zealanders become the first citizens of any country in the world to be given the opportunity to vote in a binding referendum to choose their own flag.

Along with being the first country in the world to give women the vote, this is another first for our democracy.

This is an important choice for each of us to weigh up carefully about how we want our country to be seen on the world stage, and as we develop our own unique identity, I for one am tired of our flag being so often mistaken for Australia’s.

The referendum is a debate about the nationhood of New Zealand, about who we are and what we believe are the most appropriate symbols to represent us all as a diverse, confident and modern nation.

Personally, although I believe we should remain a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as our head of State, I don’t believe the Union Jack represents our identity as it once did when we were a colonial country often referred to as Fernland.

For me, the fern will always be our most unifying national symbol, universally known as the emblem of our sports teams, and I’d guarantee more people internationally recognise it than the current flag.

The curled fern frond marks the graves of our fallen soldiers overseas, on the very battlefields where our identity was first forged Gallipoli, the Somme and Passchendaele among others.

My grandfather fought at Gallipoli and in Egypt, and in World War 2 my father served in the Airforce and my uncle in the Navy. I’ve attended ANZAC day commemorations from a very early age. As members of our Devonport RSA, Grant and I have always respected our soldiers and we are very aware that many veterans, including our local President Chris Mullane, completely disagree with the National RSA – which continues to misrepresent and ignore the views of many members who are in favour of a flag change.

I’m aware of some disquiet over the $26 million cost of the referenda.

But most of that needed to be spent on postage, to ensure everyone can have their say. Voting is simple, the ballots will be delivered from March 3 and we have until the 21st to post them back or drop them into Postshops.

There are many myths out there about the flag change, ranging from simple misunderstandings to outright daft conspiracy theories. Everyone should try to get the best information they can and, if you’re interested in the campaign for change, I recommend visiting www.changetheflag.nz.

While I support changing the flag, mine is only one vote among millions, and I’d encourage everyone to make sure that they have their say and participate in this once in a lifetime chance to vote for change or stay with what we have.

The importance of having a global identity represented by the flag was brought home last month with the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland, completing years of negotiations.

The largest free-trade agreement in our history, it will bring $2.7 billion to the economy by 2030 and save New Zealand businesses more than $247 million a year in tariff reductions – money which can go towards growing our economy and hiring more Kiwi workers.

Tariffs on 95 per cent of our national exports will be removed, helping our local North Shore businesses get ahead.

As a small country a long way from important markets, we need to seek out every competitive advantage we can.

To be left out of an agreement with 36% of the world economy and blocking access to 800 million customers would be unthinkable. The TPPA is great for New Zealand, great for Auckland and great for the North Shore.

As always, if there are any issues I can help you with please contact Monika in my Takapuna office on 09 486 0005 to make an appointment.

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