Column: Channel Magazine June 2014 – Flag an important choice for all

North Shore news
Monday, June 22, 2015

Being fortunate enough to live on the North Shore, many of us see the twin giant New Zealand flags flying over the harbour bridge every time we inch our way across over to the “dark side”.

Our national flag is one of the more visible symbols which define us on the world stage – whether it is flying high from the top of a bridge, over an Olympic podium or at the United Nations.

We’ve had three flags so far in our history, and the current design has served us well for more than a century.

After 100 years, it’s seems as good a time as any for us all to have a discussion about whether or not we want to stay with what we have or to change the flag and redefine how we want the world to see us.

The upcoming flag referendum and the Flag Consideration Panel campaign launched last month in the run-up to it gives us that opportunity.

Prime Minister John Key says he believes now is the right time for us all to consider changing the current design to one that better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation.

When Canada changed its flag back in the 1960s it generated a very heated debate. But ultimately the design the Canadians selected has become famous, and the red maple leaf is now instantly recognisable around the world as their unique national symbol.

Here in NZ we are spoilt for choice with our own symbols- the Silver Fern, the unfurling koru, the kiwi and the four stars of the Southern Cross.

Last year, the Depot Artspace in Devonport curated “Flag It”, an exhibition giving visitors the chance to come up with their own flag design, which generated lively conversations as well as some 50 potential flags.

In October, I will be hosting that exhibition at Parliament along with the top 4 flags that have been selected by the independent Flag Consideration Committee, a group of distinguished New Zealanders from all walks of life.

Be reassured, the final decision will not be determined by politicians but by the people of New Zealand in an inclusive process.

Until July 16, we all have the opportunity to suggest a new design to the panel and after that, the Flag Committee will narrow down the field and we will be asked to rank the four selected designs in the first referendum vote, which will be held between 20 November and 11 December this year.

The most preferred alternative will then be put up for a vote against the current flag in March next year – and if the majority of New Zealanders don’t want a change, there won’t be one.

You can find out more about the referendum – and view the impressive range of designs which have already been suggested – at flag.govt.nz.

A few weeks ago in Parliament it was great to see a young North Shore student, Joshua Hansen, take out the top honours in this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence at the NZQA Top Scholar Awards.

A former pupil at Westlake Boy’s High School, Joshua received an impressive seven awards, including five Outstanding Scholarships and a Top Subject award.

He’s now studying at Victoria University in Wellington and was among several other young people from the North Shore acknowledged for their academic prowess at the ceremony.

It’s great to see young people from our part of the world receiving national recognition, as it is our more seasoned campaigners – and congratulations for well-deserved honours to Gary Monk and David Poppelwell for their service to our community.

As always if there are any particular issues I can help you with please contact Monika in my office on 09 486 0005 to make an appointment time to see me and I’d be interested to hear your views on the flag.