Asia Minute: Choosing New Zealand’s Flag of the Future

Aug 11, 2015

Credit Nick Kean / Flickr

Political attention in the United States is already centered on next year’s presidential election.  But a national vote coming next year in New Zealand has a different focus—and new developments this week. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

New Zealanders are getting a chance to change their national flag.

The one in use since 1902 features the British Union Jack in the upper left hand corner, with four red stars representing the Southern Cross constellation on a blue background.

Some critics say the Union Jack is a throwback to colonial days. Others say New Zealand’s flag just looks too much like Australia’s.

More than ten-thousand suggestions came in on line.

There was the ice cream cone flag (the dairy industry is crucial for New Zealand’s economy). Other ideas featured sheep and kiwis.

This week the “National Flag Consideration Panel” narrowed the field to 40 options. Sheep, kiwis, and ice cream all failed to make the cut. Many of the designs still in the mix feature a silver fern, common in Maori culture and familiar to sports fans of New Zealand’s national rugby or soccer teams.

The panel will cut down the options to a final four, and those candidates will be voted on next month in a national referendum. Then in March, another national referendum will pit the winner against the current flag—to decide the flag of the future.

There have been some complaints about the cost of all of this…which the government estimates at a little more than 17 million U.S. dollars.