Ka hao te Rakatahi
Considering a flag change isn’t a waste of time
Nā Nuku Tau
Before I begin, I’ll admit that while I’m not 100 per cent either way, I do lean toward a flag change. Simply put, I believe the current flag is anachronistic, has little representation of any of New Zealand’s other races (mainly Māori), is far too similar to Australia’s, and is not the most attractive or stirring flag. I can also certainly see why many want to keep it. I respect the RSA’s case and the fact that many just don’t see the need. I will endeavour to keep bias from my argument and so, with that in mind, let’s begin.
Firstly, the current referendum is not a “John Key vanity project” or a distraction from the TPPA. It’s an issue that has been talked about and hotly debated in New Zealand for many years. Conversation was ignited in 1979 by National MP Allan Highet and was carried on by the likes of past PM Jenny Shipley and Mana Motuhake leader Matiu Rata in the 90s. Labour MP Charles Chauvel finally laid the groundwork for a referendum in 2010. It’s clear to me therefore that democratically elected MPs across the board have felt the issue must be addressed. Whatever government is elected, the flag issue is always raised.
Secondly, New Zealand is, a democracy therefore on an issue that affects us all, every voice must be heard and accounted for. If a large portion of the country feels the flag needs to be changed – and they do – then we need to instigate a democratic way that every voice can be heard, and a decision can be made accordingly. If that means a $27.5 million referendum, then so be it. My view is that for all its faults, the Key government isn’t bad with money. If we couldn’t afford it, it wouldn’t be happening.
Thirdly, New Zealand is a new country. We are still finding our feet and figuring out what is important to us. Who are we today? Even if we don’t change the flag, let’s look at what exactly it means to us and why we prefer what we have over any other option. Many former English colonial outposts – like New Zealand used to be – have changed their flags. Kenya, Canada, Singapore, India, Samoa, and many others changed their flags to something they felt better represented them as a people. If we do this, then great! Let’s find out what the majority of us feel represents us best as a people. If we don’t, then let’s see and hear why we think our current flag is the best option. Whatever happens in this referendum, it will certainly give us a window into ourselves and a little more insight into how we really feel about our national identity.
Sixteen-year-old Nuku Tau (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri) is a Year 12 student at St Thomas of Canterbury College.