Summer is a time for relaxation, outdoor activities, and spending time with friends and family. But in New Zealand, this summer was a time for — possibly — selecting a new national flag.
Over the last fifty years, there have been a number of calls to change the flag. Advocates have maintained that the current flag, adopted in 1902, is anachronistic, resembles the Australian flag too closely, and does not adequately represent New Zealanders of non-British heritage.
In 2014, Prime Minister John Key announced that if his party was re-elected, a flag referendum would take place. The steps for the process were unveiled shortly after:
1. The Flag Consideration Panel, a group of politically and demographically diverse New Zealanders, was appointed in 2014.
2. From May through July of 2015, the Panel invited New Zealanders to share thoughts on their national values. Their responses, and a resulting “word cloud,” can be viewed below.
3. During this period, the Panel also invited flag designs via an online submission process. They received 10,292 designs.
4. On August 10, 2015, the Panel unveiled a “long list” of 40 finalists, available for viewing and social media sharing here.
5. This week, the Panel narrowed the list to four flags (see below).
6. In late November through early December, New Zealanders will choose the top finalist in a postal referendum.
7. In March, 2016, there will be a second postal referendum, in which New Zealanders will choose whether to adopt the top finalist, or to keep their current flag.
This project has not been without controversy. Some flag designs have been harshly critiqued, and many feel that the cost associated with the entire process is excessive. Nevertheless, the process of potentially changing a century-old symbol has offered interesting, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime, perspectives on national identity.
To keep up-to-date with the process, and for more information, consult the official website for the New Zealand Flag Consideration Project.
By Erin Fitzgerald, International Product Manager, Living Abroad