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A Lighthearted Look At Our National Nickname

Kea Versus Kiwi - A Lighthearted Look At Our National Nickname

by Kara-Leah Grant

There is a golden opportunity lurking on the horizon for each and every New Zealander proud to call Aotearoa home. This valuable opportunity will only arise when the decision finally comes to change our bland and archaic flag from its current and completely mistakable design – is it Australia? Is it New Zealand? No, it’s the United Kingdom, taking one last gasp of colonial breath…

The changing of our flag represents the re-branding opportunity of a lifetime. While other folk debate what our national anthem will be, and whether or not the fern really deserves to be our national plant, I’ve decided to investigate the connotations associated with our nickname, and kick start the campaign to shed the moniker Kiwi, instead plugging the imminently more suitable nickname of Kea.

After all, are New Zealanders easy prey? Or are they hardy survivors? Are we dowdy and round? Or colourful and sleek? Are we habitual creatures? Or we blessed with an unusual ability to learn and create new solutions to whatever problems we encounter?

As with the change of flag, the subject of our nickname change will ignite hours of debate. It was Australian soldiers who first bestowed us with the name, Kiwi, during World War I.

They must have been having a joke at our expense, but we never noticed, the name stuck, and now, thanks to those damn Aussies, everywhere in the world we go, people associate us with an odd looking, ground dwelling, nocturnal bird.

Which is not to say the Kiwi isn’t a very special creature. It is. In fact, the Kiwi is quite amazing in it’s own right. Incredibly territorial, Kiwi mate for life, and traverse huge areas of forest during the night, making their way easily through the blackness with their whiskers and acute sense of smell.

There is no reason for them not to retain their place of honour as our national bird as it’s a place that has quite rightly belonged to them ever since Tane, the god of the Forest, created them.

The Kiwi is the oldest of all Tane’s bird family, and as our elder sibling, is very protective of us. But that doesn’t mean we NZers should be named after them.

The Kea however, is a very different bird. The world’s only mountain parrot, Kea’s propensity to explore and manipulate objects within their environment has enabled them to survive massive environmental change, and thrive in their harsh mountain home.

Unlike most birds, they aren’t picky eaters, and will adapt their eating habits to whatever happens to be handy. Kea are highly individualistic creatures that love to play and they have evolved to a level of intelligence that rivals that of the most advanced monkeys.

Quite simply, the Kea is the brainiac of the bird world.

Short, easy to pronounce, catchy and recognizable, the word Kea has all the same attributes as the word Kiwi. There is the small problem of ninety years of tradition to break, but if we can change our flag, then we can change our nickname.

The ideal time to do it is all at once. Advertising companies call it ‘re-branding', and it takes millions and millions of dollars and copious amounts of advertising.

But, all this money will have to be spent on the flag anyway; it won’t cost much more to hitch the concept of Kea alongside it. All we need is a groundswell of support between now and then to convince our politicians that the average Joe & Jane on the street no longer wants the world to call them Kiwis, but instead, Keas.

So, Keas, unite, stand up and be counted - start the campaign today. Use the word Kea whenever and however you can. Send out bulk emails to everyone you know and tell them Kiwis are now called Keas.

Write letters to the editor. Print up stickers. Get your friends and family involved too. No more a dowdy, dull, round, dim creature that struggles to survive in the face of environmental change, but instead a curious, playful, intelligent, resourceful and cheeky creature that thrives on challenge and environmental change. Put like that, how can NZers resist? Long live the Kea.


Kara-Leah Grant
karaleahg @

© Scoop Media

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