Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Free Thoughts - The Flag Referendum and Red Peak

Free Thoughts - The Flag Referendum and Red Peak

ACT Leader David Seymour

The first round of the flag referendum is almost upon us, and at last there is some genuine interest in the process. But the flag generating all the interest is not on the shortlist.

We have a problem. And time is running out.

About a fortnight ago I started to notice the social media buzz about a completely overlooked option in the original longlist, the Red Peak flag. In that longlist it didn’t make any great impression, other than being a crisp, clean design – one that at least looked like a flag.

That it did not stand out reflects one of the problems with the whole flag process. When looking at the long list we were just looking at graphics, at designs without meaning. As somebody observed, it’s like judging singers by their photographs.

In a Herald item on the Red Peak flag, “decoding red peak”, Red Peak was presented with the red triangle as a traditional Maori meeting house, the white as Mt Taranaki, the black and blue as night and day. It’s a powerful image. It reads meaning from the design.

And in my experience when people see that interpretation of the flag, their attitude to the Red Peak concept shifts entirely. It’s a “boom, I get it”, moment.

The designer of Red Peak outlines the case for his flag here, in much wider terms than just this interpretation, noting the cultural and landscape references and the range of uses which flags have:http://aotearoaflag.tumblr.com/

Even more powerfully, take a look at the Red Peak of NZ website (http://redpeakof.nz/) to see how this design can have endless meaning read into it. For example, a summer version where the red is the pohutukawa blooming in summer, the white a sandy beach; another is composed of fragments of established kiwi art; another a red Sir Ed with his mountain behind. People are uploading their interpretations. They are ingenious, there is self-deprecating Kiwi wit at play, they are at times disrespectful – it makes you proud to be a Kiwi.

People are responding to a design rooted in today’s landscape and culture, not something reflecting our colonial past.

A petition was launched for Red Peak to be added to the shortlist. In a few short weeks that petition has gathered over 42,000 supporters. At last some interest, some engagement with the idea of a new flag.

Now that we have some real interest in the flag process, what needs to change?

There are two problem areas.

First, let's accept we need some better options. At least one, and probably two of the original four options offered seem to have little support at all. Two options are just variations on the same flag – they feature familiar icons, but there is little meaning or story.

Red Peak should be amongst the options. There may be other better options as well – we need to revise that short-list.

Second, let’s acknowledge we don’t have enough time. The first referendum runs through 20 November-11 December. The second is scheduled for 3-24 March next year.

Unless we have a change of tack, it is easy to see the country wearily decide to stick with the current flag in March next year.

What should we do?

The answer is take more time. Learn from the experience overseas. In South Africa it took two unsuccessful attempts similar to our own before a flag emerged that the public adopted with enthusiasm. A similar thing happened in Canada.

Another thing: listen to the younger generations. A new flag will probably be with us for at least a century, so it is younger New Zealanders who will be living with it. There is very likely a generational divide on the question of the flag, older generations having an understandable attachment to the current flag, younger generations wanting something that speaks to today’s New Zealand.

When do the generations get together? At Christmas.

So here’s a thought. We should revise the four options and delay the first referendum until early next year. We can then debate the flag options over the Christmas break, over our backyard BBQs. We can fly our preferred flag on the beach, from the bach, whatever. But let’s have a national conversation about our options, and do it at that one time of the year when families and the generations get together.

Politically, there is a way through this.

I urge the PM and Cabinet to accept we have a problem to be fixed. We just need to shift the timing and revise the shortlist. One of the PM’s great strengths is that he usually recognises when something is going wrong, and fixes it. He listens. The PM didn’t choose the shortlist, but he can fix it.

A change in the flag is not by any means the most important issue the government faces, but if it’s worth doing its worth doing well.

The Cabinet could invite the committee to reconsider the four options. Given the groundswell those options should include the Red Peak flag. The committee should be required to consult with the design and artistic community in New Zealand, or even appoint a sub-committee with those design skills to recommend two replacement flag options, from the current four.

Or more simply, Cabinet could just replace one of the four with Red Peak.

The revised set of options could be announced later this year, in say November

Then in February or March next year we would choose a preferred flag in the first round of referenda. And a few months later that can run off against the current flag, as planned.

Yes, it may be a little inconvenient legislatively. But these matters can be dealt with quickly if needs be, as Parliament did with my Rugby World Cup Bill. There has to be a way.

Let's have another crack at it. We will live with a new flag for a long time, so let’s get it right. We can debate the options over the summer break, and see what emerges from that conversation.

For sceptics, here are some closing questions:

How enthusiastic do you feel about the four designs the Flag Panel chose?

Could any of them be a country’s flag for 100 years?

What will be the outcome if one of the current designs runs off against the incumbent, and will that be worth $26m?

Has any other flag design generated the level of enthusiasm that Red Peak has?

David Seymour
ACT Party Leader


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Erebus Memorial In Parnell

Social media can be a wonderful tool for bringing people together in a common cause. It can also be a seedbed and spreader of mis-information on a community-wide scale. To which category do the protests against the siting of an Erebus memorial (to the 257 New Zealanders who died in that tragedy) in a secluded corner of a Parnell park happen to belong? IMO, it is clearly the latter, and the reasons for thinking so are explained below... More>>

 

Government: Border Exceptions Will See More Families Reunited

Hundreds more families who were separated by the border closure will be reunited under new border exceptions announced today, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said. More>>

ALSO:

National: Proposed Hate Speech Laws A Step Too Far

Reports of the Government’s proposed new hate speech laws go a step too far and risk sacrificing the freedoms New Zealanders enjoy, National’s Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges says. “The reforms are supposedly including protections to every ... More>>

ALSO:

Agriculture: Government To Phase Out Live Exports By Sea

The Government has announced that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high ... More>>

ALSO:


PM Ardern And PM Morrison: Commencement Of Two-Way Quarantine-Free Travel Between Australia And New Zealand

Joint Statement by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern Commencement of two-way quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand Today, Australia and New Zealand have fulfilled their commitment to establish two-way quarantine free ... More>>

Claire Breen: ACC’s Policy Of Not Covering Birth Injuries Is One More Sign The System Is Overdue For Reform

Claire Breen , University of Waikato Recent media coverage of women not being able to get treatment for birth injuries highlights yet another example of gender bias in healthcare in New Zealand. More>>

Police: Police Accept Findings Of IPCA Report Into Photographs Taken At Checkpoint

Police accept the findings of a report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) relating to photographs taken at a checkpoint in Northland. On November 16, 2019, Police set up a checkpoint down the road from a fight night event in Ruakaka ... More>>

ALSO:


 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels