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New Zealand - Proposals for a new flag

Last modified: 2014-11-29 by ian macdonald
Keywords: proposal: new zealand | leaf: fern | fern | southern cross | stars: southern cross | koru | korukouwhaiwhai | hundertwasser (friedensreich) |
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Calls for a new flag

Recently, there have been a number of calls for a change to the New Zealand flag. The most notable was in a document entitled "New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010", saying that a distinctive flag would be advisable for New Zealand in terms of visability in tourism. The alternative design proposed was the black flag with the white (technically silver) fern leaf. The government, however, has said that a change of flag is not a priority, and that a good deal more discussion would be required before any change could be made.
Thomas Robinson, 17 May 2001

Notes from a paper entitled "Past Attempts to Change the New Zealand Flag" by John Moody, New Zealand [mooXX]
(Note that these notes are somewhat abbreviated - I could only write so fast! It would be appreciated if any NZers (or others) could fill in any gaps in the chronology.)
[Some gaps filled using a version of the paper from Crux Australis [cxa] No. 66 (Vol 16/2)] Considerable discussion has arisen over the past 40 years surrounding the appropriateness of the New Zealand flag. Those who want change note that it is a colonial flag, not truly representative of an independent New Zealand, that it is too similar to the Australian flag, and that it does not represent the modern multicultural New Zealand. Those who wish to retain the present flag note that it reflects New Zealand's historical ties with UK, that there is no good alternative, and that New Zealanders have fought and died under it.
One of the first proposals was by Clark Titman and appeared in 1967. It showed a red-white-blue-white-red horizontally striped flag, in a ratio of approximately 3:1:8:1:3, with the white fimbriated red stars of the Southern Cross on the centre of the blue stripe. The chronology of change continues from there:

May 1973: Labour Party Congress - a call to change the flag was squashed.
Nov 1979: a proposal to place the silver fern on the fly appeared.
1980: several suggestions arose, including one from the government to consider a new flag, and a newspaper article calling for the same. One suggestion was to use the NZ-ZN in blue and red on a white field, from the flag that was used for the 1974 Commonwealth Games.
1982: D.A. Bayle introduced a blue-white-blue flag with a blue koru as a proposal.
March 1983: F. Hundertwasser introduced the green koru.
1984: a black and white koru with stars was proposed, and a black flag with four white fimbriated red stars was suggested from a newspaper competition.
Dec 1988: a modified Titman proposal with vertical stripes (almost identical to an Ausflag proposal in 1997 for Australia).
1989: at a Labour Party conference a call for a new flag was defeated 144:156.
1990: the winning flag in another newspaper competition was a blue-white-green horizontally striped flag, ratios about 8:2:3, with four white stars on the blue stripe in the fly. Another flag seen around 1990 was a blue-yellow-green horizontally striped flag in approximately 10:1:8 ratio.
1994: J. Park proposed a black flag, the UJ in the canton, with white kiwi and ferns in the fly.
1998: James Dignan initiated discussion leading to a white fern above a red diagonal on a black field. [James Dignan's design also feature the current southern cross on a blue background in the lower half of the flag. -Editor]
1999: above design modified to white fern on black. [Dignan's design was not modified. -Editor]
May 2000: proposed designs still appearing, including black-white-green tricolour, with four gold stars and a koru.
March 2014: speech by Prime Minister John Key on the future referendum on the New Zealand flag can be read here:

The current situation (July 2001) is that change is being resisted. Decals proclaiming "Keep it this way" are seen on cars. By NZ law, a 65% majority is needed to change the flag, and a recent bill was lost. Opinion polls (1999) showed that there was 24% in favour of change, and 64% opposed, but when presented with the white fern on black, these numbers changed to 33% in favour of the fern, 60% opposed.
The silver fern is increasingly being seen on the streets. It was first used by the All Blacks rugby team, and is a native species. One of its earliest uses as a New Zealand emblem was on headstones of WW1 servicemen.
Rob Raeside, 1 August 2001

The most common designs are two variants of the black fern on white - one of them basically the same as the one used by supporters of the All Blacks and one the stylised fern promoted by (the latter seems to be slowly falling out of favour, probably as much as anything because the people involved seem, erm, somehwhat single-minded in their approach, shall we say). The third best-known alternative design is the "Koru" flag of Hundertwasser, though that's seen more as a complementary alternative flag than as a replacement for the current one.
James Dignan, 19 May 2006

On 9 February 2014, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key unexpectedly suggested changing the design of the country's national flag.
Howard J. Wilk, 10 February 2014

New Zealand will be holding a general election on September 20th, and on Wednesday 3rd of September, the Labour Party's Internal Affairs Spokesman Trevor Mallard announced "that Labour would review the design of the New Zealand flag, with the party saying "The time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public.""

 So what this is saying is that whatever the outcome of the election both major parties are now in favour of changing New Zealand's flag. Prime Minister John Key wants a referendum held on the matter before the next general election to be held by 2017. It looks as though New Zealand will follow Canada and South Africa down the path of flag change.
John Moody, 6 September 2014

The New Zealand Prime Minister who was re-elected on Saturday announced yesterday that "I'd like to complete the whole process next year. I don't think it's one of those things we want to hang around." The debate will be decided by referendum and Key has already started making the case for change, labeling the current design of a Union Jack and Southern cross "A relic from New Zealand's colonial past."

The Returned and Services Association has already lined up against any change. The momentum to change the New Zealand flag continues to speed up with backing now by the two major political parties in New Zealand, National and Labour but also our Prime Minister and Governor General. For a nation's flag to change it needs a champion, here we have it in our Prime Minister John Key our version of Canada's Lester Pearson.
John Moody, 22 September 2014

The momentum to change the New Zealand Flag continues apace. The first of two referendums on changing New Zealand's flag could be held as early as next year, with a decision in early 2016, according to press reports this week (Thursday) in the New Zealand media. Prime Minister John Key addressed the Returned and Services national conference on Wednesday "to lay his case for a new New Zealand ensign." The Returned and Services Association has already come out in opposition to adopting a new flag for New Zealand. John Key had softened his preference for a Silver Fern on a black background saying, "it was unlikely to be a popular option." He had been swayed more toward a design by Kyle Lockwood that retained the colours of New Zealand's current flag with a Silver Fern and Southern Cross.

This weekend we saw the flag being debated on the current affairs programme, The Nation on Television Three with two advocates debating the pros and cons of flag change, one advocate being for change the other against. You can view this programme on demand if you type in

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was interviewed by the British media this week telling them that "his desire to remove the Union Jack from the flag is more rebranding than an insult." This was reported in this morning's Sunday Star Times. He went onto say, "We are no longer the tiny little offshoot of Britain in the South Pacific. The thing is it should sort of scream 'New Zealandness'. I want to build greater confidence in and more overt signs of patriotism."
John Moody, 18 October 2014

Details of the referendum to decide whether New Zealanders want to retain the current New Zealand Flag or adopt a completely new design were announced yesterday by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. A flag consideration committee panel would be set up consisting of a group of respected New Zealanders who would then seek submissions from the public on new flag designs and suggestions. Two binding referendums would then be held, one to be held November-December 2015 for voters to pick their favourite alternative flag design, the second to be held in April 2016 for a run off between the current flag and the winning alternative flag.

Controversy has surrounded the referendum process which has been costed at N.Z. $ 25.7 million with critics saying this money could be better spent on other things. Interviewed on New Zealand Television last night New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that Canada was his inspiration in trying to get the New Zealand flag changed. The urrent debate to get New Zealand's flag changed and the upcoming referendums to decide whether it is changed or not is especially topical with next years Congress of Vexillology being held in Sydney, Australia, New Zealand's near neighbour.
John Moody, 29 October 2014

 John Key raises the flag debate whenever there are more important political policies he wishes to distract the public from - it has been a regular smokescreen of his for the last six years. Recent polls have shows that the majority of New Zealanders do not want the flag to be changed, and are, for the most part, fed up with the constant debate, so he has initiated this pair of referenda to ensure they stay at the top of the nation's public political focus. Key, however, is keen to have a new flag, and sees it as a potential "legacy to the nation". Presenting this as a pair of referenda has its critics - not least because there have been at least two citizens-initiated referenda during Key's premiership, the results of both of which his government has ignored. Another major criticism is that half the cost could potentially be saved if the order of the referenda was reversed. What is the point of deciding an alternative design (as decided in the first referendum) if the public wish to keep the present flag (as decided in the second)? There is only one purpose - by deciding on a design in the first, it will focus the public's attention on the new design and make it familiar to them, swaying them towards that in the second referendum.
James Dignan, 29 October 2014

Silver Fern

[ Fern leaf proposal ] image by Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

By reading the results of this poll [organized by FlagWire], it appear that people voting in favour of a new flag for New Zealand often mentioned the Black flag with the silver fern present on the rugby team (All Blacks) jersey.
Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

Recently, there have been a number of calls for a change to the New Zealand flag. The most notable was in a document entitled "New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010", saying that a distinctive flag would be advisable for New Zealand in terms of visability in tourism. The alternative design proposed was the one already mentioned [above], being the black flag with the white (technically silver) fern leaf. The government, however, has said that a change of flag is not a priority, and that a good deal more discussion would be required before any change could be made.
Thomas Robinson, 17 May 2001

Stylised Silver Fern

[ Sylised fern leaf proposal ] image by António Martins 26 April 2006

This design has been actively promoted by the people behind NzFlag.COM, as seen at It is a black 1:2 flag with a white highly stylized fern frond on it, lacking the characteristic indentations.
António Martins, 26 April 2006

Clark Titman's proposal

From Past Attempts to Change the New Zealand Flag [mooXX] by John Moody, New Zealand: One of the first proposals was by Clark Titman and appeared in 1967. It showed a red-white-blue-white-red horizontally striped flag, in a ratio of approximately 3:1:8:1:3, with the white fimbriated red stars of the Southern Cross on the centre of the blue stripe.
Rob Raeside, 1 August 2001

1988 modification

[ 1988 version of Titman's proposal ] image by António Martins, 26 April 2006

I note that this flag could be produced by cutting an existing NZ flag and stitching plain white and red bunting to it, which is an additional advantage.
António Martins, 26 April 2006

Koru flag

[ Koru flag ] image by Hamish Low, 9 December 2004

This is the well known Koru flag, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lives in the Far North of NZ. The Hundertwasser flag (I have had one for about 14 years) is 1:2 height to width and, though often appear creamy, were produced white. Technically this is not a Maori flag, as you will note although the koru is a Maori motif, the flag was designed by an Austrian and does not have a direct Maori cultural significance. As far as I know the Hundertwasser flag has been around since the 1970’s — my first positive memories of it would have been in the early 1980’s but believe I first saw it in about 1979. (I’ve had mine since about 1984.)
John Harrison, 11 September 1998

This has gained considerable popularity in the northern North Island (where most of the Maori population is found). It also has a reasonable following among New Zealand whites, or pakeha as they are called in Maori, especially with alternative lifestylers. The flag is based (roughly) on a type of Maori pattern known as koru, or korukouwhaiwhai, which has flowing spirals representing young fern leaves. Because of this, the flag is green and white (to represent the fern and sky), rather than the traditional Maori colours of white, black and red. The flag is divided diagonally (party per bend sinister), starting at the bottom corner by the flagpole, with white over green. However, as it approaches the top on the fly side, the green curls over into a spiral shape. The green is a deep yellowish leafy green, rather than the rich green normally seen on flags. The flag also contains a black stripe at the hoist.
James Dignan

This flag is likely to be seen fluttering from the mast stays of the yacht of an aging hippy, or from a rough stake in the ground next to a meditation retreat in the “bush” (NZ for forest). The flag is by no means official or endorsed, and was only one (foreign) man’s idea for a flag, but it is well recognised and embraced by a percentage of New Zealanders who identify with it. Alternative lifestyle has long ago passed as being the “in thing” so that percentage would be likely to be declining.
John Harrison, 15 September 1998

The sixth and last flag of UNESCO's Six Flags of Tolerance series is "Harmony and Evolution", also by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It is the same design as his 1983 Koru flag, with green changed to blue.
António Martins, 17 June 2007

As far as I know, the Koru flag was never officially proposed as an alternative to the NZ flag, it just gained support during the "old hippies becoming alternative lifestyler" crowd and gathered momentum from there. However, it's probably the most widely-known alternative NZ flag design (excluding the sport-supporter's white fern on black) and is still easily purchased here. I actually have one myself, though I don't fly it, mainly because I don't like the design (the "green and white" is actually a muddy sage green and off-cream).
James Dignan, 18 June 2007

Southern Cross design (Neil Anderson)

[ Southern Cross designs ] image by Neil Anderson, 6 June 2014

This proposal emphasises New Zealand’s location as a green land at the bottom of a blue ocean, and is the design I like the most of the four. It doesn’t use the fern, but retains the traditional four-star Southern Cross used at present. The flag consists of three uneven horizontal stripes, ratio (approx) 14:1:5, of dark or mid-blue, gold and green, with the four stars of the southern cross in white (I’ve also seen it with the white and gold reversed, i.e., stars gold, stripe white).
James Dignan

From the flag's website (


The deep blue represents the sky (kio o te rangi), the sea (te ao o te moana), and the lakes and rivers. The white band is the cloud (te ao), and the snow and ice of the mountains. The forests and pastures of the land (te whenua) are represented in deep green.

He Kara incorporates four stars of the Southern Cross (Te Kaahui a Maahutonga) in a symmetric configuration as a national device. In the context of He Kara, the Southern Cross is intended to represent the four main island groups of Aotearoa New Zealand, called North, South, Stewart and the Chathams.

The stars are gold, rendered in bright yellow, to represent a national aspiration for excellence in all endeavours.

Additionally, the stars (at the point of the compass) signify both secular and spiritual elements of our heritage - the navigational skills of early Maori and Pakeha voyagers, the varied origins of more recent migrants, and the broad dimensions of our respective spiritual traditions.

In combination, the elements of He Kara are intended to suggest the union of Rangi and Papa, ecological harmony, hope for the future, enlightenment and equity.

He Kara Mo Aotearoa New Zealand is advanced as a candidate to succeed the National Flag of New Zealand.
A separate column bears the following information:
"He Kara has been designed to represent our country - Aotearoa - the Land of the Long White Cloud

He Kara Mo Aotearoa New Zealand has been developed from an original 1982 concept by Neil Anderson, with assistance from David Boyd (graphic design) and Ms Waerete Norman (translation).
All enquiries to...
(c) T N D Anderson 1982 - 2014"

The flag is then depicted as a 1:2 flag with at the bottom a dark green stripe, 1/4th of the height of the hoist in width, above that a white stripe 1/8th of the height of the hoist in width, and above that a really dark blue stripe for the rest of the height of the flag. Placed on the blue, horizontally centred, is a Southern Cross of four five-pointed stars, which counter to the description is coloured dark yellow.

No good clues for the size or placement of the stars of the Southern Cross are apparent, apart from the cross being symmetrical and horizontally centred. I made the stars 1/15th of the height of the hoist in height. The top star I've placed with the line through the points that are horizontally farthest away from each other being 1/8th of the height of the hoist away from the top edge, horizontally centred. The two stars at the same height I placed a 1/4th of the height of the hoist apart, horizontally centred, with the points that are closest to the top edge 1/4th of the height of the hoist away from that top edge. The bottom edge I placed horizontally and vertically centred. Together they look similar to the stars in the original image.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 9 June 2014

James Dignan's proposal

[Proposal by James Dignan] image by James Dignan, contributed 17 Jul 2006

James Dignan's design of a white fern on black in the upper hoist, and the red, fimbriated white four-star southern cross on blue in the lower fly, separated by a white fimbriated red diagonal stripe, appeared in an article in The New Zealand Herald on 9 May 2002.
Jonathan Dixon, 17 July 2006

Sunday Star Times article (20 Dec 2009)

The New Zealand newspaper "Sunday Star Times" has today published an article in which several new flag design proposals have been created by various artists and graphic designers. The article appears at: Unfortunately the actual designs are not shown on the website.
Ralph Kelly, 20 December 2009

I accessed the article in question through Press Display. Four proposals are shown in the article.

The first one is by Dick Frizzell: A central blue panel bearing the white bordered red stars of the Southern Cross, the panel is flanked by two red and two white narrow stripes on either side.

The second proposal is by John Ansell and consists of a white fern against a black field.

[Proposal by Billy Apple] image by Eugene Ipavec, 13 January 2010

The third proposal is by Billy Apple and has a black field with a grey canton. Black covers 86 % of the area and grey 14 %, representing the share of the "Pakeha" and the Maori in the New Zealand population.

[Proposal by Base Two] image by Eugene Ipavec, 13 January 2010

The fourth proposal is by the company Base Two. This is a white field with a graphic arrangement in red and blue suggesting the letters NZ. The N is made by setting two red triangles against the white, the Z by two blue ones. The blue triangle closest to the fly contains the stars of the southern cross (the stars seem to be outlined in white with the inside blue).
Jan Oskar Engene, 20 December 2009

Ian Murphy proposal

[Proposal by Ian Murphy] image by Ian Murphy, 8 November 2013

 I have a new design for an alternative New Zealand flag and it is attached. It is designed by me, Ian Murphy of Hamilton, NZ. The colours and stars are aimed to match the existing flag, although the blue would look great a slightly darker shade. The white lines represent the Land of the Long White Cloud, being the northern and southern main islands and narrower lines our smaller islands. The silver fern is shown within. The design is instantly identified as being New Zealand and I feel will appeal to all, which is what we need in a new design.
Ian Murphy, 8 November 2013

Richard Aslett's proposal

[Proposal by Richard Aslett] image by Richard Aslett, 27 January 2014

 I am an established New Zealand Artist/Musician/Politician (Google - Richard Aslett - NZ) and have attached my, now well known, proposal named "eNZign" - for a "New" New Zealand Flag.

"eNZign" came about, due to every year (on Waitangi day, the 6th of Feb) the debate would (and still does!) arise again and again about our National Flag. The idea was to come up with a design that would incorporate and suit the majority of people now living in New Zealand, introducing much needed colour (to the drab designs doing the rounds), drawing on images from the past, yet combining them with a totally fresh approach, and presenting them in a modern, new millennium, fashion. My original design was painted onto canvas, and has long since been sold, yet I still have rights to the design and produce postcards with the image, with an explanation on the back. These are very very popular, and fly out of the door as quickly as I can get them printed!

Please find below, a worded description of the design and its meaning, which was displayed with the original painting, and is now printed on the back of the postcards.

The “eNZign” Flag features three familiar insignia designs; the traditional "Southern Cross" stars, the more recent Tino Rangatiratanga, and the ever popular "sporting" NZ Silver Fern; yet also incorporates a rainbow of colours to represent all genders, religious, political, and sexual orientations, plus
the new & many differing races & cultures of peoples now inhabiting this Pacific paradise, Godzone, NZ, Aotearoa… all combined in one uniting, binding, Koru frond.
Richard Aslett, 27 January 2014

David Hume's proposal

[Proposal by David Hume] image by David Hume, 29 July 2014

 This proposal is unique, simple, and hits many of the points that are being looked for. Here is the link to my submission (and explanation):

"New Zealand is known for its European and Maori cultural expressions; its varied beautiful landscapes of mountains, fjords, forests, plains, beaches, and thermal zones; and its welcoming and friendly people and their efforts to bring the best quality to exported products and ideas. With the recent suggestions a new flag will inevitably be sought for the country, here is a strong, relevant, and elegant submission for a more contemporary design.

Any new flag should be bold and distinctly represent the country, ideally giving a view on how the world already sees New Zealand. People upon seeing the flag should say, "This is New Zealand." Any symbolism present must be suitable, lasting, and admired both in New Zealand and around the world.

The flag has a width twice the length of its height. (i.e. 2:1) It consists of three horizontal areas. The top fifth is green with black on its lower fifth. The bottom fifth is silver with black on its upper fifth. The middle three fifths is black, with a hoist-side black, stylized decoration of young ponga fronds extending to half the flag's width. The fronds have a white outline to contrast from the black background and the design is reversed along the horizontal to produce symmetry.

Each of the colours and elements has significance to New Zealand. The top band of green represents verdant nature. The silver band underlying the whole exemplifies the country's innovative drive. Also, the green above and silver below traits are akin to the silverfern, a popular flora symbol for the country. The black in the flag's center means solidarity; a uniting virtue epitomized by dedication and hard work. This colour and its essence are both presented amongst the country's sports branding. The koru decoration (i.e. the young ponga fronds) symbolizes new life, growth, strength, and peace. The selection of white for the koru outline represents harmony, and when mixed with the surrounding elements in elegant curves, combines with, weaves together, and reinforces the themes.

The design looks unique amongst the flags of nations. It is easily visually recognizable."

David Hume, 29 July 2014

John Key's proposal

[Proposal promoted by John Key] image by Kyle Lockwood, 25 October 2014


John Key will call a referendum on changing the NZ flag in 2015.
Flag description:
A stylised Silver Fern, a New Zealand icon for well over 100 years, has been worn proudly by many generations of New Zealanders, from sports people, to military personnel and fire-fighters.

The silver fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa's peaceful multicultural society, a single fern leaf spreading upwards represents that we are all New Zealanders - one people - growing onward into the future.

The Southern Cross, a defining element in the present New Zealand Flag, represents our geographic location in the antipodes. The Southern Cross is visible throughout the year in the southern night skies. It has been used as a navigational aid for centuries and it helped guide early settlers to our islands. Each star is also representative of the major island groups of New Zealand - North Island, South Island, Stewart Island, and the Chatham Islands.

Red, is a significant colour to the NZ Māori, and is featured in the present NZ flag. Red also represents the sacrifice made by all New Zealanders during wartime.
White a colour featured in the present New Zealand flag, white represents Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud, The official Māori name for New Zealand. The colour also represents peace.
Blue a prominent colour in the present New Zealand flag, represents the ocean, that surrounds our island nation, over which all New Zealanders, or their ancestors, crossed to get to New Zealand.
Kyle Lockwood, 25 October 2014