[ POSTER ]
New Zealand has had three official flags over its relatively short history. The flag is the symbol of the government and people of New Zealand. Its royal blue background is reminiscent of the blue sea and clear sky surrounding us. The stars of the Southern Cross emphasise New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific Ocean. The Union Flag recognises our historical foundations as a former British Colony and Dominion.
1834–1840: The Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand
New Zealand’s first flag was designed by a missionary of the Church Missionary Society, sewn up by an Australian and voted on by 25 Maori Chiefs from the Far North. It was known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand in recognition of the title used by the same chiefs when they met again at Waitangi to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1835. To Maori the United Tribes Flag signified that Britain had recognised New Zealand as an independent nation with its own flag and acknowledged the mana of the Maori Chiefs.
1840–1902: The Union Jack
Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, the Union Jack replaced the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand as the official flag of New Zealand. The Lieutenant -Governor, William Hobson, forcibly removed the United Tribes Flag from the Bay of Islands. However, some Maori, including Hone Heke, believed that Maori should have the right to fly the United Tribes Flag alongside the Union Jack, in recognition of their equal status with the government. Heke’s repeated felling of the flagstaff at Kororareka (Russell) between 1844 and 1846 was a vivid rejection of the Union Jack, which was viewed as a symbol of British power over Maori.
Flags used during the New Zealand Wars
For many Maori in the 19th century, the Union Jack was frequently viewed as a potent symbol of Great Britain’s power in New Zealand. In the New Zealand Wars Maori parties, who sought to resist government forces often devised their own flags to show their independence and counteract the ‘mana’ (honour) of the Union Jack.
1902 – The current flag
At the end of the nineteenth century the blue ensign with the Southern Cross was a flag for maritime purposes only, but gradually it was used on land, even though the Union Jack remained the legal flag of New Zealand. With the outbreak of the South African War in 1899 and the associated patriotism and flag waving, the confusion surrounding the correct flag was an embarrassment to Premier Seddon. In 1902 Seddon instituted the blue ensign with the stars of the Southern Cross as the legal flag of New Zealand.
Arguments for change
For many years there have been arguments for and against a new national flag that better represents New Zealand. One point of view by Maori author Allan Duff: “It’s time our flag said something about ourselves, what we have become – not that we were once part of the British Empire, but a unique breed with unique qualities of national identity. In this new age of brands and symbolism let’s create our brand to symbolise what we kiwis are as a nation.” There have been many alternative flag designs proposed over the years. One heavily favoured design is based on the Silver Fern, a proud symbol used throughout New Zealand’s short history, from the early war years to most modern sporting occasions. But there are also many New Zealanders that want the current flag to remain as it is.