Heritage does not have an expiry date

I am not in favour of changing the flag at this time, although it must be said there are many perfectly valid arguments for changing the flag. There is the argument that it is too similar to Australia’s – this is true, and apparently it’s the smaller country’s duty to deal to that. There’s the argument that New Zealanders aren’t showering their shop windows and front decks with the thing like in America – that is true also.However, an argument that is used all too frequently without any obvious thought behind it is the belief that the flag is simply “too old”.

Excuse me?

It would be an interesting experiment to see how that case would fly in the United States in regards to their flag which, aside from the added stars over the years, has remained the same since 1777.

New Zealand’s flag, on the other hand, is a much later edition to the world. It’s been around since 1902, meaning there are still people alive today born before the current flag was adopted as ours. It’s been around all my life, for all my parent’s lives, for all my grandparent’s lives and was around for all my great grandparent’s lives. It’s the only flag we have ever known and it never even occurred to me there was a ‘problem’ with it before I became familiar with the flag debate. In my opinion it’s a big non-issue, and, of greater shame, the referendum is an unsavory waste of taxpayer money. But that’s beside the point.

Apparently many Kiwis have been struggling to find ‘meaning’ in the current flag, of which has been flown above our town halls, churches, war memorials and schoolyards for the past 113 years.

There exists this poem Our Flag which attempts to explain the significance of the flag to us.

And it has perhaps been the words of veterans which have swayed me in this debate the most, and I’ve heard from a few this year – the 100th anniversary of World War 1. The Returned Service Mens’ Association (RSA) has been the loudest critic of the proposed flag change, and the mandatory referendum process, and have started a “Fighting for our flag” campaign. The campaign includes encouraging New Zealanders to fly the current flag wherever possible and to purchase “Fighting for our flag” bumperstickers from local RSA offices.

It is the arguments I’ve heard from those servicemen which has solidified my opinion. The flag doesn’t actually bother me too much, but it clearly bothers our veterans a great deal, and I think we ought to be respectful of their opinions. If a flag change is to come, it can surely wait till after the 100 year anniversary of the great war.

There are plenty of reasonable arguments for a flag change. “It’s old” isn’t one of them. Heritage doesn’t have an expiry date. If it did, we’d probably change the name of our country already. What is the meaning of ‘New Zealand’ other than a reminder some European explorer, hundreds of years ago, thought it embodied likeness to the similarly named province in the Netherlands?

It’s a silly argument. Flags are supposed to be historic. They’re supposed to be outdated. That’s actually a significant point in favour of retaining the current flag. ‘Old’ does not conclusively  equal ‘bad’ and conserving some history is in fact good!

Furthermore, the four alternatives unveiled today mean nothing to me either. What they all appear to be is an easy to trademark symbol, and its clear a great motivation for Key in changing the flag has been to re-market New Zealand with an easy to recognise symbol. Hence why one of his major arguments was a flag change would make the country “billions”. What that shows is Key’s inspiration to change the flag has been largely soulless.

Bennett Morgan.
PS: My statement regarding the four proposed flag changes this afternoon:

Here’s my pitch to you, New Zealand.
Let’s consider, even if you are for changing the flag (and there are many reasonable arguments to back up this position) is it really time to change it now?

In the years to come (and supposing the flag is changed now) when you look at the top of a flag pole, do you really want to be reminded of how it got there, and more importantly WHO got it there?

If we change the flag in the future, let it not be because a legacy-lacking Prime Minister wanted an ego boost, and let it not be the result of the most botched-up and financially illogical referendums in our life time.

Whatever your position, let’s vote to keep our flag now and spend more time and energy focusing on the real issues facing our country, some of which are threatening our economy and communities.

In the future, when we inevitability discuss the flag issue again; let’s make sure it’s mature. Let’s make sure we have dealt to the major problems in our country first. Let’s make sure we get the referendum in the right order, and, most importantly, let’s make sure its about New Zealanders – not a ego-driven multimillionaire ‘Prime Minister’.


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