2 Sep 2015

Flag change 'opening the gates of hell'

2:13 pm on 2 September 2015

The world's media have accused New Zealanders of being apathetic about the country's potential new flags. But not everyone is simply underwhelmed.

Incensed commentators came crawling out of the woodwork, after the four potential new flags were unveiled yesterday, and took to their keyboards - or, in the case of 'Foxtrot Uniform', to Photoshop - to express just how displeased they are by the options on offer.

Whanganui-based Mike Dickison's suggestion was similar, if equally inflammatory.

And on Facebook, one commentator feared that removing the Union Jack from our flag would make the TPP easier to achieve - while reducing the power of New Zealand's own laws. A chilling - if perhaps unlikely - outcome of changing the national teatowel-on-a-stick.

"A change of flag means not only that we have taken a major step to removing the due authority of the crown. It also means we take away the very power which enforces both the 1981 Bill of Rights Act (the closest thing NZ has to an entrenched Constitution) and the founding plank upon which the Treaty of Waitangi has meaning," they wrote.

"It does not matter if you're pro or anti monarchy, but if you take away the due authority of law (which includes our flag) you then open the gates of hell, or to be precise the means in which John Key can legally sign the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement)."

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The four potential new flags have some people in a flap. Photo: Supplied

And protests aren't just happening online: Teeny-tiny West Coast town Reefton is taking a stand in real life, with shops along the main street displaying the current flag proudly in protest of a change. Almost all of its 963 residents are against a change of flag - and their show of support for the status quo has attracted the attention of national media.

The Returned and Services Association have also taken the opportunity to speak out, with the launch of a "Fighting For Our Flag" campaign calling for supporters to "join the fight" and buy a $2 bumper sticker.

RSA bumper stickers in protest of the flag change.

RSA bumper stickers in protest of the flag change. Photo: Supplied

"The current flag reflects our Kiwi spirit and values, and has done so for more than a century," said RSA president BJ Clark.

He encouraged people to revolt in the first of the two referendums that will decide the future of the flag, by writing 'I vote for the current flag' on the first ballot paper, where voters will be asked to choose between the four new designs.

"These 'informal' votes are also counted, so it's a very good way to ensure the voices of those who are fighting for our flag are heard loud and clear at every stage of this process," he said.

But though many found the options lacklustre, there were still some people excited about the potential for change.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw took a rare political stand in favour of the flag change, telling TV3 that the silver fern is "what it means" to be a Kiwi.

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw, as drawn by Toby Morris. Photo: RNZ / Toby Morris

"Wearing the black jersey, I'm obviously biased in that regard. So if something like that was a change, I'd be more than happy with that."

And campaign chair of Change the NZ Flag Lewis Holden was delighted that opposition to the flag change had dropped from 70 percent in April to 53 percent in August.

"The final four designs to be put to New Zealanders in the first referendum are a historic step forward for New Zealand" said Mr Holden. "It's clear that the excitement is building."

So while some New Zealanders yesterday breathed a deeply uninterested sigh at the designs ("Three different ferns?") and wondered what was for lunch, for others, emotions over the flag change are mounting, though perhaps not quite in the way that John Key may have hoped.