25 Sep 2015

Has Red Peak lost its cool?

5:29 pm on 25 September 2015

Due, at least in part, to a well-coordinated social media campaign, Red Peak will be on the ballot for the flag referendum beginning in November.

Red Peak NZ Flag

Photo: Facebook / Red Peak NZ Flag

It has been widely praised and promoted on social media, with over 22,000 liking a Facebook page dedicated to the design.

And, since the announcement of the final four flags, it has regularly trended on Twitter, with mentions and memes created about it.

Some of the country's younger MPs were open about their support for the "alternative" design.

Its inclusion in the referendum was also met with celebration across both social media platforms.

However, debate over its inclusion led to some bitter exchanges in the house. Labour MP Clare Curran called the process a "colossal waste of NZ taxpayers' time".

New Zealand First MP Denis O'Rourke told MPs the Red Peak design bore an uncanny resemblance to Nazi insignia on sentry boxes in World War II.

"People will make mischief of it, and we will be ridiculed overseas and in exactly that sort of way if New Zealand was to adopt that kind of awful monstrosity of a design for the New Zealand flag."

But supporters of the design were quick to dismiss the concerns.

Flag Consideration Panel chair John Burrows told Radio New Zealand the selection process had not been usurped by Red Peak.

"We were asked to produce four flags, and to consult people before doing so… Parliament as the lawmaker of the country, our democratic lawmaker, can change or add anything it wishes."

Now that Red Peak is no longer outside of the system and is on the ballot for the first referendum, in which people will choose between the five alternatives, will it lose its hipster cred?

Designer and vocal Red Peak supporter Thomas Le Bas doesn't think so.

"The people that are taking it on are younger generations, that probably more align with 'hipsterism,' you could say," he said.

"But I think the idea is that it's something that everyone can take a liking to. It is showing something that is modern and forward thinking and the other four flags don't show that."

The idea is to add more choice, Mr Le Bas said.

"That's kind of what Red Peak is representing more than anything at the moment. Whether it gets through or not, is kind of irrelevant."

While 51,000 people signing a petition is still only a very small proportion of the whole electorate, it is testament to the power that social media can have.

Red Peak NZ Flag

Photo: SUPPLIED / Rick Davidson

Petition organiser Rowan Simpson said he could never have predicted the response to the blog post he wrote.

"It deserves to be in the first referendum," he said in a statement, "and I'm delighted that the politicians have worked out a way to make that happen.

"I'd obviously love to see this become the flag we ultimately choose to replace the current design, but that is now up to all New Zealanders to vote on. It's fantastic that we all now have the choice."

"I think in a way the party has kind of just started," Mr Le Bas added. "Now that it's in there, the conversation will change."

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