5 Nov 2015

The great New Zealand flag debate

4:48 pm on 5 November 2015

Will the All Blacks or the Royals influence how you vote in the flag referendum?


Will the All Blacks or the Royals influence how you vote in the flag referendum?

Posted by The Wireless NZ on Wednesday, 4 November 2015

This week, the homecoming of New Zealand’s men of the moment just happened to coincide with a high profile visit from two vintage royals: Charles and Camilla. If you are both a royalist and a rugby fan, it could well have been the sweet spot of your year.

It could, however, also spell an identity crisis of sorts when it comes to how New Zealand will vote in the flag referendum, say those well-placed to comment.

According to Massey University researcher Malcolm Mulholland, who sits on the Flag Consideration Panel, the two happenings will have an impact, because people associate the silver fern with the All Blacks and the Union Jack with the royals.

Although, “More people perhaps, in today’s age, feel more connected to the All Blacks than the Royal family.”

None of the five new flag contenders feature the Union Jack, but three feature the silver fern, which has adorned the chest of All Blacks since the 1890s and is a key player in our national iconography.

On the flipside, the royal visit could stir affection for the motherland, Green Party co-leader James Shaw told RNZ: “You’d assume a royal visit would lead to a resurgence of Union Jack loyalty.”

So is a royal visit so close to the referendum a coincidence, some kind of scheme, or a John Key slip-up? The Minister in charge of the Flag Referendum, Bill English, has declined to be interviewed about the timing of Charles' trip. But Labour party spokesperson Trevor Mallard said that as the current flag is not one of the options in the November referendum, he didn’t see it being a big issue.

The posting of voting papers for the referendum will start on the 20th of November, with five alternative designs vying for top flag. In March, the alternative flag with the most votes will go head-to-head against our current design.