Why Did New Zealand Stick With Old Flag Design? $17 Million And 10,000 Designs Later, The British Colonial Era Flag Stays

New Zealand has decided to stick to its old flag. The British colonial-era flag won’t be discarded. Despite spending over $17 million and sifting through 10,000 design suggestions, New Zealanders have decided not to replace their old flag.

New Zealand had undertaken a rather large campaign to replace their existing flag that is a clear reminder of the region’s history as a British colony. Many former British territories have either immediately, or at a later date after their independence, ditched their earlier flags with ones that strive to completely obliterate their association with Britain. However, despite the attempts to get a new flag that not only signified New Zealand’s sovereignty, but also tried to achieve multiple other aims, including celebrating its diversity as well as inclusion of the natives, the country has decided to stay with the old flag.


In a country-wide voting process, New Zealanders voted against a proposal to ditch Britain’s Union Jack from the national flag. Vying to represent the country was a flag designed by Kyle Lockwood, an architectural technologist. The flag had made it through a barrage of 10,000 designs, only to lose to the old Southern Cross and the Union Jack on a blue background.

The country’s Electoral Commission announced the preliminary result on Thursday evening. The voting process lasted a good three weeks and ended up costing $17.6 million. The commission confirmed that of the total votes it received, 56.61 percent of voters backed the existing flag, while 43.16 favored a change.


Looking at the results, it appears clear that the public was quite divided. Though the existing flag was favored by a majority, there were many who wished the old British colonial era flag be replaced with something that’s entirely unique or truly represents New Zealand as an independent nation. The results aren’t final yet, but the outcome isn’t expected to change completely.

The final tally is expected to be released next Wednesday, but the size of the margin makes it amply clear that the people have chosen to stay with the existing flag, rather than go with the new design. Many experts seem to suggest that it wasn’t the zealous attachment to the old British colonial era flag that tilted the vote in the favor of the old flag, as much as the open disdain to the new design that the people had to vote for.


The new flag, known as the “Silver Fern Flag,” had been chosen among 10,000 different variations, many of which varied widely in design and concept. It was chosen from a total of five options, which were earlier finalized in a preliminary referendum last December.


The new flag was supposed to evoke a sense of inclusion, reported the Guardian. The design was meant to be bold and striking, yet offer a sense of New Zealand’s culture, apart from being a clear indicator of the country it was representing. However, it simply did not happen, said Paul Moon, a professor of history at Auckland University of Technology.

“The whole process had been insipid and unimaginative. And to make matters worse, for all the talk of inclusivity, serious Indigenous input was largely whitewashed. What we were left with was culturally monochromatic and aesthetically neutered design to go up against the incumbent.”

The decision to go with the existing flag is undoubtedly a defeat of Prime Minister John Key, who was a stanch supporter of change. He routinely referred to the old flag as colonial throwback from the days of British rule. Proposing the new design, he had said the silver fern used by the All Blacks “screams New Zealand in the same way the maple leaf identifies Canadians.” But honoring the decision made by the public, he graciously accepted the existing flag is here to stay, reported DNA India.

[Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images]