Piquing an interest

Like many Aotearoeans, I’ve long had an attitude of “meh” towards our current flag. Also, that was my attitude towards the whole flag change process. Because right up until the final four were announced, it was impossible to form a view for or against change. I want a better flag, not just a different flag. 

I checked the shortlist when it came out and my immediate response was “they are all terrible”. Not just “meh”, actively bad. How could they be worse than our current flag?! But they are. Suddenly I cared because what the hell, those are the contenders? I assumed there’d be at least one I wanted to vote for. 


Pictured above: four flags which are all terrible. 

I quickly decided that I would protest vote in the first referendum by writing something like “they are all terrible” on my ballot paper, and in the second referendum I would vote no change. Try again in 15 years maybe. If there’d been an ok koru design, like Otis Frizzell’s Manawa, I probably would have just trucked on with a low level of interest and voted for my favourite in the first stage and reserved judgement in the second stage. The four designs put forward are so bad that I cannot bring myself to favour any of them. I can’t even decide which I hate the most.


Pictured above: Manawa, an ok koru design.

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe the whole “camp koru” vs “camp fern” was precisely why we ended up with such shoddy choices. 

And then Red Peak started getting momentum. 


Pictured above: Red Peak, a not terrible flag. 

I’d discounted it at first, on the long list (”meh, triangles”). Then I read about how the design was developed – the left hand side with the red, white, and black of a tukutuku panel and the right with the red, white and blue of a Union Jack; the red base representing Papatuanuku with the white representing our mountains or alternatively the land of the long white cloud. Black for night, blue for dawn. First to see the sun. Four colours representing a vibrant and multicultural society. 

It’s pretty damn cool. 

It references Maori design, but in a way that integrates the design into a cohesive whole and reflects bi-cultural foundations of our nation and a forward-looking embrace of the multicultral place we are now . 

It connects us to land and sky. 

Like the greatest of great flags, it could come to symbolise our nation, instead of merely being a picture of an existing symbol. Think the difference between the Union Jack, which says “BRITAIN”,  and Canadian flag, which says “MAPLE LEAVES ARE A CANADA THING”. (I’m not knocking the Canadian flag, it’s a damn sight better than any of the top four designs being put to the preferential vote in November, because at least it’s a well-stylised emblem and good colours.)

Here’s the other thing about Red Peak: it’s the sort of flag that can grow on you. The abstract geometrical design becomes more appealing the more you see it. In contrast, all the top four designs have features which start to get even more irritating with increased exposure. The Kyle Lockwood fern/star creations look more and more like clip art. The black and white koru looks more and more like a weird vortex (worst koru design ever). The black and white fern looks like the feather of a seabird caught in an oil spill. Wait, that could be the perfect flag for us! 

Red Peak, now that’s a flag that people can grow to love. In just five days, the petition to have it added to the ballot has got 32,000 signatories. Wow! 

Yet it’s unlikely that it will be added. John Key has said no, but more to the point, adding it will make it less likely that one of his preferred designs be chosen. So – we’re back to where I started. Spoil the ballot in the first round, and vote no change in the second round. Try again down the line some time. 

I plan to spoil my ballot by sticking a picture of red peak over the four contenders and writing “RED PEAK FOR THE WIN” underneath.