Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge swan around New Zealand with young Prince George, Kiwis are beginning to think about ditching an important symbol of their British heritage.

Not the British monarchy, although Kiwis will rid themselves of that institution in due course. No, the debate is about changing New Zealand's flag, partly because it has the Union Jack in the corner and partly because it looks so much like the Australian flag that all but the nationals of those two countries have trouble telling them apart.

Little bothers New Zealanders more than being mistaken for Australians, their much more numerous and more rumbustious cousins – just as Canadians take umbrage at being confused with their American neighbours. The Australian and New Zealand flags both have the Union Jack in the upper-left corner, and they both depict the Southern Cross, with the Australian stars being white and the New Zealand ones being red. Foreigners really can be forgiven for mixing up the two, which is precisely what sometimes irritates Kiwis.

Story continues below advertisement

Prime Minister John Key, an avowed monarchist (and a buddy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper), wants a new flag. Last month, he pledged a referendum on the matter if he's re-elected this fall, which is highly likely.

"Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognize and can identify today," Mr. Key said last month.

"Fifty years on, I can't imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag. That flag represented Canada as it was once, rather than as it is now."

Mr. Key is right about that. Many Canadians will recall the "flag debate" in which former prime minister John Diefenbaker led his Progressive Conservatives in a ferocious and protracted parliamentary battle to preserve the Red Ensign. Mr. Diefenbaker was on the wrong side of history (as he often was, despite today's Conservative attempts to lionize him). Today, almost no one wants to return to the Red Ensign. Apart from hard-core Quebec secessionists, the red Maple Leaf is liked and admired both in Canada and abroad.

Mr. Key wants a Kiwi equivalent. Being a monarchist insulates him from those who see a dastardly plot to rid New Zealand of the British monarchy. He acknowledges that some day, his country will want to replace the monarchy with something else – but no time soon. (Public opinion polls show New Zealanders split on that subject.)

The three old "white" Empire/Commonwealth dominions – Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have dealt with the symbols of the British connection differently. Canada changed its flag half a century ago but has never seriously debated the monarchy. Australia had a national referendum on replacing the Queen (it was rejected) but only a marginal debate has surrounded the flag. And now New Zealand is getting ready to debate a new flag, but is punting the monarchy issue.

Replacing the flag will be put to New Zealanders within three years of the fall election. Replacing it with what, though? Canadians might recall that the red Maple Leaf design was not the first choice to replace the Red Ensign. It emerged over time in parliamentary hearings.

Story continues below advertisement

The All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby side, are arguably better known around the world than the country's flag, what with their championships, their Maori war chant and their distinctive black shirts with the white fern.

The fern might garner plenty of support, but what about a largely black national flag? How about the fern and the Southern Cross? One such design from a decade ago had a white background, a blue fern (for the ocean) and red stars (for the Maori and wartime sacrifices).

What about incorporating a Maori symbol into the overall design? The Maori were the original inhabitants of New Zealand and make up about 11 per cent of the population. Would the Maoris want their symbols mixed up with a broader national one?

Whether to change is one thing, but what to change to is quite another, as Australia discovered when those who wanted to ditch the monarchy failed to coalesce around a single alternative.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies