Kids have say on flag at school referendum

By Peter de Graaf

BALLOT BOX: Springbank School kids cast their votes in a junior version of the flag referendum. PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF
BALLOT BOX: Springbank School kids cast their votes in a junior version of the flag referendum. PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF

The second stage of the flag referendum may have only just started - but the children at one Northland school have already voted with 60 per cent in favour of keeping the current flag.

Springbank School, near Kerikeri, took part in the Electoral Commission's Kids Voting programme on Thursday.

Like a real vote, students had their names ticked off against a roll, collected a ballot paper, ticked their choice of flag and dropped their completed paper into a ballot box.

The votes don't count towards the referendum but are submitted to the Electoral Commission as a snapshot of youth views on the flag change debate.

Of the 132 Year 4 to 12 students who voted, 82 wanted to keep the current flag and 50 opted for the new design incorporating the silver fern.

The poll was organised by Year 13 students Noah Atchison-Darby, Nikki Chapman and Yuong Chaiyaklang.

"The flag is an important part of our country and our culture," said Noah.

"It's important to know what youth think about changing it."

It was also a good learning experience because it showed students what voting in a real election was like, Nikki added.

Springbank students quizzed by the Advocate had strong views.

Kaeo's Keela Cashmore, 12, wanted to keep the current flag.

"John Key's trying to make a mark on history and I think it's a waste of money. If there were better designs [for the shortlisted flags] I might have agreed to it, but they don't really speak for New Zealand."

Alisha Tahere, 13, of Ohaeawai, also opted for the status quo.

"Our men fought for the flag, and were buried under it, so changing it would be pretty rude."

Kurtis Foster, 16, of Okaihau, said New Zealand had changed a lot as a country and the flag should reflect that.

"I feel we shouldn't have the English flag on it. We're independent, we're not a colony, and the silver fern represents New Zealand. When we wave the current flag at sporting events people see the Union Jack and think we're English."

Kerikeri's Mike Michaux, 14, said changing was an unnecessary expense. He liked the Union Jack on the flag because he was born in England.

- Northern Advocate

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