North at forefront of flag rejection

By Mike Dinsdale / Imran Ali

12 comments
JOY: George Wakelin is delighted that he will continue to fly the existing New Zealand flag from his Whangarei home. PHOTO/TANIA WHYTE
JOY: George Wakelin is delighted that he will continue to fly the existing New Zealand flag from his Whangarei home. PHOTO/TANIA WHYTE

Northlanders have led the way in rejecting a flag change, with Maori voters particularly opting to keep the status quo.

Nationally, 56.6 per cent of voters opted to keep the current New Zealand flag while 43.2 per cent voted for the Kyle Lockwood-designed silver fern flag favoured by Prime Minster John Key.

But in Northland 63.2 per cent of the 87,520 who voted opted to keep the current flag.

Northland Maori turned out to vote in the referendum in far smaller numbers, with 50.9 per cent of Te Tai Tokerau electors voting compared to 73.8 per cent in the Northland electorate and 73.5 per cent in Whangarei.

However, 78.5 per cent of Te Tai Tokerau voters wanted the status quo, compared to 60.7 per cent in Northland and 58.5 per cent in Whangarei.

Kamo couple Graham and Carol Wakelin are pleased New Zealanders voted to retain the current flag.

They used to hoist a large New Zealand flag up the flagpole at their old house in Onerahi and will do so again now they've moved to Kamo.

They said although they preferred the status quo to remain, a public referendum was a good idea.

"It hasn't been a waste of money but a referendum has actually told New Zealand what flag people preferred. People haven't been bullied into anything," said Mr Wakelin, a former Royal NZ Navy man. "You had to ask people and it does cost money to ask people but in the end we have an answer.

"They [Government] could have gone ahead and changed the flag."

The other flag looked like a company logo, Mr Wakelin said.

Three of Northland's four MPs also voted to keep the current flag, while the fourth declined to say how he had voted.

NZ First leader and Northland MP Winston Peters said he voted to keep the current flag.

"NZ First is the only party that stood for the current flag," he said. "Now the people have spoken and we should unite behind our flag as one people."

NZ First list MP Pita Paraone, from Whangarei, said he also voted to keep the current flag, which shouldn't come as any surprise given the party's position of opposing this referendum.

"Reason being, primarily, that this was not something that the electorate actually asked for and that the cost for change could be better spent on other more pressing issues - pure and simple.

"Nor was it part of National's election manifesto. Of course I have other reasons for not wanting to see a change at this time that includes the Treaty."

Labour's Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis voted to keep the current flag.

"I thought the whole process had been gerrymandered. The process to select an alternative flag was stacked to get what the Prime Minister wanted. The first question should have been, 'do we want to change the flag?' then if the answer was yes there should be a thorough process to select possible alternatives," Mr Davis said. "I also thought it was a terrible choice for a possible alternative flag."

National's Whangarei MP Shane Reti declined to say which way he voted.

-More flag coverage - Page 5

- Northern Advocate

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