Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: When do you stop being a foreigner?

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This is my message to New Zealand: if you don't want foreign-born or foreign-sounding Kiwis, then give them back. Tell Lydia Ko to go back to Korea. Photo / Doug Sherring
This is my message to New Zealand: if you don't want foreign-born or foreign-sounding Kiwis, then give them back. Tell Lydia Ko to go back to Korea. Photo / Doug Sherring

I'd like to share a message that crashed into my Facebook inbox a fortnight ago.

To protect his reputation, I won't name the sender of the message. We'll call him Brandon Tosser. Brandon wrote to tell me he didn't think I was qualified to say which flag I preferred because I'm "only [a] second generation New Zealander".

"I'm sick of your stupid name as well," he finished.

Yeah, well so am I. It's a sentence all by itself. And, more crucially, it brands me as at least half foreign.

If you read this column two weeks ago, you'd have seen I added a footnote explaining I did in fact have some say in the choosing of a flag because I grew up in New Zealand, as did my English-born father.

I did that because Brandon's message was only one of many messages hating on my perceived "foreignness". Brandon's not finished.

He told me he was one of the first people in the world to touch the Webb Ellis trophy and his family fought at Gallipoli. What's more, people like him "who have a proud New Zealand history should not be subject to change because recent arrivals like the PM want a change".

What's going on New Zealand? When did we start hating on foreigners? When did we start sounding like a bunch of stuck up aristocrats comparing notes on whose family has had a title longer?

It turns out this is not a new phenomenon.

Fifty-odd years ago an American academic visited New Zealand. He wrote a book about his experience.

From the bits I've seen, the book The Fern and the Tiki is not easy reading for us Kiwis (damn straight, I just called myself a Kiwi, Brandon).

The author, Professor David Ausubel, described us as suspicious and resentful of foreigners.

And the problem he homed in on was that, he thought, Kiwis had an acute sensitivity towards any criticism from an overseas visitor.

Before you soothe yourself with assurances things have changed since the 1960s, allow me to share an email that crashed into my work inbox this week.

In capital letters Winston Peters screamed from my screen: "STOP OUTSIDERS VOTING ON THE FLAG".

"Why should thousands of immigrants who have come here in recent years be involved in making a decision that goes to the very heart of who we are and what we are as a nation?" This left me frustrated, despairing, disappointed.

To answer your question, Winston, here's why immigrants should have a say: they may be one day away from earning citizenship, they may intend to live the rest of their lives here, they may have Kiwi grandchildren, but most importantly, they may have a more objective view of this frustratingly impassioned debate.

It's a flag we're choosing. Not a method by which to die.

This is my message to New Zealand: if you don't want foreign-born or foreign-sounding Kiwis, then give them back. Tell Lydia Ko to go back to Korea.

Tell Paul Henry to go back to England.

Once we are rid of those underachievers, we can work back until all we have are the progeny of the British from the first four ships and anyone else who can prove they were here before that.

For the record, I don't think most Kiwis share Brandon's views.

But it's high time those of us who don't agree tell the Brandon Tossers of this country that hating on foreigners - or perceived foreigners - is not cool. And it's about bloody time we proved we are a country made up of more than just four shiploads of passengers and pick a flag that represents us all.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something trying very hard to avoid growing up. So far it’s working, except for the husband, the mortgage and the proper job. She lives between Auckland and Wellington. When she’s not writing for the Herald on Sunday, she co-hosts TV3’s 7pm current affairs programme Story.

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