'Wasteful vanity project' and 'starry-eyed sheep' - How world reacted to flag result

The world's media have reacted to New Zealand's flag vote decision overnight, with one UK newspaper running an opinion piece saying it was a "wasteful vanity project by John Key".

The UK Independent have published a "voices" article written by a British teacher working and living in New Zealand and in it she says the vote was "ill-timed and out of touch with national feeling".

Jenna Hatch wrote: "Before Key started talking about it, there was little genuine call for a new national flag. In fact, the nation had only last year marked the 100th anniversary of Anzac day, remembering the contribution of New Zealand in World War One. That event, a veritable feast of flag-waving, prompted no such questions."

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Hatch said her students, and most people of New Zealand, "simply don't care about the Union Jack".

"The only reason some supported a change was to differentiate the nation from Australia."

New Zealand's decision to keep the current flag made headlines around the world as soon as the result was announced, including on the BBC, New York Times, Guardian UK and CNN.

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Kiwis found out the flag result just before 8.30pm - the rest of the world minutes later. And quite a lot of the rest of the world.

Our flag vote was reported, unsurprisingly, throughout our fellow former British colonies, including Australia, Canada, India, Fiji and Malta. Not to mention the United Kingdom.

But other countries also noted New Zealand's flag decision. National and state media in the United States posted stories online, including NBC, and the result also made headlines in China, Thailand and Germany.

The New York Times posted a story under the headline "New Zealand, Tempted by Bionic Kiwi and Starry-Eyed Sheep, Keeps Its Flag".

The existing flag had triumphed "despite the assertion by Prime Minister John Key that it symbolised a colonial era whose time had passed", they wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reported that New Zealand had "come full circle on flag", and also noted the flag design process allowed people to submit their own, sometimes zany, options.

"The decision to stick with the old flag comes after a lengthy process that saw people send in flag designs that depicted a bird with laser beams coming out of its eyes and a sheep protruding from a cloud," the Journal wrote.

They noted that choosing a flag was not easy.

"Canada, another former British colony, agonised over a switch in the mid-1960s with the public submitting thousands of suggested new designs including everything from beavers to the fleur-de-lis. After months of debate, parliament approved the red-and-white flag emblazoned with a maple leaf."


The Belfast Telegraph, like many outlets, noted the alternative design failed to gain the momentum it needed to win, and represented a rare political defeat for John Key.

"Some said it looked garish, a design better suited to a beach towel, while others said the whole process was politically motivated."

Over at the BBC, the headline read a tangled tale of New Zealand's flag debate.

"The results are in, New Zealanders have spoken - and they do not want a new flag. The outcome was close, with just 56.61 per cent of people voting against change, but it is a personal blow for pro-change Prime Minister John Key."

Canada's The Globe and Mail wrote that New Zealand wasn't going to follow Canada's lead.

"In the 1960s, Canadians abandoned a Union Jack-sporting flag for a new design with a nationally distinctive leaf on it. New Zealanders, faced with the same choice in 2016, said no thanks ... New Zealand's flag saga is over: The old one stays."

Foreign Policy magazine ran the headline: "After $17 million, New Zealand's ponytail-pulling prime minister loses push for new flag."

The Guardian UK, which ran a live blog of the flag vote announcement and published the result with a breaking news alert, had the headline: "New Zealand votes to keep its flag after 56.6% back the status quo."

There is also an opinion piece in the Guardian UK by Herald columnist Toby Manhire, with the headline: "In New Zealand, the flag remains the same. And so does everything else."

In it, Manhire writes: "The motley opponents of the Kyle Lockwood-designed alternative, which came out on top in an earlier run-off referendum, made unlikely bedfellows."

- NZ Herald

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