Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Should we change our flag?

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The New Zealand national flag.Photo / Thinkstock
The New Zealand national flag.Photo / Thinkstock

There's an appetite in some quarters to change our flag. There are those who question the relevance of the Union Jack and there are others who say our flag is too similar to that of Australia. And, yes, these are certainly two weaknesses with the design of our existing flag. Yet I can't imagine a perfect flag - one that will please all New Zealanders and possess no weak points.

Is the NZ flag too similar to the Aussie flag?Photo / Thinkstock
Is the NZ flag too similar to the Aussie flag?Photo / Thinkstock

Just like our national anthem, our flag is a dull and worthy thing dragged out on official occasions but it's ours and there's a school of thought that says we ought to embrace it for better or for worse. It goes without saying that our modern sensibilities would come up with a far more visually appealing flag. But surely that isn't the point.

A flag isn't supposed to be fashionable or culturally of the moment. A flag just is. In its present form it represents some of the history (in the Union Jack) and some of the geography (in the stars that stand for the Southern Cross) of our nation.

If we change it now who's to say future generations won't do the same when what we thought was so appropriate in the early 21st century starts looking tired and dated. Our short attention spans are already catered to via such innovations as YouTube, Twitter, Angry Birds and reality television shows. Must our flag also be a casualty of our fickleness, our inability to commit for the long term?

But if momentum does gather for a change of flag then its replacement design must be relevant and well considered - which obviously counts out the suggestion of the silver fern that is all too often mooted.

Would you back a silver fern flag?
Would you back a silver fern flag?

Firstly, because the silver fern is inextricably linked with local sporting teams, its inclusion on our flag would connect our image too firmly with sport when we as nation offer - and, in fact are - far more than that. Anyone who disapproves of the presence of the Union Jack would surely similarly shun the silver fern because it, too, is every bit as limiting in its outlook and narrow in its focus.

Secondly, at heart a silver fern is no more than a pretty symbol. As a readily recognised example of New Zealand popular iconography, it has no more right to appear on our national flag than a Buzzy Bee, Jandal, L & P bottle, Four Square man or kiwi. It represents a childish, one-dimensional view of what a flag should be. A flag is not the place for whimsical and kitsch Kiwiana - or representations that look more like a corporate logo than something which is supposed to engender national pride.

And surely no one could seriously be suggesting that a black background is a fitting colour for our flag. Depending on your outlook, the colour black symbolises death, depression, evil and mourning. It's also the background colour of Tui billboards which, as we all know, specialise in poking the borax. Presumably any promoters of a Black Flag (isn't that a brand of fly-spray?) are being similarly ridiculous.

I'm not even sure why so many people get agitated about the flag when the elephant in the room as far as our national image is concerned is surely the kiwi. Whoever chose this unprepossessing brown flightless bird to represent us as a people did us no favours. It's embarrassing when you compare it to the creatures other nations have adopted as their own: eagle (US), elephant (Thailand), jaguar (Brazil) and lion (England). Even the wallaby (Australia) and the rooster (France) are livelier and more vigorous than K-one-W-one.
Nothing goes right for the poor old kiwi. It's plain, it can't fly and is said to be endangered - unless, of course, that's just a convenient story.

The thing is: I'm not even sure they exist. I've lost count of the times I've dutifully tiptoed into a darkened kiwi house with eyes straining for a sighting. But I've not yet seen one. Am I the only New Zealander to wonder if the kiwi isn't some insider joke, some deliciously audacious hoax?

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Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

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