A change to the New Zealand flag is overdue for some Western Bay residents and prominent Kiwis, while others say a flag referendum is a waste of money better spent elsewhere.

Ninety-five-year-old Tauranga resident Les Munro is the last surviving pilot of the Dambusters' raid of May 1943.

Mr Munro told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he did not feel a change to the country's flag was justified. "I'm not hard and fast, but I lean that way, put it that way," he said.

"Unless there's a real need or justifiable reason, I wouldn't worry. If they did change it I think it's got to have the silver fern in it somehow."


Mr Munro did not feel a flag change would be disrespectful to those who fought under the current flag, provided the alternative was relevant to New Zealand. "Provided it's a satisfactory design, I wouldn't see it as disrespectful."

Meanwhile, Kiwi rugby legend Sir Colin Meads is in favour of a change - which has seen the 78-year-old cop "flak" from his peers, "particularly older service people", he told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

"I think it's too much like Australia's and we've got to take time to count the stars. There is a difference in one or two colours." He supports a new design incorporating a silver fern and a kiwi. "I was an All Black through the '60s and it's something that the rest of the world relates to, the silver fern and the kiwi."

The icons were recognised across the world, he said. "I think we should keep the Union Jack in the corner and the fern as the main emblem.

"I don't quite think it should be all black. I'm not in favour of that. There should be a lot of green in it because we're known as a green country," he said.

He did not think $26million was an unreasonable cost for the referendums. "Right across the country it's not a huge amount. There's a lot of other money wasted in the country that if we added it all up would be well over $20m."

Tauranga-based singer-songwriter Hollie Smith did not feel changing the New Zealand flag was a priority. The $26m should be spent on the youth of New Zealand and "the seriously disgraceful statistics of abuse and poverty in low-socio-economic demographics", she said.

"If the decision is to have the flag changed, I would like and encourage the colours of tino rangatiratanga being represented. I would keep the flag as is, representing the English 'relevance' of the Union Jack and our place in this world with the Southern Cross, but change our blue background to black."


Tauranga woman Linda Munn, one of three people who designed what became known as the tino rangatiratanga flag, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it was important the people of New Zealand were involved in the design of a new flag, but not in a costly referendum.

"That's a lot of money to waste when we have bigger issues in this country. I don't think we have to spend $26m and sit in Parliament to sort it out."

The design of a new flag could help foster a sense of community and needed to include the elderly through to schoolchildren, she said. "Make it fun. When you mention all that money it just leaves a bad aftertaste." The new design should be simple while capturing the essence of the country, she said.

"Whether it's the environment and people, for me it would be around that, but just keeping it simple. Usually the simplest designs are the best."

The silver fern should be reserved for sports teams, she said. "It's really cool when it's on the All Blacks ... it's a sporting symbol for me."

Meanwhile, a poll of 10 customers and staff at Papamoa Plaza and neighbouring Fashion Island has found six supported a change and four were opposed.

Te Puke resident Pat Howie, whose father died in the war, supported a flag change. A new design did not disrespect service men and women in New Zealand's history, something evident by the number of young people now attending Anzac Day commemorations, she said.

Aaron Wright, 23, of Papamoa saw no need for change. Patriotism was not reflected by flags flying in backyards. "New Zealand's not too fussed about flags ... we don't really show off our flag."