I don't have a strong opinion about whether the New Zealand flag should change.

However, I'm concerned about the costs associated with the process.

This year a referendum will be held on the design of a flag, out of three or four designs, and another vote in 2016 will put the favoured designs up against the original. Prime Minister John Key has been pushing for change despite resistance from the Returned Services Association, which argues that the flag as it stands is the one veterans fought under.

Opponents suggest Mr Key is playing politics but, in my view, this is all about legacy.


If the referendum does support change then the Prime Minister will leave a lasting and very visible reminder of his time in office. Such an aim is understandable, this is politics after all, but the costs associated with this proposal are alarming.

This week it emerged that a panel charged with selecting a shortlist of new flag designs will each pocket $640 a day.

Chairman John Burrows, the former deputy chancellor of the University of Canterbury, will receive $850 per day worked.

Overall, the flag referendum process is expected to cost $25.7 million, of which $17.3 million is for the two referendums and the remainder for public consultation.

As this paper has noted before, changing the flag will not make us a better country. It will not bring people together any more than the current one. Importantly, it will not improve anyone's life.

This money would be better spent in areas that will actually improve the lives of New Zealanders. If this is, as I suspect, a matter of legacy, then Mr Key should have instead allocated the $25.7 million to address child poverty. This would have been a far more worthwhile pursuit.