Sitting back as a fairly disinterested observer watching the great national flag debate, I've come to the suspicion that a huge number of Kiwis are not proud of their country.

Rather than taking pride in the current flag - and the country it represents - they seem to think it is more important to change it so that foreigners will "recognise" it more easily.

It is already distinct and recognisable and people who love their country shouldn't give a toss if, occasionally, someone overseas doesn't know whose flag it is.

That is their ignorance, not a prerequisite for changing a flag admired by most New Zealanders.

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To me, it is an extension of the need to be patted on the back by foreigners to feel good about New Zealand.

How many times do you hear interviewers asking celebrities: "So what do you think of New Zealand?"

Who cares? They've often just got off an aeroplane.

And how about the irritating cultural-cringe stories on how a city here is "the world's most liveable", or voted as "the friendliest", or how about the country being among the top 10 "happiest" - whatever the heck that means.

Many Kiwis lap them up.

To me, it shows a major lack of self-belief that not even the loudest "best country in the world, mate" can silence.

This cultural cringe has flag-changers desperate to be seen as "independent" or, to put it correctly, "more independent" than they already are.

The new-flag push is by people who say it is too linked to Britain - with the Union Flag in its canton - or that it is too close to Australia's.

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As I have said before - only a colour blind, or mathematically illiterate, person would confuse the two transtasman flags. Four red stars (okay, with white edges) against six white ones - including a very large one sitting under the Union flag.

Come on guys, really?

I guess the widespread fear of being unable to be differentiated from Australia - the bigger, wealthier and more powerful nation across the Ditch - is part of the cultural cringe feeding some folks' desperation to change the flag.

And what a choice we have been given.

Instead of a stately, historic and classy ensign, they are offering up ... well ... how can I put this in a family newspaper?

They are offering a wretched choice.

I don't know how much money it has cost to give us the four choices that the Flag Consideration Panel have come up with, but let me say it was wasted.

Dead set, what an awful selection.

Of the four, two are almost the same, the difference being black or red on one side of a white fern and four red Southern Cross stars on a deep blue or lighter blue.

Then we have a white and black fern or a white or black koru.

Now if I was meaner, I would suggest the two black and white ones could be taken for a divided nation along racial lines.

All, to me, look like cartoons and to suggest they could possibly be regarded as a national flag is not only insulting but shows a major absence of taste.

Did these people not look at other nations' flags to see how they need to have a gravitas to them, a stateliness, how about elegance even? All choices offered fail those tests.

Now there are some out there, including Prime Minister John Key, who have said the silver fern on a black background is their preference.

Dear Lord, save us from the aesthetically challenged.

The obvious thing going for the silver fern is its links to the mega-successful All Blacks.

I can understand it to a degree, in that the All Blacks are pretty much the thing New Zealand is known for. They are the country's biggest success story - other than the exporting of the best and brightest people to nations around the globe.

Again, this is where the cringe factor comes in. Should a country have a symbol of a sports team as its flag?

Never, in my view.

But then I'm not from here and my countrymen don't feel their prestige rests upon how well a national side is performing, which is fortunate after the Ashes debacle.

Luckily, the money-oriented NZ Rugby Football Union has shot down that idea, saying the silver fern design is trademarked and they won't be giving it over freely to anyone.

Thank God for such a pecunious stance.

In a way, I am pleased the four alternatives are so bad as they make it less likely change will be voted in.

And for that most of the residents of this country should be grateful.

richard@richardmoore.com

-Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer