A World War II veteran who saw his fellow soldiers buried in the flag supports a change in national symbol, saying we need to progress to being an independent nation.

Norman Leaf, 90, from St Heliers, served in a specialised unit with the Royal New Zealand Engineers in the Middle East between 1940 and 1943.

He said the Union Flag and Southern Cross were important symbols for him then. Manning a crucial railroad supply line, the Eighth Army he was part of was "badly blitzed" by German planes while carrying 4000 tonnes of supplies to the front line every day.

He lost many friends while they were fighting for their colours.

"I've seen my cobbers buried with the flag. I am a little torn by those feelings - the old flag means something to me."

Mr Leaf still bears the scars of the war but said that a change in flag, if done respectfully, was a vital step.

"I'm inclined to feel we have to progress. We are getting to the stage where we're going to have to get on with being our own country."

The Union Flag reminded him of Britain's royal family, whom he felt were irrelevant to a modern New Zealand.

"I am a monarchist to some extent ... but I don't think Prince Charles and so forth are living up to the standard they're supposed to."

Five years ago, Mr Leaf sent four suggestions for a change of flag to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

He said that a new design should include a blue backdrop, to mark ourselves as an island nation, and also green to represent our landscape. Touches of red, white and blue would highlight our colonial past, and red and black would represent Maoridom.

Mr Leaf said that in a world which he felt was increasingly unsettled, he would favour a flag that stood for peace.

As long as it didn't carry individual, political or religious messages, it would be a distinctive national symbol.