There seems to be a gathering momentum of support for the flag design, called Red Peak by Aaron Dustin.

It is pretty similar to the one that won the competition we sponsored, the competition that was specifically tailored to accommodate contributions from and judging by professional designers and vexillologists. The only difference between it and Wa Kainga/Home by Alexander Studio is the juxtaposition of the red and the black triangles. The story underpinning the two designs recognises the existence of tangata whenua - which in itself is real progress for a depiction of who we, the New Zealanders, include.

The Flag Consideration Panel's final four is outstanding for offering virtually no diversity of choice for the voting public and that is a tragedy, one the group should have seen would make them the target of ridicule. If the Prime Minister's instructions to the panel had been "pick me the four best silver fern-based designs that you think the public would go for" I doubt whether the Panel's short list would have been any different to that they came up with.

Therein lies the tragedy - the public have due cause to think that this has been a jack up, that the Panel, whether consciously or otherwise it doesn't matter, has decided to come up with exactly what the Prime Minister wants rather than facilitating a process providing the public genuine choice. As such it has undermined the whole idea of a democratic approach. "Choose which one you like as long as it's one of the Prime Minster's silver fern favourites".


"Sycophantic" is not too strong a depiction of the approach.

To virtually the last professional designer in New Zealand - those who make their living from designs - has come condemnation of the Panel's selection of tea towels of Kiwiana. That is a very telling condemnation of the process that John Burrows and his team have conducted. Despite Mr Burrows' assurances that his group consulted professional designers, he is totally unwilling to name them or have those advisers' arguments assessed by their peers. That again points to an unprofessionalism.

The one contribution the Panel have made is to acknowledge that the Union Jack is not an appropriate element on an alternative New Zealand flag. We already have that and in the second referendum the public will decide whether or not we agree with that proposition.

But to then tell all New Zealanders that part of a silver fern has to be part of any alternative, is the ultimate undemocratic hypocrisy. The process is either a genuine, apolitical one where the Prime Minister's and All Black Captain's preference for a silver fern is no more relevant than the preferences of anyone else, or it is a contrivance where this Panel has decided for whatever reason to give the public no option to vote anything that doesn't satisfy the Prime Minister's obsession with the silver fern.

The only way for the Panel and the process to regain integrity is for it to back up the bus and add some genuine alternatives without silver fern parts to be included in the first referendum.

That would of course require a mea culpa on the part of the Panel and/or the Prime Minister so I don't hold my breath on that score.

Meanwhile I'm perfectly willing to support Red Peak as an example of a flag design that demonstrates genuine vexillology skills - ironically skills the Consideration Panel mouthed on about during its process and then failed comprehensively to deliver upon in its short list. How ironic.

Gareth Morgan is an economist and philanthropist with the Morgan Foundation.