The New Zealand flag was designed in 1869 for use as a shipping ensign by British Lieutenant Albert Hastings Markham but quickly began to be used on land as well.

It became the nation's official flag by legislation in 1902 but had been flown in schools and other places since at least the 1890s.

The Herald has looked at New Zealand then and now, using the 1901 and 2013 Censuses.

In 1901, all New Zealanders were also British citizens and very few women worked. The population was mainly European and after the land wars, the Maori population was very low.


A Longman's reader on the British Empire for British schoolchildren in 1904 summarises New Zealand's role as follows: "The colonists of Australia and New Zealand keep enormous numbers of sheep to supply us with meat and wool."

These days it is more likely to be milk and the country of destination China - the number of cattle has far outstripped the number of sheep.

In 1901 Tonga was called the "Friendly Islands", compulsory education was fairly new and educational achievement was based on whether people could read or write. People of other nationalities were defined by whether they were British subjects (from other colonies in the Empire) or "foreign". The South Island was sometimes called the "Middle Island" because it was north of Stewart Island.

While birthplaces were recorded, the only ethnicities specifically counted in 1902 were Maori and Chinese - and the main reason for collecting data on the 2900 Chinese was because of Prime Minister Richard Seddon's attitude to Chinese immigration. He once said, "There is about as much distinction between a European and a Chinaman as that between a Chinaman and a monkey."

The 1901 Census also recorded numbers of "lunatics" and "idiots". The Census recorded such statistics until 1916.

And the winner is ...

• A decision on the future of New Zealand's flag is 19 days away. Here's what happens next.

• After months of campaigning, and a $26 million spend, voting papers were sent out to New Zealanders registered on the electoral roll on Thursday.

• The voting period in the referendum closes on March 24 at 7pm, with March 21 the last guaranteed posting date to ensure your papers reach the Returning Officer in time.

• A preliminary result on the flag vote is due at 8pm on March 24. The official result will be announced at 5pm on March 30.

• Kyle Lockwood's blue and black design, featuring a silver fern, beat four other potential ensigns in the first flag referendum in December to secure its place in the vote-off against the current flag.

• Since the first stage of the referendum, more than 350 people, groups and organisations have received the alternative flag from the Flag Consideration Project to fly alongside the 114-year-old New Zealand flag.