What a pong our good old ponga has set up. The unveiling of the four shortlisted national flags, three of which bear ponga ferns, immediately set New Zealanders off on a bout of our alternative national sport: taking the piss.
On Twitter, hours of productive time were whiled away hunting for other uses of the designs which featured in the flags. They found party plates, mash-ups of National and Labour Party logos, transport companies and the New Zealand National Baseball League.
The white-and-black fern flag was already in use as a logo by various Government entities from Trade and Enterprise and the Companies Office to Qualmark, Immigration NZ, and the Rugby World Cup 2011 organising body. Things reached a peak when comedian Julia Burgisser revealed the koru shape in the sole non-fern contender was similar to the rear end of a monkey with a curved tail. #votemonkeybutt, she wrote.
Thus far, all we have agreed on in this search for a unifying piece of fabric is that those it is meant to unify can agree on nothing.
It appears to have taken people by surprise to discover that silver fern symbols are so prevalent. There is a reason the silver fern is regarded as a national symbol. That is because it has long been used as one. Wikipedia reports that the cyathea dealbata was first used by the New Zealand Army during the Second Boer War. Since then it has been used by all and sundry as a way to denote the bearer of the fern comes from New Zealand.
From the reaction so far Kyle Lockwood's are by far the most popular options. They have early starter advantage. Flags, like the anthem, are an acquired taste and Lockwood's have been around since 2004. They are also somewhat of a compromise. They retain elements of the current flag and that was enough for Lady June Hillary to say that while she still preferred the current flag she could put up with Lockwood's red, white and blue number.
But one of the side-effects of MMP is that it has taught New Zealanders how to vote strategically. In fact, some people all but feel obliged to do so purely because they can. This could well come in handy for the flag referendum. In this regard, the officials inadvertently provided a handy training guide.
In early advice, they warned that opponents of change could join together to vote for the most vile option. If they had sufficient numbers, that would mean the weakest opponent went up against the current flag when crunch time came next year.
The trouble with that is that vile is as subjective a test as attractive when it comes to flag design. People are just as divided on which is the worst option as they are on which is the best. So Labour continued its contrary and rather truculent stance on the matter.
Trevor Mallard crowed with some delight that the koru design was "absolutely awful". This was a good thing, because by his logic "absolutely awful" meant it deserved to get his vote. His reasoning was that voting for the koru would send a strong message of protest about the process.
One theory doing the rounds is that Key timed the referendum to flow on from the Rugby World Cup which ends just a few weeks before the first referendum. The reasoning is that Key did this to boost the chances of a silver fern flag because he knew it would get a solid airing during the Rugby World Cup.
Key says this timing is pure coincidence - and it is fair to say that the Government was so busy trying to avoid clashing with other dates, such as Anzac Day and general elections, that there was little room to avoid anything else. Even if it was part of some cunning subliminal propaganda plan, the failure of a plain black fern flag to make the shortlist has rather stymied it. Another cramping factor is that the tournament will be played in England. The Union Jack that Key is aiming to get rid of will far outnumber any silver ferns in terms of visual messaging.
The best hope for any impact on the flag referendum from the rugby is for the British to beat the All Blacks in the finals, prompting a glut of protest votes against the Union Jack. Surely even Key would not wish for that.