Flag must work in every situation from sports arenas to royal visits.
There is no point talking about changing the flag until we find one that says, yes, this is us, now.
After all the scoffing at the exercise I scrolled through the public offerings on the project's website this week not expecting to find anything that hit the spot. But this one did.
The more I looked at it the more I liked it.
It's beautiful. It is elegant and dignified as a national flag needs to be. At the same time it is fresh, lively, distinctive and stylish. In its shapes and colours it has the look and feel of New Zealand.
It is the work of an Aucklander, Blair Chant, who took his inspiration from the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, retaining the Maori curves of the koru and changed the colours. He says the deep green represents land and our environment, the blue, the oceans around us, while the koru, "transforms the ocean into a crashing wave, the green into a safe harbour."
He suggests, "The colours together present a feeling of honesty, simplicity, purity and bold beauty ... We all aspire to be a simple, humble, united society living in a stunningly beautiful country. I think this flag speaks to that."
Yes it does. It is not as bold as Otis Frizzell's flag that excited me the first time I saw it, less so the second and third time. A national flag has to work every time you see it. Blair Chant's design is surviving that test.
I can see it working in all the situations it would have to work, flying distinctively in international company, hanging quietly in courtrooms and embassies. It would look festive over sports stadiums, solemn on the coffin at state funerals, superb at the top of the Waitangi mast.
The technical attribute of the design is that it has a strong top left quadrant, the most important part of a flag when it hangs limp indoors, and outdoors often enough. That is the problem with the fern. Lovely as it is, it puts nothing in the top left.
The flag doesn't need to find room for every national symbol we have. The All Black flag we flew everywhere for the Rugby World Cup will continue to have its outings. The present flag with its Union Jack and stars of the southern cross can be retained for royal and historical occasions if we wish.
The Anzac centenary is said to be the worst possible time to talk about changing the flag. It hasn't felt that way to me, quite the reverse. I've been engrossed in the Anzac experience this year and have just finished a second book on the subject, Christopher Pugsley's Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story. The flag under which they fought looks more dated to me now than it ever did before.
It is the flag of a British dominion, which is what New Zealand and Australia and Canada had become not long before the First World War. Gallipoli was a coming of age in the sense that the "colonials", as they were called by their British commanding officers, began to think they could do better commanding themselves.
Time after time, daylight assaults were ordered on Turk trenches that the Kiwis would take at terrible cost but could not hold against the numbers the Turks could summon for counterattacks.
In the next war, the dominions insisted on their own commands but it was a mature decision not a rebellious one. Our national growth has always been like that, slow, sensible, pragmatic.
Those who were children in the 1950s can remember the drum roll for God Save the Queen before the movie started.
"I don't think any of us can remember exactly when the national anthem changed, or how. God Defend New Zealand was called the "national song" to give it some official status before it was quietly adopted, and a Maori verse added.
Maybe the national flag will be displaced as gradually. All we need is an alternative that looks and feels like New Zealand now. Take another look at this one. This is it, isn't it.