New Zealanders will vote on whether to ditch the Union Flag from their own flag by 2017, Prime Minister John Key has said. Deriding his country’s flag as symbolising a “colonial and post-colonial past”, Mr Key said he would set up cross-party working group of MPs to recommend how to conduct the referendum.
The country’s 112-year-old flag was first approved by King Edward VII and features the Union Flag (flag of the UK) in the top corner, and four stars of the Southern Cross constellation. It has been the country’s flag since it was granted self-governance in 1907.
The Telegraph reports that Mr Key said: “It’s my belief, and I think one increasingly shared by many New Zealanders, that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.
“The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom.
“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag.”
Despite his desire the change the flag, Mr Key says he has no plans to make New Zealand a republic: “We retain a strong and important constitutional link to the monarchy and I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go,” he said.
“Nor could we, or would we, dispose of the cultural legacy which gave us a proud democracy, a strong legal system and a rich artistic heritage.”
He added: “Our status as a constitutional monarchy continues to serve us well.
“It’s an arrangement that provides stability, continuity and keeps our head of state above party politics.”
Mr Key is likely to face an uphill battle with his plans. A recent poll conducted for the state-owned TVNZ channel showed 72 percent of New Zealanders support the existing flag while just 28 percent want to change it.
New Zealand military chiefs are also likely to strongly oppose any change. Over 30,000 New Zealanders died during the World Wars, fighting under the flag.