New Zealand Rejects New Silver Fern Flag, Keeps Union Jack
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New Zealanders, sad to say, are stuck with their flag for a while longer. In a referendum last week, the country’s bid for a new official flag was resoundingly rejected, leaving its citizens to once more grapple with their global identity as a former British colony. For more than a century, New Zealand’s official flag design has included 4 stars—a geographical reference […]
New Zealanders, sad to say, are stuck with their flag for a while longer. In a referendum last week, the country’s bid for a new official flag was resoundingly rejected, leaving its citizens to once more grapple with their global identity as a former British colony. For more than a century, New Zealand’s official flag design has included 4 stars—a geographical reference to the Southern Cross constellation—and, in the top left quadrant, that ubiquitous British emblem, the Union Jack. And, like many former subjects of the once formidable British Empire, New Zealand has long favored ditching that symbol of colonial rule for something more, well, indigenous—that thing that says, yes we were here long before you arrived, dear England, and we’re here still.
That proposed symbol turned out to be the Silver Fern (Cyathea dealbata), a native species of fern specific to New Zealand alone, and something of an unofficial symbol which nevertheless appears in various official contexts, including the country’s Coat of Arms. A crowdfunding campaign to find a new flag design, launched 10 months ago, yielded more than 10,000 entries in which the fern was a recurring theme, with architect Kyle Lockwood’s blue, black and white Silver Fern Flag making it all the way through the culling process to arrive as the final alternative to New Zealand’s flag woes. Alas, by a vote of 57% to 43%, the Fern went down to the old Union Jack, prompting Prime Minister John Key, the referendum’s mastermind, to concede, “Naturally I’m a little bit disappointed. Always knew it was going to be a challenge to get a change.”
Architect Kyle Lockwood’s statement about his Silver Fern Flag (bottom left), chosen as the winner from the 4 finalists: “A New Zealand icon for over 160 years, worn proudly by many generations. The fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future. The bright blue represents our clear atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, over which all New Zealanders, or their ancestors, crossed to get here. The Southern Cross represents our geographic location in the antipodes. It has been used as a navigational aid for centuries and it helped guide early settlers to our islands.”