Food For Thought

As New Zealand nears choosing a flag to carry it forward into the future, I take this opportunity to compare the present flag with the one that the country chose from the 5 possibilities which had been written about in a previous Food for Thought editorial in the 2015 referendum. But first a most pertinent question must be asked


New Zealanders are no longer “British subjects”. The British Goverment removed that right in 1983. Recent action by the British Government in passing legislation on New Zealanders (and other aliens), staying and working in the UK, with tax increases on both employers and their non-European employees. These measures have simply re-inforced New Zealanders alien status, This has come about with their entry into the Common Market, and their dis-assembly of the British Empire, which resulted in the full withdrawal of British citizenship from its peoples.

“From 1840, when New Zealand became a British colony after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, until 1948, when the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act was passed, most people living in New Zealand were officially British subjects. Even after the creation of a New Zealand citizenship in 1948, New Zealand citizens also remained British subjects. The description ‘British subject’ did not appear on passports printed from 1974, and New Zealand citizens ceased legally to be British subjects on 1 January 1983.”

All New Zealanders born after 1981 are no longer British Subjects. In the 35 years since, these young New Zealanders and the increased immigration from non British countries, now make up a large majority our population, a large majority of who have never been British. This ratio will continue to rise so that in another 20 years only a handful  people will be able to claim to be British. Is it ethical as non-British that we vote that the country retains the British Union Jack on our flag?

In the past the politicians of the day would weigh all the facts and vote in Parliament how their conscience dictated with the advantage then that New Zealanders were British. That is no more the case. Now New Zealand has another first in that its population has the chance to decide the flag, and we as individuals must make our choice - not on what we like, but on what is right.

Is it ethical for the people of a country to choose to use another nation's flag in their design when there is no connection other than historical? Does New Zealand have to ask the United Kingdom's permission to use the Union Jack if we choose to continue with the current flag? If we do not do so, do we risk legal proceedings?

The questions each individual must ask themselves are -
1..“As a New Zealander, and therefore no longer British, do I have a right to choose the Union Jack in my flag?”
2. “Does History give me the right?”
3. “If I feel that it is incorrect, does the alternative celebrate our history like the New Zealand Ensign”
4. "Should our flag solely reflect the past?"

In 1951/2 the Union Jack was removed from the New Zealand's coat of arms, is it now time to do the same to the flag?



The New Zealand Ensign, our current flag, and The Lockwood Black have a major portion of the flag almost the same. That is the Southern Cross portion. In fact the flags might be described as the Southern Cross on blue with an appended graphic to make the rectangle.
There is of course a slightly different shape to allow for the Union Jack or the silver fern, and some small changes to the area to balance the change of shade.

There is an increase in the size of the stars which more accurately matches those of our original New Zealand Blue Ensign flag, combined with a slight lightening of the blue on the Lockwood flag.

As this section of the two flags are almost so similar most of significations that have been put forward apply to both.

1. The Southern Cross represents where we are in the world. Note:New Zealand is the only island nation, of 4 the countries, that can see the constellation all year round from every part of the land mass. The others are Uruguay, Lesotho and Swaziland.
2. The stars are red - a Maori colour of rank
3  They have a white border to make them stand out on the blue background
4. The blue represents the sea (and in the Lockwood flag the sky also) over which all New Zealanders and/or their ancestors had to navigate.

The present flag - New Zealand Ensign
Left to Right: New Zealand Red Ensign Gallipoli, NZ Flag 1915 with white stars, Flag of the United Tribes on 1917 certificate for crossing the Equator and also the liberation of Italians in WWII.
The Lockwood Flag - the other choice

It is important, that if the Union Jack is replaced, to use something that is purely New Zealand, and more especially with something that gives the honour due to those New Zealanders who laid down their lives in the defence of our country. In doing so it must also look forward to the future. The silver fern was chosen in the 1800s by New Zealanders because it is a symbol of the way ahead.
The New Zealand Ensign has the Union Jack in the top left quarter. This follows the norm established for the design of flags of virtually all British colonies in the 19th and early 20th century. Having the Union Jack in the top left quadrant of the flag should not be a surprise because all the residents of the colonies were automatically given the status of “British Subjects” by the British Government, and entitled to British citizenship.

“Prior to 1949 there were no New Zealand citizens. People born or naturalised in New Zealand were British subjects, a status common to the peoples of the United Kingdom and the British Empire.

The issue of separate nationalities for dominions arose following the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which allowed dominions such as New Zealand to become fully independent countries. Canada created its own citizenship in 1947, with New Zealand and Australia following closely behind in 1949.

On 1 January 1949 the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 came into force and most people living in New Zealand became New Zealand citizens on that day. It also meant that children born in New Zealand from 1 January 1949 were automatically New Zealand citizens. The Citizenship Act 1977 replaced the 1948 Act and provides the legislative framework for our citizenship today.”


The selection of the New Zealand Ensign as the National flag in 1901/2,  followed convention, and its passing by the New Zealand parliament, and its ratification by the British Parliament in 1902/3, happened when the residents of New Zealand were British subjects and citizens. Until 1981 the Union Jack was an official flag of New Zealand.

In 1981 the confirmation of the New Zealand Ensign as New Zealand's flag by the New Zealand's MPs was at a time when when almost all New Zealanders were still British Subjects, and considered themselves such.

It should be noted that there were several versions of the New Zealand flag used by public and New Zealand troops to express their New Zealand roots during both World wars. This would not be unusual all all were in the British service and citizens of the British Empire and the Union Jack would be the flag, and any other secondary.
The Lockwood flag has cleverly replaced the Union Jack with a stylised Silver Fern similar to that on the flag of New Zealand's Expeditionary Forces , i.e. the silver fern on a black background.  Lockwood's design of the fern follows closely that of the fern which was presented by General Freyberg, VC, to the Queen's Royal Hussars as an emblem of New Zealand after the battle of El Alamein in 1942. This has been internationally recognised as an emblem of New Zealand for over a century in Sport. Trade,  and the Military. Today our U.N. peacekeepers wear it with pride as they cannot wear our present flag because of the Union Jack. In replacing the Union Jack with the Silver Fern this flag focusses on NEW ZEALAND TROOPS who we remember on ANZAC day. The Union Jack of the current flag is not specific and relates to ALL TROOPS who fought in the British armed services.

We all should know the history of the New Zealand Ensign and the Union Jack, so this article need not repeat that, but for the Lockwood Flag there must be proof and references provided.
ABOVE: The silver fern NZEF patch, NZEF sports shirt, Fern on WW II sign, & Jack Lovelock's Olympic shirt
BELOW: A copy of the Silver Fern and text on The Queens Royal Hussars website
ABOVE: Chris Hay's Silver Fern inspired graphic of troop movement - used for silver inlay, Tattoo, and recent Gallipoli exhibition signage