A New Flag:
How to Change
The New Zealand Flag is provided for in the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981. Section 5 of this Act provides:
|| (1) The flag hitherto known as the New Zealand Ensign, being the
flag depicted in Schedule 1 to this Act, is hereby declared to be
the New Zealand Flag.
(2) The New Zealand Flag shall be the symbol of the Realm, Government,
and people of New Zealand.
(3) The New Zealand Flag-
(a) Shall be the national flag of New Zealand for general use on land within New Zealand and, where appropriate for international purposes, overseas:
(b) Shall be the proper national colours to be worn by all New Zealand Government ships, and by such
other New Zealand ships as may for the time being be authorised to
wear the New Zealand Flag by or under [the Ship Registration Act 1992].
Schedule 1 has a picture of the flag.
To change the flag, section 5 would need to be amended and a new picture
substituted in Schedule 1. This change can be made by a simple majority
vote in Parliament.
The flag is also a heraldic device and by convention, falls within the
scope of the Royal Prerogative. A change to the flag would require consultation
with the Palace and the College of Arms headed by Garter King of Arms.
These are matters of courtesy and protocol and would not be a barrier
Citizens initiated referendum
If Parliament does not take up the call for change, New Zealanders can initiate the change through requiring a referendum under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993 ("Referenda Act"). The procedures are complex and time consuming. The key issue is that, to be effective to force a referendum, a petition needs about 270,000 signatures from eligible voters.
The procedural details are:
||A draft petition (i.e. the proposal) to be submitted to the Clerk
of the House of Representatives in the prescribed form specifying
the wording of the question to be put in the referendum.|
The Clerk notifies the petition in the Gazette and calls for comments on the proposed wording by a specified date.
Any comments received are made available for public inspection and are provided to the petitioner (i.e. the initiator of the proposal).
The Clerk has the right to consult about the wording of the petition with the petitioner and may any other persons the Clerk thinks fit.
Within 3 months of receiving the petition the Clerk determines the precise wording of the question. He/she must ensure that it conveys clearly the purpose and effect of the indicative referendum and that only one of two possible answers can be given to the question.
The Clerk then approves the form to be used for the collection of signatures to the petition and notifies the determination of the wording in the Gazette and other newspapers the Clerk thinks necessary.
Only then can the petitioner start collecting signatures on the approved forms.
The petitioner must collect signatures of at least 10 percent of the eligible electors within 12 months after the date of notification of the determination of the wording of the petition in the Gazette. This is approximately 270,000 people.
If satisfied that the requisite number of signatures have been collected within the 12 month period, the Clerk certifies that it is correct and has been signed by the requisite number of electors.
Once the petition is certified correct, the Clerk presents it to the Speaker who presents the petition to the House of Representatives.
The Governor-General must then, by Order in Council fix the date for the referendum or declare that the referendum is to be by postal ballot.
The referendum/ballot must be held within 12 months of the presentation of the ballot to the House - although the date can be deferred in certain circumstances.