WAI KAPOHE ENDORSES THE NEED FOR A NEW KIWI FLAG
24 June 2004
By JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Opera singer-songwriter Deborah Wai Kapohe has been unfurling a silver fern flag at concerts around New Zealand.
"What do you think of this?" she asks the crowds.
Some people cheer and clap, others are totally silent.
This response seems typical of the general public reaction when the subject is raised of replacing the New Zealand flag.
Wai Kapohe is one Southlander who has a clear view and has signed up as an endorser for the NZFlag.com Trust formed by Wellington businessman Lloyd Morrison.
New Zealand was changing and coming of age and a new flag would be more reflective of that, she said.
"I think that the Union Jack is a bit outdated.
"Certain countries have flags that tell you a lot about the nation. It would be nice if we had a flag that told more about us."
The flag needed more recognition that New Zealand belonged to the Pacific. It would also bring New Zealanders together, which was particularly important after National leader Don Brash's controversial speech at Orewa this year, she said.
"I think it's important that people think about New Zealand. I mean we all love our country and I think there are some serious things to think about. Perhaps the flag is a nice way of talking and perhaps in the end it will be a focus for us."
NZFlag.com Trust spokeswoman Johanna Coughlan said the campaign was still in its infancy but they hoped to gather enough support for the 270,000 signatures needed to hold a referendum next year.
The flag was about nationhood, Kiwi identity and moving forward as one nation, she said.
"It's about having a flag that represents everyone. It's very much a progressive, forward-thinking debate."
With issues such as the seabed and foreshore debate as a hot topic, it was a good time to provoke the debate, Miss Coughlan said.
It was also a branding issue.
"It's not really reflective of who we are and it doesn't differentiate us from our neighbours."
New Zealand troops in Iraq were not even wearing the New Zealand flag on their uniforms.
"Because of (New Zealand's) new peacekeeping role, they have become quite sensitive to our flag," Mr Morrison said.
New Zealand's role was quite different to Australia and Britain's who were mainly fighting, he said.
One soldier who was posted in East Timor had told Mr Morrison he had not realised the antipathy towards Australians and British soldiers, and he felt scared. The only way to convince islanders he was a New Zealander was by drawing a kiwi.
However, New Zealand Army public information officer Murray Brown denied suggestions that soldiers didn't wear the flag to dissociate themselves from Australians and the British.
The army had chosen to wear the silver fern and kiwi symbols because they were simple and easily recognisable, particularly overseas where language was a problem, he said.
"We've worn that patch since World War 2 and we have continued to wear it regardless of flag issues."
There would be a New Zealand flag at the camp, Mr Brown said.
There were four icons that would suitably represent New Zealand on a flag - the kiwi, silver fern, Southern Cross or koro, Ms Coughlan said.
People needed to be reminded that a new flag was about identity, not the republican debate, she said.
"Look at Canada. They went through that process. They have a successful flag and are still a strong member of the Commonwealth."
Southlander and RSA member Lyle Price had a different opinion.
"I've got three (including himself) generations of family behind me that have fought for that flag. Old loyalties die hard, I'm afraid."
The New Zealand flag represented everything that was good in life to people, he said.
"In those days we were brought up as Christians and the flag represented God, Queen and Country and we modelled our whole life on it."
And it still did, Mr Price said.
If the flag was changed he said it would be done democratically and that was "fair enough" .
However, if it was changed Mr Price questioned how long it would last until another generation wanted to change it.
On the flipside, Southlander Trudee Sharp said the flag represented the monarchy and England far more than New Zealand.
Southern Institute of Technology student Stephanie Wilson took the middle ground.
The flag should still incorporate the Union Jack but have something new, to keep the continuity, she said.
"I think in some ways it's quite good to be linked with England.
"I think with globalisation, that it's important to keep the balance with American's ability to put pressure on small countries."
The Southland Times
© 2004 Fairfax New Zealand Limited