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Hon Hugh Templeton
3 February 2004

A Waitangi Day Thought in 2004

The Flag

Lloyd Morrison has raised a serious topic for our recently independent nation. In my mind Lloyd, a seriously humorous Scots New Zealander, operating with panache as a New Zealand citizen in the wider world, strikes a powerful chord But will our leaders respond? Will those who claim to lead the people hold to that responsibility on their watch?


Let's set the issue in context:

* Its 30 years since 'independence' ie since, Great Britain which drafted and established the Treaty of Waitangi, retreated in 1970 from Singapore to Europe and in 1972 joined the European Community. New Zealand found itself on its own without benefit of 'Mother Country'.

* Its almost 100 years since New Zealand became a Dominion in 1907.

* Its 150 years since New Zealand achieved Parliamentary Government in 1854, an event we can celebrate in July 2004 as one of the world's oldest parliamentary democracies.

* Its 40 years since Canada's Prime Minister Lester Pearson on 15 October 1964 took the Maple Leaf through the Canadian Parliament. How proud Canadians are of that decision, and of that distinctly unique symbol of Canada.

At its Bicentenary Australia faltered in the debate on a new Flag . That was 200 years after its modern history began. Canada of course had evolved over more than 300 years before estabalishing the Maple Leaf a century and more after Federation. Time is an element in all political evolution.

It's Time to Define

Somewhere now, say in this decade, but sooner rather than later, it's time for New Zealand leaders to follow the path Canada took. Why should such a seemingly simple task take time? Because the issue of the Flag that Lloyd Morrison raised is basically part of a larger issue A new Flag requires us to examine the foundations of the nation New Zealand claims to be. At some point we need to define ourselves. For a modern nation that means developing a written constitution. A new flag would form part of that defining constitution. Doing both would cement the claim that over some 6 generations we have successfully evolved as a modern nation.

An Independent Nation

In short Lloyd Morrison, in raising the issue of a distinctive New Zealand Flag, is pointing out that New Zealand has evolved well beyond the experience of a British colony and Dominion and is now an independent nation. Have we then evolved sufficiently in Darwinian terms as a 'profitable' Austral Pacific parliamentary democracy to be able so to define ourselves? .A written constitution with a new flag, building on 150 years of Parliamentary government, would confirm New Zealand's status as a free and fair and open non tribal society. In writing such a Constitution we would reaffirm our commitment in the UN Charter to equal rights for all and to social progress and economic advancement under the law for ourselves and for our neighbours. The development of a New Zealand Constitution and a New Zealand Flag 150 years after the birth of our Parliament, and some 100 years after we became a Dominion, would effectively confirm our evolution as a independent nation.

Whose Responsibility?

Who should take up this task? I am reminded of Bob Semple's pitiful bleat when things went wrong. "I am responsible but not to blame". Let's ask our leaders to reverse that fear and take up the task political leaders accepted in developing the US and Australian constitutions and the Canadian flag. We should directly ask our political leaders to undertake this important task of defining our nationhood. That is what leadership is about. Our representative leaders should have the instinct, the courage, the intellect and the experience to establish a Constitutional Convention to provide Parliament with a Constitution and a Flag on which to vote and then to present to the People. And in this decade.

A Constitution and a Flag

A key element in writing a Constitution should include the development of a Flag for the New Zealand of the 21st Century. Flags of course exist as symbols both of a nation's history and a nation's aspirations. This New Zealand nation has had two founding canoes representing the seafaring Polynesians and British. Marrying the history and aspirations of such great seafarers is an obvious call. Both came across the Great Ocean to our cloudy sealand under the dominating aspirational symbol and guiding star of the Southern Cross. Artists would surely wish to marry the Southern Cross to any of the blues and greens of our seas ....and then to the greens, as an artist like Hundertwasser proposed a generation ago.... and to the deep blue palette that artists emphasise, of our beautiful free land. For a national flag , however well loved, neither the the Kiwi nor the Fern quite grasp at the soul of a nation and of its peoples. Maybe we should resume the magical Koru from commercial use? Do New Zealanders have other unique symbols in their minds, an Aorangi or a Taranaki, that entranced the Kupes and the Cooks? There are few to see which combine the power and emotion and passion of aspiration of the Southern Cross That is surely what we need in a Flag under which we are fortunate enough to live....and for which citizens may still have to die ....in the unended search, as we found even in East Timor, for international peace and security.

Hon Hugh Templeton
3 February 2004