Is the biggest loss our chance to examine our views towards becoming a replublic?

This was one of the rare occasions in his premiership when he backed the wrong horse. A new flag will not be among the achievements of his time in office, but equally it is unlikely that the electorate’s judgment will carry over into the party political arena.

Close analysis of voting remains to be completed, but it is likely that most voters ticked their ballot paper on the basis of the illustrated flags, and not because of some wider political matters.

While there was rhetoric during the flag campaign that the $26 million exercise was an extravagant vanity exercise, the scale of the turnout – 67 per cent of the electorate – and the low number of spoiled returns suggests New Zealanders engaged with the task at hand.

Where to from here? Mr Key suggested the flag ballot was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

There is no reason why it ought to be. There is every reason, though, that the process adopted this time around should be carefully reassessed.

In retrospect it seems a mistake to weigh up the idea of changing the nation’s flag without consideration of constitutional change.

A new national flag would almost certainly eliminate the Union Jack from its fabric, which in turn raises more searching questions about New Zealand’s relationship with Britain and the place of the monarch as head of state.

Had the referendum gone in favour of the Lockwood flag then we would have been left with an unsatisfactory halfway house, with a national symbol asserting independence while retaining a titular honours system.

More than one politician has suggested that the time for a constitutional conversation is when the Queen, who is 89, either dies or relinquishes her role to Prince Charles, the next in line to the throne.

The flag debate barely stirred any republican passions. That may not be the case after the next coronation.

At the heart of it, too many people didn’t like the idea of a flag change, and even though the Lockwood designs were a fair alternative, the actual shift in support from the status quo was only about 4-5%.

Before all the politicking, support for the current flag was 60-62%.? A good flag and lots of politicking later, the support had dropped away to 57%.? I’m fairly certain that had the “killer flag” risen to the top through the process, our own “maple leaf” type flag, it still would not have gained sufficient support.

This may be a generational issue.? Perhaps when the country revisits this after most of the baby boomers have shuffled off, the mix of Asian and other 2nd and 1st generation immigrants may see things in a completely new light.


– NZ Herald