- To have a flag that does not so closely resemble that of their neighbours Australia. The only difference between the two flags is the shades of blue and red used, and the number of and colour of stars used in the southern cross constellation design that appears on both flags. The flags are so similar to the extent that New Zealand dignitaries visiting foreign nations have been incorrectly greeted with Australian flags, and visa versa!
- To remove the Union Flag from the canton, as they’re no longer under British control. While still a member of the British commonwealth and under the sovereignty of Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealanders still feel that they have a separate national identity to that of the British. It can be noted that of the 52 nations of the Commonwealth that are independent from the UK, only New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Tuvalu still feature the Union Flag on their own flag.
- To acknowledge the indigenous Maori people. Many feel that the flag ignores the heritage of the Maori people who have lived on the islands of New Zealand since long before the British colonised the land.
There is also some speculation that public talks on the flag were started to divert attention from other ongoing major issues, and that Prime Minister John Key used the promise of a referendum just to win reelection in 2014.
There were 3 stages to the flag referendum. The first was a submission period, where the general New Zealand public could submit their flag designs, which were to be reviewed and whittled down by a Flag Consideration Panel made up of a a group of New Zealanders who were representative of the nation’s demographics. Over this public consultation period 10,292 designs were submitted, and of course with submissions open to the public, there were several tongue-in-cheek suggestions, including the fantastic ‘Laser Kiwi’ flag:
After several months of narrowing down entries, the Flag Consideration Panel selected 4 flags for the public to vote on. These were the 3 Silver Fern flags and the Koru flag. However, after a social media campaign, the popular ‘Red Peak’ flag was also added to the ballot for the second stage of the referendum.
By a postal vote, the citizens of New Zealand were tasked with ranking the 5 flags selected, which would determine the most popular flag on average. After 3 weeks, the votes were tallied and it was announced that ‘The Silver Fern (Black, White & Blue)’ was the preferred of the proposed flags, with the red/white/blue ‘Silver Fern’ coming in second. The ‘Red Peak’ only managed third place despite it apparent popularity with the public, while the black and white variant of the ‘Silver Fern’ clinched fourth place, and the Koru flag sadly brought up the rear.
Finally, people were sent the second voting paper, where they were to choose between the newly selected flag, and the current New Zealand flag, which had been the national flag since March 1902.