The Kiwis Have Voted To Keep Their Flag

25/03/2016 5:23 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
MARTY MELVILLE via Getty Images
The current New Zealand flag (R) flutters next to the alternative flag (L) in Wellington on March 4, 2016. New Zealanders began voting on March 3, on whether to adopt a new flag, in a referendum Prime Minister John Key has called a once-in-a-generation chance to ditch Britain's Union Jack from the national banner. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE / AFP / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

New Zealand -- our jandal-wearing, fush-and-chup loving, sheep farming, beached as neighbours who are just a short three hour plane ride across the ditch.

We cousins have always shared fairly similar flags, but there were strong signs to suggest a NZD$26m flag referendum would result in them streaking ahead of Australia with a Union Jack-free flag.

After all, New Zealand has had a habit of one-upping Australia (and the world).

In 1893, for example, it was the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote.

Australia was late to the party, only allowing women to vote in South Australia in 1895, and as late as 1908 in Victoria.

Unlike Australia, which has no ‘official’ language, New Zealand is home to three -- English, Maori and, in a world first, New Zealand Sign Language.

In Australia, at the time of the first European contact, there were between 350 and 750 distinct Aboriginal languages -- of these not one is listed as an official language and only 70 have survived.

New Zealand was also the first in the Asia-Pacific region to vote to legalise gay marriage (Australia is still waiting).

Then… there are other things that our neighbours claim to have conceived before us, like the flat white and the Pavlova (you didn’t, but keep telling yourself you did NZ).

One would think this progressive nation, that has been miles ahead of their neighbours across the Tasman Sea on so many issues, would have jumped at the opportunity to replace their out-dated flag with a new design.

On Thursday night, the preliminary results of the historic flag referendum indicated that of the 2.1 million votes cast, 56.6 percent voted to retain the current flag, while 43.3 percent voted for the alternative silver fern design.

The Flag Consideration Project began in May 2015 after a nation-wide engagement program was launched to gather New Zealander’s views and values in regards to alternative flag designs.

silver fern flag

The silver fern design combined four red stars representing the Southern Cross constellation (also seen on the current flag) with a silver fern on a blue background with black infill in the corner.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, had previously warned the population that “they’ll wake up in a few months’ time and they’ll realise what a terrible mistake they made”.

The old flag is one of only a handful left in the world (including Australia) that still features the union jack, reflecting the country’s colonial past.

In addition to this, it also looks strikingly similar to Australia’s flag, which is fine, but if you want to be like us so much New Zealand, why don’t you come and join us? Our Constitution still includes provisions for you to join as a seventh state (we even named an area of our nation’s capital 'Manuka' in 1912 after your tea tree).

(Also, if you joined us it wouldn’t matter who thinks they invented what first -- we would be one big happy family.)

Many Kiwis have deemed the entire referendum process to have been unnecessarily expensive, costing $26 million NZD and bringing no change.

However, there have been plenty, especially on Twitter, who have said while there is a desire for change, the current flag is the better of two bad options.

Lewis Holden, chairman of Change the NZ Flag campaign group, told the BBC earlier this week that there was still "a large sentiment for change" among New Zealanders.

"But the questions remain on what to change to. We'll keep campaigning, we have thousands of followers on FB, and strong support base and strong sentiment, but simply the issues have got in the way of the process," he said.

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