NZ Flag

Silver Fern, Wellington


I am a New Zealander. 

I was born here.  My parents were both born here.  My grandparents were all born here.  Seven of my eight great-grandparents were born here too (the other was born in Scotland).

I don’t belong anywhere else.

I hate being called a European. 

I lived in London for three years, and loved it, but I don’t have any connections there.  They have a queue at Heathrow for Europeans, but I wasn’t allowed through that way.

I find it odd that our country still holds onto some traditions from our time as a part of The Empire.  The UK and Europe have changed a lot since then, and they have clearly moved on.  It seems to me that we could too.

One easy thing we should do, which would be a symbolic start to this process, is change our flag.

I say “easy” but of course the devil is in the details.  

There are people who have strong associations to the current flag – such as some former soldiers (although, those who fought against the Germans and Italians in WW2 should note that people from those countries all now enter the UK via the European queue I mentioned above).  

And, even amongst those who support this idea there is disagreement about the design that should be adopted.  

For me this is easy.  The Silver Fern is a symbol which is widely associated with New Zealand and New Zealanders.  It’s the symbol most of us would pick if we were asked to represent our country in a single image – which, after all, is the broad purpose of a flag isn’t it?  

A flag needs to be simple, and instantly recognisable.  A plain Silver Fern on a black background would achieve this brilliantly.

So, I’m pleased to see that the group behind NZ Flag have re-organised.  They have my full support and hopefully yours too.

I think they would have a better chance of success if they proposed a specific new design, rather than just advocating a change.  Their current design, which was created by Cameron Sanders from Cato Partners, is cool but is too stylised.  Unlike other Silver Ferns used by sporting teams and other organisations, the design used on a national flag would not need to be registered as a trade mark, so doesn’t necessarily need any unique design features.

I suggest something like this:


(a design based loosely on the Tourism NZ logo)

What do you think?

If you want to add your voice in support of NZ Flag, sign-up on the website or join the Facebook group.


Photo Credits: Silver Fern, by Heaven’s Gate

25 thoughts on “NZ Flag”

  1. This is a no-brainer. Flag should be black with silver fern – this is the symbol most NZ’ers identify with and it is the symbol most widely known around the world. It’s disappointing that there is such resistance and that a debate needs to occur – the benefits are obvious. The current proposal is nowhere near the mark, far too stylized, smooth and far-removed from the typical silver fern that has been around for the past 100 years. The image above is getting much closer, but maybe not quite 100% there.

  2. Agree with all your reasons above, but a furled white-fern-on-a-black-background will look just a bit too close to a Jolly Roger. Not quite the national image we’re after ;-).

    So what else? White koru on green? Just the Southern Cross as is, but larger, and without the Union Jack? (Would be great to get in before the Aussies.) The Tino Rangatiratanga flag?

    But if arguing over what the new flag should look like prevents us from changing it, that’d be a pity … let’s just get on with it. I’ll vote for the Jolly Roger if that’s the choice. And let’s ditch the royals while we’re at it, too.

  3. I don’t think the silver fern is a good symbol for New Zealand as a country. If you think about it the silver fern really is associated with New Zealand sports teams. It is their symbol and not that of the nation as a whole. The Koru leaf to me represents New Zealand far more than the fern.

    But I guess whatever did get the nod would be better than what we have now.

  4. My main complaint with the nz flag guys last time around was how stylized their design was. In 10 years time that’ll look hokey and dated.

    This is how we ended up with our national eyesore in london:

    The version you’ve posted here is much more like it.

  5. I like the silver fern on sky blue, mostly because, like Glen, I think the silver fern on black is already overdone by our sports teams and clothing manufacturers.

  6. Yes, the silver fern on black is used widely by our national sports teams (although, not exclusively by any means – it’s also widely used in business and the public sector too – see:

    But, why is that? Because it’s a simple and recognisable symbol that represents us. As I said in the post, that’s the definition of a flag, isn’t it?

    To exclude this design just because it’s used elsewhere would seem a strange decision.

    Yes, the silver fern on black looks a little bit pirate. No other country would choose a black flag, because they have their own colours. It’s distinctive. It’s unique. It’s ours.

    Yes, we could choose different colours (blue or green) or different symbols (a koru or the southern cross) to avoid these problems. But, in doing so we’d be choosing something that doesn’t represent us quite as well.

    Just my opinion … interested in your thoughts.

  7. I agree and you are right about the fern being the best option.

    I posted about this after returning from Viet Nam earlier in the year. I found a shop on Phu Quoc Island, about 20 minutes flight West of Viet Nam, selling ice cream from Invercargill (?) but they had an Aussie flag on the store front :-(

    On return home I found an email from Corel offering upgrades but they used flags to indicate Au and NZ pricing. At the size you could hardly tell which was which! You can see both in this post;

    Years ago while doing graphics for a yacht we came up with a fern that incorporated the old flag. It wouldn’t work for a national flag but was interesting to mix two very different symbols.

    See it here:
    Mini Sponsor Page

  8. I agree with most of what is said above. However, I’m not convinced the silver-on-black fern is right. It’s been a symbol in sport for just 100 years on only really been picked up by popular culture recently (on a historical timescale). Then there are the trademark issues (NZRU etc)…

    I’m all for dropping the union flag from ours. We’re not a colony; we’re a sovereign nation in our own right and our flag should make this distinction.

    I do like the sliver fern and think most New Zealanders can identify with it to some degree. I think the southern cross should remain. It is what distinguishes our current flag from the rest.

    Mt pick of the alternatives is this:'s_New_Zealand_Flag.svg

  9. I think the litmus test for the uptake of a new flag, and the best way to achieve it, is to get businesses and other organisations to fly the damn thing.

    If you can convince people to fly the new flag, of any design, in preference to the existing one then you’re well on the way to winning many hearts and minds.

    The first organisations to do this will encounter some backlash, and so will need to be courageous (=patriotic, really).

    If you got a national hotel chain, a national car rental firm, etc then you’d be well on the way to making it a real issue that flew in peoples faces daily (ah puns. aren’t they great?).

    BTW I agree the one is too stylised, and if you like Ferns then a kiwi image/graphic would be far more justifiable although more corny. Isn’t there an armed forces flag with a kiwi?


  10. I agree with the idea. After looking on I think it’s clear that the new flag shouldn’t be done any of those people. They look more like logo’s than National Identities. I like your design, although the only gripe is that it is white. Silver fern probably should be Silver. I know they are Silver/White in reality but still…

  11. Rowan, I couldn’t agree more. Simple is always best. Fern; on Black. Sorted! But specifically, the fern should be so abstract that it transcends the time in which it is designed. In the same way that the Shell (Oil) logo cannot be tied to a particular country or time frame. It’s hard enough to change a flag, we don’t want to end up with one that rapidly dates…

  12. Well argued points, Rowan. I’d welcome changing the flag. Black is key for me and the silver fern ticks all the boxes. Canada’s terrific flag with the simple maple leaf is a perfect case for change.

  13. @Kyle

    Your red and black design is really nice.

    It would be even better if you took away the stars, centred the fern and made the red bit black, I reckon ;-)

  14. The countdown is on, and Made from New Zealand is right in behind it.

    The fern is a symbol of the future on all fronts beyond the fact that its a better fit for us and we’ve already got some identity around it… it’s a piece of mother nature – the world needs more connections back to reality – the living world, not ideologies and past behaviours.

    The more baggage you let go of, the more you free up the future to be something special…

  15. I get pretty frustrated having to tick the “European” box when filling in forms too. Where’s the NZ’er option? Actually had a memorable and touching argument 10 years ago with an event organiser about this.

  16. I have always though we should have an alternative to European or even Pakeha to describe NZers of European origin. Maybe a term such as Euro-polynesian would describe us better – from European stock but based in polynesia (similar to Affro-american).

  17. Rowan,

    Thanks for your support and it’s fantastic to see the issue of the flag getting back into public consciousness through blogs such as yours.

    It’s true that advocating a specific design would be easier than advocating change in general. But while there are some great designs out there, which have enjoyed considerable popularity, we feel that so far there have been no particular designs (including the design, originally merely intended to spark debate) that have truly stood out.

    We stand by the simplicity of a silver fern on a black background (and laugh at allegations of piracy). Successful flags are as simple as possible, and while the stylization of the fern in the proposal doesn’t quite strike the right note, proposals that incorporate too many colours and images seem to lose some impact. On top of this, every new design that attracts its own following further fragments the initiative. There are a number of groups supporting specific flags, but these factions, while completely entitled to support their preferred flag, do make a unified front and the possibility of change that bit more difficult.

    We fully support change and we’re not wedded to our design if somebody can come up with something better.

    Thanks for the links, and for the good reads on your blog.

  18. I disagree about having more success if you push a particular design. That is precisely why the previous big campaign failed. People would rather have a choice and a say in the matter, than be dictated to about something they don’t agree with anyway.

    The problem with a black & white flag is that too many people are opposed to it – for all sorts of reasons, from doom and gloom, piracy, evil, death, sports image, to not wanting to be seen as a totalitarian state. It seems pointless to push this idea when it’s obviously not going to find favour with everyone, regardless of how much it appeals to others.

    I have designed a number of flags that do have black & white, but are also coloured flags. The idea being that those who want colour can compromise a little, and those who want black & white can compromise a little too. Some of my designs have had really good comments, but there are still people who insist on wanting only their own thing. If we are ever going to have a new flag, then we have to be prepared to compromise, and to look at both sides of the argument, not just one.

    Most of my designs include part of our current flag, because that’s the most likely thing to be acceptable to the opponents of change. When these people can see a design they could like, that is when they will consider the idea of a new flag, and will look at other designs as well. Until then, they see no reason to change the flag at all, and just don’t want to know. See

  19. Just to clarify. I know weren’t actually saying the black and white flag was “the one”. But a lot of people thought they were, and that is still the perception, even now.

  20. @Patricia

    I understand what you’re saying.

    But, I disagree that compromise is the solution.

    It seems to me that the flag we have now is a compromise. And, the design is a mix of existing flags and elements, rather than an original design.

    As I said in the post, a flag design needs to be simple and instantly recognisable. I’m not sure that any design which is a compromise between different groups with different objectives would achieve that spec.

    I also understand what you are proposing in terms of the approach to selecting a new design – i.e. a process similar to that used to change the electoral system from FPP to MMP.

    Perhaps that would work? That is, start with a number of alternative designs and move from there to a run-off between the current design and the most popular alternative.

    In my opinion there will be no change unless there is a single alternative design that has broad support.

    To be honest, I unfortunately don’t see that happening any time soon.

    I’d love to be proved wrong…

  21. Rowan, you are right that a change of flag won’t happen until a single design has broad support, but first you have to find that design (or a shortlist of three or four) – not present a single idea that SOME people think is the right one. The reality is that with fashion, art, music (and flags), people have wildly different tastes, and what some people think is awesome, others will think is hideous. Who is to say which is the right taste? except by a majority of people preferring one over the other. Inevitably, that means some people won’t get the final design they want, but that’s democracy, and I imagine most of us will eventually get used to whatever is chosen.

    Unfortunately,’s idea seems to be to shut out anyone with different ideas, and only present the ones they like, or that are designed by known artists – despite some of the designs having no obvious connection to New Zealand. If they’re unhappy about the process being fragmented by separate people, then they have only themselves to blame. I have emailed them a number of times regarding my designs, and not once have I received an acknowledgement or even an automatic reply. That lack of interest (and consequent negative perception) was the very reason I set up my own flag website. (I did include a link to their site…).

    It would make more sense if they or someone else (not me) had a centralised flagsite where people could submit their flag ideas for public approval (or not). Assuming other people have had the same experience with as I have, then there are probably heaps of ideas out there that won’t have been seen by anyone. Who knows what great ideas ordinary people might have? Admittedly, there are some pretty bad designs as well, but at least people can judge mine and all the other ones on various websites for themselves. In considering what is good and what’s not, I think too many people are hung up on absolute simplicity of design, when more-detailed designs like America’s Stars and Stripes, and Britain’s Union Jack work very well for them (and are instantly recognised), which is what really matters with a flag.

    As you can see from my designs, I am fully in favour of including a silver fern, but not on a totally black flag. There are many valid reasons people don’t want a black flag, including some of the ones I mentioned above, but there is also an important issue of safety. Black flags at sports events are fine – it’s an organised event and everyone knows what they’re about. But imagine our flag in the middle of the ocean or in a war zone. If you or someone you care about was in that situation, would you feel absolutely sure no foreign aggressor could mistake the meaning of a mostly-black flag? That’s quite a risk to take, and not everyone will know our flag as well as we do.

    We need to remember that a national flag is not just for sports events or everyday use, and that none of us can know what uncertain times might shape the world in all the years to come. If you think about issues like that, then a black flag is not a good idea at all, and it would be far better to say categorically that we WON’T be having a black flag. At the moment, people are worried that if they do agree to change the flag, then a black flag is exactly what we’ll end up with. It’s a fact of life that people always fear change (of anything), and the aim of my website is to take away their various fears, so that maybe then they will be more interested in the whole idea of having a new flag. I just wish more people knew about it, and would take the time to read and understand it…

Comments are closed.