Local Heart, Global Soul

June 14, 2018

Flying The Flag… Or ?

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND,Petone: Settlers Museum,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

New Zealanders recently had a referendum concerning a possible change to the national flag. Thousands of public and commercial entries were whittled down to roughly forty and from that a panel selected several for official consideration. I personally thought that all of the “selected” offerings were completely hideous and during our Christmas 2017 / New Year 2018 visit to New Zealand, discovered that everyone I know thought exactly the same.

The referendum was mainly about the issue of the union jack remaining on a flag that no longer has the previously strong ties to Britain.
The biggest obstacle that I can make out is that even people with staunch republican leanings view Queen Elizabeth (as a person) with a strong measure of respect, even if they are not at all in agreement with having a monarchy.

The feeling seems to be that a change of flag would be welcomed, but only after the Queen passes away. The timing was wrong and everyone wanted a better selection of flags to replace the current one so the referendum to change it was a mega-costly exercise that was pretty much doomed to fail from the outset.

I knew from my school history classes that the current flag was not the first one New Zealand had had, but was too disinterested at the time to take note of which had been it’s predecessor.

During our visit to the Petone Settlers Museum, in the area outside Wellington, I found out what that predecessor had been, and why.

The Information board tells me: “United Tribes of New Zealand Flag”, “This flag was known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand. In 1834, a group of northern Māori chiefs chose this flag and declared it the national flag of New Zealand.

At that time New Zealand was not yet a British colony and New Zealand built ships could not sail under a British flag.

Without a flag to represent a nation, trading ships and their valuable cargos would be seized, and Sydney (Australia) an important trading port, would not let ships in without a flag. The solution was this flag, and it became known as New Zealand’s first national flag.

Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, the Union Jack replaced the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand as the official flag.

The New Zealand Company continued to fly the United Tribes’ flag until an army was dispatched to lower the flag and hoist the Union jack in its place in June 1840. The flag here is a reproduction based on a sketch chosen by a gathering of Maori chiefs at Waitangi on 20 March 1834.

The New Zealand Company created an incorrect version of this flag with six-pointed stars instead of eight-pointed stars and flew out on the “Tory” on the voyage to New Zealand from England; it was probably based on an incomplete description published in the New South Wales Gazette in 1835. There were also some mistakenly made with white borders (instead of black) and roughly drawn stars.”

Hmm, it seems we have a history of messing up our national flag, let’s hope that we get it right one day.

Wikipedia / Petone Settlers Museum / History / New Zealand


  1. this was a completely touchy topic here in New Zealand as the then Prime Minister seemed to have his own agenda, and for a lot of us who had been a part of the Services, our old flag is the one that our men fought and died for. Some of the designs put forward were more like logos.. The only replacement flag that had any merit was the United Tribes flag which you mentioned above.

    Comment by Maureen Sudlow — June 14, 2018 @ 8:38 am | Reply

    • Maureen,
      Family and friends in New Zealand had very critical views of this entire process too.
      I think that it would have been common sense to wait until Queen Elizabeth has passed away and to have also waited until a brilliant design had been found, one presented to various random groups, feedback formed until it inched towards a really good end product.

      A small team working hard, who cares if it took five or ten years or more? Take the time, do it slow and get it right. Then, it might have had a chance.

      Everyone seems to agree that in trying to please every single Kiwi and presenting thousands of ideas, you ultimately end up with a mess that became a quagmire of ideas doing a disservice to those who serve, both in an out of the forces. Certainly those who laid down their lives deserved better.
      Maybe the PM’s agenda was to present an idea so bad that the status quo would remain? Who knows.

      Comment by kiwidutch — June 15, 2018 @ 5:38 am | Reply

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