The New Zealand Public Has Spoken

The people have endorsed our national flag.

The preliminary referendum results are out. The current flag received 56.6 percent of the vote, and the alternative design 43.2 percent.

Total votes received were 2,124,507, which included 4,942 informal votes (0.23 percent) and 4,554 invalid votes (0.21 percent). Voter turnout was 67.3 percent.

Over 1.2 million votes were in favour of the current flag.

Our flag has been recognised as our national symbol ever since it was first adopted in 1869.

However for many years our flag had no legal status on land, and had legal status only at sea. Nevertheless the flag was used by New Zealanders, including our troops during the South African War of 1899-1901. Some politicians considered during that war that the flag ought to be given a statutory basis for use on land. There was even some talk of a new flag.

Parliament debated the subject. Ultimately it was realized that the national flag, then more accurately called the New Zealand Ensign, was already the recognised ensign of the colony, and could not be improved upon. Parliament passed the New Zealand Ensign Act 1901, and the bill was given royal assent on 24 March 1902. The Act came into force on 12 June 1902, and declared that “the said flag has since [1869] been in general use for the purpose aforesaid, and also as the recognised ensign of the colony: And whereas it is desirable that the same flag should be by law established as the ensign of the colony for the purposes hereinafter mentioned”.

114 years later the public has emphatically endorsed the wise decision of those politicians of 1902.

New Zealand Flag Institute

24th March 2016


New Zealand’s Flag Since 1869

The New Zealand Gazette of 23 October 1869 published a proclamation by Governor Bowen authorizing the use, by Government ships, of the Blue Ensign with “four five-pointed red stars in the fly” (the Southern Cross). This is what is now known as the New Zealand flag.
It has been claimed by the Flag Consideration Panel that the New Zealand flag was not adopted until 1902. This is incorrect. Although the flag was approved in 1869 only for Government use at sea, the proclamation described the flag as the badge of the colony, and it was increasingly flown on shore and by the public, and was accepted as the national flag.
In 1902 the flag was officially adopted by parliament as the national flag for all purposes. This was little more than a formality, as is clear from the preamble to the New Zealand Ensign Act 1901:
“WHEREAS by Proclamation under the hand of His Excellency the Governor, dated the twenty-third day of October, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine, it was declared, in accordance with the Queen’s Regulations made under the provisions of an Act of the Imperial Parliament intituled “The Colonial Defence Act, 1865,” that the flag hereinafter described should have the distinctive seal or badge of the Colony of New Zealand for all vessels belonging to or permanently employed in the service of the colony: And whereas the said flag has since been in general use for the purpose aforesaid, and also as the recognised ensign of the colony: And whereas it is desirable that the same flag should be by law established as the ensign of the colony for the purposes hereinafter mentioned; BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED by the General Assembly…”
The Act clearly states that the 1869 flag was already the recognised ensign of the colony, and the purpose of the Act was simply to establish the flag by law “as the ensign of the colony”.
There is however no requirement for a national flag to be established by law (Act of Parliament) rather than custom and usage.
The Union Jack (or Flag) has no statutory basis. It has no official status on land in the United Kingdom. It too was adopted for Government use at sea, but has since acquired customary status as a national flag. It remains in the same legal position in the UK as the New Zealand Ensign (flag) had in New Zealand between 1869 and 1902. Despite frequent claims to the contrary, it never had any legal status on land in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Ensign Act 1901 was given royal assent on 24 March 1902. The last day of voting in the second flag referendum is coincidentally 24 March 2016.
The New Zealand Ensign Act 1901 therefore confirmed that the current flag has been our recognised flag or ensign since 1869, not 1902.
The public has been misled about the history of our national flag.
New Zealand Flag Institute
16th March 2016

Was the Flag Referendum Process undermined by inaccurate information?

The New Zealand flag was adopted in 1869. The flag was formally authorised by Governor Bowen, by Gazette of 23 October 1869, for use by Government ships. From 1869 the flag was increasingly flown on shore and by the public. It was accepted as the national flag.

In 1902 the flag was formally adopted by parliament as the national flag for all purposes.

The current flag has therefore been our flag since 1869, not 1902.

All of the publicity material produced by the Flag Consideration Panel refers to the flag having been adopted in 1902. Virtually nowhere is there even a reference to 1869. The public has been misled about the history of our flag.

The Flag Consideration Panel published one substantial information booklet, the 150 page “New Zealand flag facts”. This was written by Malcolm Mulholland, a well-known advocate of a new flag, and the only member of the panel with any knowledge of flags. The booklet is heavily biased in favour of a new flag. The panel has not published any equivalent material in favour of the current flag.

The New Zealand Flag Institute believes that the referendum process has been undermined by inaccurate and biased information.

New Zealand Flag Institute

14th March 2016


PM Suggests opponents of flag change lacking in patriotism

The Prime Minister, John Key, claimed in early 2015 that changing the national flag is a matter of patriotism. This suggestion was ironically, and provocatively, made at a function at  Chatham House.

John Key’s claim is tantamount to suggesting that the majority of New Zealanders, who do not want to change our 146 year old flag, are lacking in patriotism.


RNZRSA Submission to Electoral and Justice Select Committee

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association has made a strong submission in favour of retaining the New Zealand flag. This is the full submission:

Committee Secretariat

Justice and Electoral Select Committee

Parliament Buildings



This submission, on behalf of the Royal New Zealand RSA, supports the present New Zealand flag and opposes the intent of the New Zealand Flags Referendum Bill to consider alternatives.

The RNZ RSA wishes to make these points;

New Zealanders treasure our flag. It was proudly flown at Gallipoli on April 25 to mark the centenary of the Anzac campaign and at Anzac Day ceremonies throughout New Zealand in front of thousands of people

Since 1902, when the flag was adopted, our forces have served under it. It is symbolic of the sacred oath they made to protect the peace and security of New Zealand. It is to the flag that we turn to honour their courage, commitment and sacrifice

 Its significance is huge and meaningful as we mark the milestones involving New Zealand forces throughout the First World War from 1914 to 1918

 The flag, whether flown from government buildings or at major sporting fixtures such as the Cricket World Cup or Rugby World Cup, is just as relevant today as when our Anzacs landed on the shores of Gallipoli

 Significantly 29,000 New Zealanders have died in battles under the flag since World War One and thousands more have been wounded. The timing of this Bill is particularly insensitive as we remember those who served their country during the centenary of this conflict

 The flag represents the history that makes us uniquely Kiwi. It unites the present with the past and encompasses our heritage that shaped and formed the pioneering and innovative people that we are today

 There has been no groundswell of support from the general public for a change nor any tangible march on parliament to demonstrate opposition and, while a government is expected to lead, it should not be at the expense of New Zealand’s heritage

 The cost of $26 million for two referendums is insupportable at a time when many sectors are finding it difficult to make ends meet and no explanation has been given to justify the scale of spending on a project which has no public mandate. In addition if a new flag was introduced it would cost millions to implement.

The Royal NZ RSA therefore makes two recommendations.

Firstly to withdraw this Bill until a more appropriate time and allow New Zealanders to commemorate the milestones of the First World War without distraction

Secondly, if the referendum is to go ahead, we firmly advocate it should be based on one question only “Do you want to change the current NZ flag – yes or no?”

The Royal New Zealand RSA sees its responsibility of behalf of New Zealanders, to champion our current flag and we call on all people who support its retention to voice their support in every practical and democratic way.

We wish to speak to our submission during the period when submissions are being considered by the Select Committee.

Yours sincerely,

David Moger

RSA Chief Executive.


One of the oldest and best recognised flags in the world

The New Zealand Flag dates from 1869.  Only fourteen other countries possess a national flag that is older. Our flag is well recognised and distinctive, a flag that we ought to be proud of.