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New Zealand is not changing its flag after all

The current New Zealand flag (L), the referendum-winning blue-and-black Kyle Lockwood–designed flag (C), and the second-place red-and-blue flag (R) fly on a building in New Lynn, Auckland, on December 14, 2015, in Auckland, New Zealand.
The current New Zealand flag (L), the referendum-winning blue-and-black Kyle Lockwood–designed flag (C), and the second-place red-and-blue flag (R) fly on a building in New Lynn, Auckland, on December 14, 2015, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

After a lengthy campaign, New Zealanders have voted by a ten-point margin to keep its national flag, rejecting a new design that would remove colonial symbols.

The decision follows a month-long referendum campaign where voters were asked to choose between their nation's current flag, which bears the British union jack, or replace it with a new design of a silver fern.

Here's the current flag:

New Zealand All Blacks Media Session Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

And the proposed flag:

New Zealand Government via AP

The New Zealand flag, which has flown for more than a century, features multiple symbols representing the country's former status as a British colony. In addition to the union jack in the upper left corner, it also features four stars of the Southern Cross constellation, paying homage to the country’s former status as a southern outpost of the British Empire.

The silver fern, by contrast, is a popular national symbol, appearing on the country’s $1 coin as well as in numerous military and sporting contexts.

If New Zealand had voted in favor of the change, it would not be the first country to replace its flag to distance itself from a colonial past. This summer, Fiji will likely replace its flag, which also contains the union jack, with a new one featuring more indigenous symbolism.

But a main motivation for New Zealand's supporters in favor of replacing the flag is actually another issue entirely: It looks a little too similar to Australia’s flag.

Australia’s flag:

John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, says he has been seated in front of the Australian flag at several international meetings, and the same once happened to former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke on an official state visit in Canada. Just this past summer, New Zealand’s official water polo team was greeted at the world championship with an Australian flag.

In a poll conducted in February, 70 percent of the population said they were against the change, though 16 percent of those voters specifically only oppose the new silver fern design.

The problem with the new design? It bears an unfortunate likeness to the jihadist black flag flown by ISIS.