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NZ should adopt a new flag.

3 points
1 point
adminadmin (PRO)
I'd like to begin by thanking my opponent for offering this challenge. As a fellow New Zealander I care much about this topic.

Context (for non-NZ folks)

New Zealand was probably first inhabited by the Maori people sometime before the 1300s. Maori had their own culture but not a unified country. Europeans discovered NZ in the 1600s, and mapped it in the 1700s. In the 1820s the first European settlements were established, primarily from the British Isles.

While technically Australia could rightfully lay claim to New Zealand, they didn't care, so New Zealand practically had no laws. Then some British wanted to establish larger colonies here, and the British collectively thought to themselves "hang on wait a moment, those guys need some laws don't they". So they sent over William Hobson to get the Maori to sign a document called the Treaty of Waitangi, which the British then used to legitimize their rule.

Maori didn't like that much so tried to fight the British. They did pretty well compared to other indigenous peoples who fought the British, but they were eventually destroyed.

Under the influence of the visionary George Grey, NZ got its own "constitution" in the 1860s that set up with our own formal parliament. It wasn't until 1907, however, that NZ was actually a country as opposed to just a colony.

Before that, as a colony, New Zealand's flag looked like this:

Union Jack

(NB - some people used to fly different NZ-branded variants of that flag illegally, but that was basically it)

That flag's called the Union Jack, representing the Union not of New Zealand, but of the British Isles. When we decided to get our own flag, there wasn't much of an interest in expressing New Zealand's identity. In fact it was specifically designed to look as British as possible because New Zealand was fighting alongside Britain in the South African War at the time. Hence the New Zealand flag is literally a defaced Union Jack with the Southern Cross star formation on it (precisely the same as the Australian flag except for one star). It looks like this:

New Zealand Flag

This flag does such a poor job of representing New Zealand's identity that New Zealand has had to adopt no less than SEVEN other official flags over the years (including, ironically, a special flag for the queen because our flag wasn't British enough - although it depends a bit on what you call a "flag" exactly according to some vexillologists). It's so non-unique that if you do a Google Image Search with that flag image there, Google comes back with "Best guess for this image: flag of australia".

My model

In this debate I will propose that New Zealand adopts the following flag instead:

Silver Fern

This is known as the Silver Fern flag. It was invented at around the same time as the New Zealand flag, and was the flag that was actually used by the New Zealand soldiers in that South African War, but it wasn't chosen because it wasn't British enough to be our national flag. The silver fern, however, has just as much heritage as a flag as our normal flag does.

Why the Silver Fern over other possible flags

There have been many proposals for different flags to replace our current one. They're all not as good as the Silver Fern for several reasons:

  • Flag-makers wouldn't have to make a bunch of new flags, because the silver fern is already so commonly used.
  • The silver fern has a long history of being used to represent New Zealand in sport, military and civil capacities. It is rare to see a major New Zealand event with no silver fern flag present.
  • The silver fern is a uniquely New Zealand symbol - the plant it depicts grows nowhere else in the world.
  • It's not under general copyright to anybody and completely free to use.
  • The silver fern has greater popular appeal. All of the last 3 prime ministers of the country have favored the silver fern.
  • The silver fern looks nothing like our current flag, which has all kinds of issues that I'll get to in a moment.

Flags should represent us

The current New Zealand flag might be a good flag for Captain Cook - the great British explorer, navigating by the south sea stars - but it is far removed from current New Zealand culture. The whole point of the flag is to represent the British nature of our colony. It's a clear rip-off of the Australian flag (in fact we adopted ours just months after they adopted theirs), which is itself a rip-off of every other British colony's flag ever.

New Zealand was NEVER defined by us being a British colony. All the British ever did for this country was send over settlers and soldiers. Much like the flag of the United States has no Union Jack, and Canada has no Union Jack, so does it make no sense for New Zealand to have a Union Jack as the most prominent visual aspect of the flag. Everything from the flag's colors (same as the Union Jack) to it's form (same as other colonies - though New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries silly enough to retain this form to this day) is nothing that's uniquely us. Even the Southern Cross makes no sense. Not only is it not unique to New Zealand (being visible from the whole Southern Hemisphere) but it's also easily confused for other flags (even Google can't get it right). Flags should be immediately recognizable - ours isn't.

It's not even the case that a British colony accurately describes this country. The Maori chief Hone Heke famously chopped down the Union Jack at Russel back in the 1840s as a Maori show of defiance, triggering the first war between the British and the Maori. Since then New Zealand has increasingly moved from biculturalism to multiculturalism. We've had lots of immigration from Asia, the Pacific, South Africa, other places in Europe etc. We actively encourage these cultures to develop and maintain their own identities, as we have put significant investment into helping the Maori culture continue to flourish. For about 100 years, no similar law has been passed helping British culture to flourish. It is worth noting that the current flag was adopted at a time when legislative bias against Maori was very high.

The silver fern solves this problem. Being a native plant, no other country in the whole wide world can legitimately put a silver fern on their flag. It is relate-able to all New Zealanders, not just those of British heritage. It establishes that New Zealand is not a British colony and hasn't been a British colony for over a century. 

A flag we're already proud of

Almost every New Zealand sports team has a variant of the silver fern as their logo. The majority of the units of the army use the silver fern on their badges. It remains relevant even as times change. It's worth noting, however, that even though our flag in New Zealand has changed five times, our current flag is actually one of the older flags in the world. Most flags do get updated to better reflect what a country is all about. This is a flag that matters to us - or as NZFlag.com puts it "It is an image to which all New Zealanders relate and is a powerful and emotional symbol of inspiration at times when it matters." Well said.

Let's face it - there wouldn't even be a movement to change the flag if the current one was doing all this stuff well enough.

The ubiquity of a flag is important. Not only does it demonstrate popular appeal, but also pride. Even the government uses the silver fern more frequently than the NZ flag. For example, a New Zealand passport features a half-silver fern prominently on the cover, but no New Zealand flag anywhere.

New Zealand Passport


The silver fern is a nice bold and distinctive flag. It's high contrast so easily noticeable, even to people who might be color blind. It has a very simple color scheme, requiring fewer colors than the current flag, and immediately stands out among the crowds of world flags. Few countries have the opportunity to get themselves a flag quite this cool. There is a single focal object, not five, and no need for complex rules regarding where exactly each star should be positioned and what size they all are. Instead there is a single object, with one size and one position. At the same time the shape of the fern generates significant visual interest and complexity to balance out the flag neatly.

Unlike the current flag, the silver fern is not two basically two flags stuck together. It's a single flag for a unique and very special nation. Tourists come to New Zealand not to see how British it is, or to check whether the Southern Cross is also visible here. Instead they arrive because we've got stuff nobody else in the world has. There is scarcely a tourism shop out there without silver fern merchandise for sale. That's because everybody loves the silver fern. Irrespective of its national significance, it's beautiful.

Symbolic (of the right kind of thing)

For too long New Zealand has had a flag representing colonial oppression. It is time for that to change.

The silver fern is one of a handful of icons New Zealand has used since Maori times as a metaphor for the whole nation. Only the koru would be able to challenge it in that regard, and the koru is already taken on the Tiro Rangatiratanga flag, which is the official flag of the Maori people.

As silverfernflag.org points out, "The multiple points of the fern leaf represents Aotearoa's peaceful multicultural society, a single fern leaf spreading upwards represents that we are all New Zealanders - one people - growing onward into the future." It's also evocative of the Maori name for the country, Aotearoa, meaning "land of the long white cloud".

We might as well join the club

Lots of folks think changing our flag makes us lose our spot in the commonwealth. This is a lie. Just look at Canada. They have a beautiful flag with a maple leaf that uniquely symbolizes them. We could have the same with a silver fern flag uniquely symbolizing us. Everyone from South Africa to India has ditched the colonialist British colony flag for something that uniquely represents them. The fact that we're hanging on to something so old makes us a little bit uncool among all these other nations.

Additionally, don't forget that we can keep that silly flag we made for the queen as an official flag too. And we can also keep the colonialist flag while we're at it. But there's no reason why our main flag should be kept the same for the Commonwealth's sake.

Some pre-emptive rebuttals

There are two major things the silver fern has come under attack for. While these points are important to address, it should be noted that neither is as deep-rooted with the fundamental problems the current flag faces (ie the fact it's old, colonialist and lame).

The first is that it looks too much like this flag, a common symbol for piracy:

Skull and Crossbones

Conversely, some think the flag makes us look like wusses because the silver fern, being unknown in the rest of the world, might be assumed to be a feather. I've heard people assume that the Canadian flag is a marijuana leaf too. It clearly doesn't look like one, just like the silver fern doesn't look like a feather or skull. If anything it's a good way of educating the rest of the world about some of the great things that make New Zealand special. 

The second objection is with the colors white and black. Some people have gone on the record as saying that colorful colors are easier to notice. First, this is not true among the many colorful flags of the world. A bold and distinctive flag is what stands out. Second, it's got to be a lot more noticeable than our current flag that nobody can tell apart from Australia's.

A minority have criticised the color black specifically as being associated with death. However, nobody has ever made that objection about any of the other many countries with black in their flags, like Barbados, Jordan, Botswana, Uganda, Estonia, Jamaica, South Africa, South Korea, Ghana, Belgium, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Swaziland, Angola, Albania, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Brunei, Egypt, Malawi, Vanuatu and many more. Black is a neutral color as much associated with law/peace/wisdom/power as it is with war (which is why the robes of judges are black). Additionally, many colors are associated with death in different cultures. You're never going to please everyone. Black and white make pretty good choices overall. I mean, our national rugby team are the All Blacks, but they're far from all dead.

I rest my case for the round and wish my opponent the best of luck in the debate.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-01-30 21:41:11
| Speak Round
nzlockienzlockie (CON)

OHBOYOHBOYOHBOYOHBOY! I can't wait to have this debate. I'm very excited about the chance to discuss this topic and I thank my opponent for graciously taking the weak side of the argument.

As another proud kiwi, I feel it's my duty to note that there were MANY inaccuracies made as PRO took us through that short review of our nation's history. I know many of them were made in jest and several of them are irrelevant to the topic of discussion but there were one or two that he slipped in there that I feel obligated to point out. I'll do that as we go because I'm only really interested in them as far as they pertain to this debate.

I'd like to open MY side by letting everyone know WHY we are having this debate. You'll notice that the rules qualify the resolution as being that NZ should adopt a flag NOW. ("...at its earliest convenience") This is because our country is yet again gripped with the question of whether now is the right time to finally change our flag. This question is not a new one, it comes up every Waitangi Day, (Our National Day) every Olympics and every Commonwealth Games. You must understand that it is not brought up by the people of NZ, it's brought up by the media, hungry to generate news. Most polls still show a strong support for the current flag and these debates usually rage for about 2 or 3 days before fading off for another year or so.

My side of this debate will happily address the weak arguments FOR the adoption of a new flag, (PRO has already given you two of them but to save time I'll give you all four.) before giving a few reasons why the Silver Fern flag he has PROposed is not the best choice for a national flag. Before we do that though I'll give you the one over-arching reason why we shouldn't adopt a new flag now.

Why we should keep the current Flag:

There's no good reason to change it.

National Flags are pretty important things. They're not logos or brands. They're not like paint on your house or clothes that you wear. When you change flags constantly, they lose their power to connect with people. Just ask the state of Georgia who seem to change their flag every 4 years or so. What I'm saying is that a country should only change their flag when something really significant happens. Let me give you some examples...

Malta: In 1942, the entire island nation of Malta was awarded the UK's highest equal medal, the George cross in recognition of their courage during the war. This was a hugely significant event after the traumatic experience they had collectively endured and they commemorated it by placing it on their flag.

South Africa: In 1995, South Africa was finally freed from the system of Apartheid and the ANC political party swooped into power. They commemorated their new government by a radical and exciting new design for their flag.
Georgia: After well over a century of rule by the Russians, Georgia finally got their freedom in 1991 and eventually adopted a flag which tied the new nation all the way back to their brightest time in history around the 13th century.

My point is that these countries all changed their flag because of a significant change in their nation's histories. NZ is not going through any significant change. There is absolutely no reason to change our flag right now. The logical time for NZ to change the flag will be when we become a Republic. Thanks to baby George who we absolutely adore, that won't be happening anytime soon.

4 silly reasons to change the flag:

The following are the 4 reasons that people give for wanting to change our flag:

1. It looks too much like Australia.

2. It has a Union Jack on it and we are not British.

3. It doesn't represent [insert ethnicity here] and they're an important part of our country too.

4. It doesn't POP like Canada's one does.

1. It looks too much like Australia

To understand why this point is so silly, you need to understand the purpose of a Flag. A flag is supposed to describe the country. Nations do this with varying degrees of success. Some, like Kyrgystan absolutely smash this out of the park. Their flag tells us information about their Geography, History, Culture and Social organisation. Actual proper information too, not just "Red for the blood of the people". Others like perennial fan favourite, Canada do a terrible job, telling us absolutely nothing. More about that later.
NZ does an ok job. I would rate us a solid high 5 out of 10. Might sound low but it'd actually be a bit above average.

Our country is an island nation which immediately sets us apart from most of the world. That's why we have so much blue.

We belong to the British Monarchy - still do; and the Union Jack reminds us of that fact.

We are one of a small selection of countries that can see the celestial South Pole. This means our night sky remains the same year round. Our native people were navigators and used the stars. The Southern Cross is on there for these reasons. Of all the countries in the world who have stars on their flags, only a small handful of them have actual constellations. We are one of those.

Australia is a very similar country to NZ. It too is an Island nation surrounded by water. It too remains part of the British Monarchy. It too can see the Celestial South Pole.

NZ and Australian flags are similar because... WE ARE SIMILAR! There's no shame in that, tons of countries share the same fate, represented in their similar-but-different flags: consider the flags of Central America, West Africa, Scandanavia ; countries like Netherlands - Luxembourg; Mali - Guinea; Columbia - Equador; Slovakia - Slovenia - Croatia - Serbia... the list goes on and on. Clearly looking similar to a neighboring country is no reason to change a flag.

But are we really that similar?
Our flag is made up of 3 elements, listed above. Australia has a 4th - the "Commonwealth Star" located below the Union Jack. Let's look at those a bit closer.

- Their flag is light Blue, (Royal Blue) and ours is dark Blue (Navy Blue)

- Their stars are white, ours are red.

- Their stars have 7 points, with the exception of one 5 pointed one, ours are all uniform with 5 points.

- They have a 5 star southern cross, (the more conventional one) we have a 4 star cross.

- The four main stars of their cross are the same size, ours are different sizes.

The only thing our flags actually have in common is the Union Jack! Every other element is as different as it is possible to be without actually being a Banana.
So our flags are similar because we are similar, but they are subtly different in the way we are subtly different. We are faster so our stars are red. They try to hard so they have more points on their stars.

People mistake our flags less because they look similar and more because they know very little about our countries.

2. It has a Union Jack on it.

This is actually not the craziest point. The Union Jack ties us historically to Britain and more specifically to the Monarchy. Over the last 100 years we have slowly turned our attention away from Europe and into the South Pacific. The main reason that the Jack should stay there now though is that NOTHING SIGNIFICANT HAS CHANGED! We are still part of the Monarchy, just as we were when the flag was adopted. We still maintain close ties with mother England and if there was a war right now, we would be more likely to be against China than with her!
There is ONE time to get rid of the Union Jack and that is when we become a Republic. That would be an event significant enough that it would DEMAND the flag to be changed. Only then would we truely be able to say that we have severed ties with the Queen.

3. The [Ethnic minority] are not represented and they're important. You Racist!

This one is easy. Much like most of the flags in the world, the NZ flag has no ethinic groups represented on their flag. None. Sure certain groups are important as is our multi-cultural vibe. But so are Pineapple Lumps and you don't see them on there! We split the atom but there's no radiation symbol on it!
The fact is you can't have everything on there. (unless you're Kyrgystan) We have chosen to represent a little of our history and a lot of our geography and that's it. And that's ok. Maybe when we change the flag we could try to add a few more elements but this point is no reason to change the flag.

4. It doesn't POP like Canada.

I'm sorry. As mentioned in the first point, to understand why this mentality is so weak, you need to understand why we even HAVE flags. It seems like everything in the modern world is geared towards making us feel like we are so special and unique. Flags are seen by marketing people as being a tool to show everyone else that we are here and we are awesome. I'm sorry but that is not what they are designed for. That's what those silver fern flags are for. Keep making and modifying those. The national flag should be something a little higher. A little more dignified. It should say as much as possible about a country's history, geography, culture, people; as much as possible without looking cluttered and cheap.

.As already mentioned, probably my favourite example of this is Kyrgystan. Just check out all of the information they packed into that simple flag. It's very impressive.

Now contrast that with Canada. Yes it's one of the most recognised flags in the world and frequently wins popular votes for the best looking, but what does it say? It is basic red and white which will stand for nothing particularly special or unique and then they have a Norwegian Maple leaf on it. That tree is not even a Canadian tree! It's Norwegian! The tree was actually considered a pest in Canada because it was so aggressive and was killing off all the actual Canadian Natives! Still - I guess it looks cool. Forgive me, but I'd rather have a flag that actually has some meaning and depth to it.

So to sum up: I've demonstrated that Flags should only be changed when a significant event happens, not just when the people get bored. Otherwise you end up like Georgia State and who wants that?
I've then proceeded to list the 4 main arguments for changing the flag and why they are all irrelevant.

Finally, and I'll keep this one short because you've done so well to make it this far, here's

Why the Silver Fern flag is a poor candidate:

1. It says very little of anything with any substance about us as a country. The existing flag says more and it is only a high 5 on the nzlockie scale. This is the most important reason.

2. Black is a poor colour choice. Black fades very quickly in the sun which is a big reason why it was seldom used in flags. It will also naturally blend into the background when flown with other flags. Black is not a colour that pops.

3. The Fern DOES look like a feather. I'm sorry but it does. Americans ask me about that all the time. It IS iconic to us, but the Southern cross would make a much stronger symbol, as would the Koru you mentioned. (The Tiro Rangatiratanga is NOT the official Maori flag. The closest thing to an official Maori flag is the United Chiefs flag.)

4. The Fern is too hard to draw. Try asking anyone, including most Canadians, to draw their maple leaf free hand and without looking. It's not as easy as you'd think. Without cheating, most people couldn't tell you how many points there are on it. (Did YOU think there were 9?) A fern is going to be way harder than that.

I am a proud Kiwi and I love the Silver fern flag. It has a history stretching back far further than most people realise - but it is a logo flag, just like the boxing gold kangaroo on the green background is for Australia. It is something special and iconic for us, to be used at sporting events and the like. If we were given the chance to design a new flag for our country, we could make one that said so much more about us that that. Learn from Canada's mistake!


Sorry for not posting any pictures, I'll do better next round. PROs trick with the Google reverse search was cool although it didn't work on any other NZ flag images I tried. Just to verify the accuracy of this feature I ran PRO's image and got the following results:

I don't know, I'm not sure it's something we should be putting too much faith in...

Well that's enough for an opener, I'll address more of PROs less accurate statements in later rounds, but there's one thing I'd ask him to clear up for my own curiosity... the current flag was adopted in around 1903 depending on what exact source you believe. Aside from changes to the wording in the description of the flag, it hasn't changed since then. What exactly are the 7 other official flags we have adopted since then?

That aside, Vote CON. We rock hard and often.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-01-31 00:30:57
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
I thank my opponent for opening his side of the case, and concede I'm not actually that gracious on taking the weak side, since it was the only side available for me to take.

Media has existed in New Zealand since the earliest days. Many of our pioneers, likes Julius Vogel, were media folk. Newspapers have been common here since before we were even a country. But from the time of our flag's adoption (c. 1902) to about the 1960s, few in the media questioned the flag. By pure coincidence, that's also when NZ began to stand up to the rest of the world and condemn colonialist notions. The media reports stories that sell, and reporting on unpopular opinions does not sell (if you don't believe me, try writing an article in praise of necrophiliacs and tell me how you get on). I don't blame the media for reporting that, for example, Maori activist Tame Iti shot a bullet through our flag in disgust about a decade ago, because clearly that's a very important story. It sells because people care about it.

I'll address everything in the debate in the same order as con for clarity.

Why change it now?

Pro is right that we're not going through a sudden major change like many countries have done when they have changed their flags. However, since the adoption of our flag we have gone through numerous changes.

In the 1920s when Canada changed their flag, they tapped us on the shoulder and said "hey New Zealand, you guys have copied most of our laws already, you might as well change your flag too". We didn't listen then because we didn't foresee New Zealand completely breaking out of its colonialism - we were doing very well on the world stage as a major agricultural powerhouse, selling almost all of our produce to commonwealth nations hungry due to the great depression. When we adopted our flag there was only a single political party in parliament (the liberals), we had racial government policies, and steam trains were the cool way of getting around. 1902 New Zealand is nothing like 2013 New Zealand. We're now a much more independent nation that doesn't mind standing up to other big countries around the world.

The answer to why change today and not tomorrow is that we should have changed it yesterday.

In the last round I detailed how the current flag might be perfect for a Captain Cook, but not for our modern country - for instance, we are now a much more multi-racial society, and the flag no longer reflects who we really are. We've changed a lot, and our flag should be updated to reflect those changes. Indeed the current flag was designed by an officer specifically to be read by naval officers, to emphasize things that would be important to 19th century mariners. It was never originally intended as a national flag but a shipping flag.

That doesn't require changing the flag every four years or so (though it's understandable in Georgia's case because they've barely had a stable country for four years). New Zealand's flag is currently one of the oldest flags in the world. Only 30 of all the countries of the world have older flags, and 16 of those countries have modified their designs since then. 93% of all countries have newer flags than New Zealand. Therefore no argument can be made that we'd be changing our flag too often.

Purpose of a flag

I'd also like to remind folks of why we have flags. As the 'historical flags of our ancestors' site notes: "It has been paraphrased that flags are the shorthand of history. They can be used to "stir men´s souls," to represent our values, both cultural and historical, and to provide both inspiration and fear. They can lead men and women to greatness and disaster. They can bring out the very best in mankind, and the very worst." If it shows other people that we are awesome, then that's because our values are awesome.

The reason I bring that up is that ultimately, a flag must be relevant. We have to care about it, and likewise the flag needs to reflect who we are. This ties in with pro's Australia point. It's true that New Zealand is a bunch of islands. We can see the Southern Cross. We are a constitutional monarchy, though not part of the British monarchy (the British monarch just so happens to be the official "head of state" but only in proxy via the governor-general. This separates us entirely from the British system. More on that later).

But while these things are true, they are not what defines us as a nation. We don't have certain values because we are an island, nor is the fact that we are an island a significant part of our culture (in contrast with many Pacific islands). Nobody fears the fact we are an island, nor is that very inspirational. It hardly has lead men and women to greatness and disaster. Perhaps 100 years ago, the fact that we were an isolated island was still significant, but this is no longer the case. New Zealand is now more connected than ever before and continues to grow more connected all the time. People take us so seriously on the world stage, some have even petitioned for us to get a permanent security council seat. Too bad our flag undermines our bid with its isolated island imagery.

The island thing is just one example. I could make the same case about everything else con said about the present flag. It's not enough to show some vague symbology - it actually needs to be relevant symbology to us.

The silver fern conveys precisely the same idea as the national flag on all of these levels. It recognises us as an island - the land of the long white cloud; the speck of light in a world of darkness. It demonstrates that we have an isolated heritage through the use of the silver fern, which is not just native to New Zealand, but endemic, meaning it will grow nowhere else in the world. Our isolation continues to be relevant for the attractive and unique stuff we have, and the silver fern acknowledges that. The blue of our ocean is not what defines us (Maori scarcely used the color blue at all) but rather how that ocean has influenced our culture and heritage. Without looking, as con put it, "cluttered and cheap," the silver fern sums up who we are and what we stand for better than the current flag. In fact, the current flag is a cluttered, cheap mess of two flags, being an unoriginal defacement. As such, the silver fern is generally much more consistent with the purpose of our flag.

Looks too much like Australia

My opponent attacked this in two ways: first by saying it's OK to look like Australia, and then by saying we don't look like Australia.

For Australia, their flag actually makes sense to a much greater degree. Australia has maintained a much closer alliance with Britain than New Zealand has, for instance, and the Southern Cross ties in with all kinds of Aboriginal legends. They've also got the commonwealth star, which is symbolic in all kinds of ways for their political identity. However, none of this is true for New Zealand. Australia hosted a competition to determine what the best flag for them would be. We just quickly adopted our naval flag because that's what Britain wanted to see in the Boer war. You have to understand that like most colonists, Britain couldn't tell their colonies apart so well and thus treated them all very much the same. This extends to flags too, which is why they made sure all their colonies had similar naval flags when they were sailing to ports (as per a policy they instated in 1865). So our flag is a clear revision of Australia's, and unlike Australia, our flag was not selected for what best represents us.

I might add that when the New Zealand flag was selected, it's interesting to note that New Zealanders themselves were generally opposed to it and preferred the silver fern, but took it on the chin. While the colonialist attitude and the still largely Britain-dependent nature of the country did like the fact that the flag contained the union jack, nobody really liked the southern cross. From the earliest days, even the colonialists were adamant that the southern cross did not represent what made New Zealand great, and that's that we were unique. Politicians, on the other hand, were far more concerned with precisely showing that we weren't unique, in an effort to suck up to Britain and demonstrate that we're another nice colony they can use to fight their wars. This is no longer the case, as New Zealand has only become more unique since then by leaps and bounds.

This only begs the question of what kind of a flag does work best for us, which is a question I'm only too happy to address because I know the answer - the silver fern. The silver fern has always been a symbol that unites us, that we look to as a source of national pride, that we have fought for, that we believe in, that we care about, and that we love. Most importantly, it sets us apart. New Zealand has always been a fairly progressive and free country, for example, compared with Australia which has always been a more conservative former convict colony. Other than our physical proximity and the fact Australia stole much of New Zealand's stuff, there's practically nothing that we actually have in common - from our system of government, to our culture, and even our language is significantly different. And frankly, our physical proximity hasn't defined much of who we are either, any more than the fact that Britain is almost literally on the opposite site of the globe has defined us.

On the second claim, it's true that there are minor differences between the flags of New Zealand and Australia, but they remain minor. Remember a flag needs to be able to signal clearly what country it is we're talking about. There should be no need for counting all the points on the stars or the like. Nobody in other lands could be reasonably expected to learn any of the rules on how to tell apart the Australian and New Zealand flags. Not only have numerous tests proven that the two are difficult for foreigners to tell apart (especially at a distance or a glance), but they have historically been often confused especially in important meetings of government members, even by Australians and New Zealanders themselves.

The contention that "People mistake our flags less because they look similar and more because they know very little about our countries" is just silly. Many people confuse Niger and Nigeria but their flags are easy to tell apart. A flag needs to show what makes a nation different from the other countries of the world. If New Zealand were to steal the US flag tomorrow we'd have a neat flag but it would tell us nothing about our country. No other country in the world can fly the US flag as their own because it's unique to the USA, and that's what makes it so special.

Con did point to a couple of nearby countries that do have like flags. Though almost all of the examples he cited are easier to tell apart than the flags of New Zealand and Australia, he has yet to show why New Zealand and Australia share such a great history that warrants such a similar-looking flag, in particular light of the next big argument I contest.

There is no reason in the world why our flag should look like Australia's, or anybody else's. We are our own independent nation, and our flag must reflect that.

Union Jack

The reason why the British instituted a policy of forcing all their colonies to put a Union Jack in the top-left is because that position has a special meaning in heraldry. It's called the canton, and is used to show superiority. Our flag literally says that Britain is superior to New Zealand.

That might have been valid until the statute of Westminster in 1947, which formally declared that Great Britain has zero responsibility for New Zealand and New Zealand has no responsibility for them. Our flag was made over fourty years before that time, when New Zealand was fundamentally a colonialist country, ruled by colonialist people from colonialist families, whose primarily occupation was colonising. This is no longer true.

As the most (self) important man in New Zealand, Hone Harawera, recently declared on this issue, "I think New Zealanders need to get a sense of their own national identity." As I have shown, New Zealand has changed its identity entirely since 1902. We've gone from being a nice little newly-independent but still going to war alongside mother England for no good reason country to a country that wouldn't even send a single soldier to Iraq despite repeated requests from Britain. We barely even sent a sizable force to Afghanistan.

None of this undermines our status as members of the commonwealth - countries that all officially acknowledge the queen as the head of state. Many of them have already changed their flag. I went into this in detail in the last round. The fact is that the queen couldn't care less what flag we fly, so long as she can still drink cups of tea and wear giant hats. She's still proudly the queen of many nations without the union jack on their flag. And for royalists who like to worship the queen, they can look to her portrait or something. Ghandi did a lot for India but India doesn't have a great big Ghandi grinning on it. And the queen hasn't even really done anything for us!

But even so, the Union Jack is not a symbol of the British royalty. That would be the royal standard. We have the royal standard as one of our many official flags, and I'm not suggesting that this change. We still would retain the flag signifying that the queen is our symbolic leader. Instead we have the Union Jack, which is the symbol not of the monarchy, but of Great Britain, which the same queen also so happens to be the monarch of. You've got to distinguish between the British government and the Crown. Since we abolished our ties to the privy council in the last decade, no aspect of New Zealand's governance is now in any way related to the British government, and they certainly are not superior to us in any kind of political terms. We run our country, and they run theirs. There is about as much overlap as there is between Brazil and Tajikistan in terms of governance (ie practically zero).

Ethnic minorities

While I agree that ethnic minorities do not need to be represented for their own sake, I do feel that two important aspects of our ethnic culture should be in some way acknowledged by the flag. I demonstrated how the silver fern demonstrates each of these last round.

The first is that the flag should represent all of our multicultural society equally. New Zealand is one of the few countries that has no beef with any other racial or ethnic group, and has embraced the best bits of most cultures around the globe. We can enjoy Matariki as well as Chinese New Year as well as regular New Year all the same, and that's very special. We have practically zero racial conflict as many of our earliest pioneers were actively against slavery of any sort, and instead sought equality for all peoples. As George Grey stated, "there shall be equal justice in representation and in the distribution of land and revenue to every class in New Zealand ... Equal rights to all - equal rights in education, equal rights in taxation, equal rights in representation ... equal rights in every respect." More so than most nations, New Zealand is very close to that goal.

It therefore makes no sense to have a flag that specifically harks back to a colonialist empire that oppressed many peoples around the world. We are an all-inclusive society that respect people from all backgrounds, and our flag should at least be mindful of this.

Secondly, while all races should be represented fairly on the flag, the Maori culture in particular sets us apart from everywhere else. There are no Maori indigenous to any other country. Much like African nations use the pan-African colors of red, yellow and green quite often, the Maori culture does rightfully deserve some kind of recognition on the flag. This is particularly the case given the special position of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is a very unique historical document that's absolutely foundational for the country.

The silver fern is a prominent Maori icon for both New Zealand and its multicultural aspects, whether those cultures happen to be in the majority or not.

The reason why these things are so important to us is that they're central to our identity. We aren't one race or one culture, we are many peoples standing proudly united. Remember the purpose of a flag I outlined earlier. This is a massively important aspect of our history. It stirs our souls, represents our cultural and historical values, inspires us, and gives us strength. The harmony New Zealand embodies is perfectly embodied on the silver fern, not an imperialist flag akin to that flown by slavers.

"Pop" like Canada

The reason why our flag should "pop" is because our country pops. We stand out. We are different. We are unique. The colors on our flag are the most common flag color combination in the world. The design of our flag is a slight variant of the most common flag in the world, the British naval ensign.

Canada didn't come up with their flag to show they were cool or trendy. They did it because (in the words of their prime minister) "the crying need in Canada is for a patriotism that puts Canada ahead of its parts, with national symbols that encourage national unity and reflect Canada's status as an independent sovereign nation." It was never about establishing that the maple leaf defines Canada, but of establishing who they were as a nation. New Zealand has exactly the same need. Our flag says nothing about who we are.

It just so happens that we are cool, trendy, attractive etc, just like the silver fern flag. While this wouldn't be a reason to change the flag in and of itself, it does without a doubt set us apart in a world of uninspired flags. The same is true of Canada. But the actual impetus for change is that our flag doesn't represent who we are at all. We've changed, much in the same way as they have changed, and our flag must reflect that.

The fact that Canada's leaf doesn't do a good job of representing Canada doesn't mean there wasn't a reason for them to change their flag, it only means they could have thought of a better thing to change it to. There is no doubt in this debate that the silver fern, unlike the maple leaf, is both uniquely ours and extremely cool.

What it says of substance

My opponent claimed that the silver fern says nothing of substance. This was a throwaway comment, because I've already provided a great deal of things it does say about New Zealand that are of substance, both in this round and in the last. None of these specific things has been rebutted in any way by my opponent. Nor does my opponent explain a great deal of things the current flag symbolises. He's only provided 3 vague allusions, and I have demonstrated that the silver fern communicates all of these same things.

Choice of Black

I rebutted the idea that black is not a color that pops preemptively. My opponent must do more than just say "nah you're wrong", but rather explain how I'm wrong.

As for black fading very quickly in the sun, the silver fern flag has been flown in New Zealand for over a century and this has never been an all too serious issue. This is because it's not correct. Lighter colors fade faster in the sun because there's less dye to fade, so it takes less UV light to break down the chemicals used to make the color. This is why Australian flags (that use a lighter blue) fade faster than New Zealand flags.

Looking like a feather

Yes the Tino Ranatiratanga is the national Maori flag, and don't let con tell you otherwise. It was adopted as such by both our government and several Maori hui around the country, representing more tribes than the Treaty of Waitangi. The United Chiefs flag was drawn by a very small handful of Northern chiefs under the supervision of a British man called James Busby, and the flag looks nothing like anything Maori. The Maori didn't really use flags so mostly just drew something similar to what they saw on all the flags of the ships they'd seen. It was always intended as a temporary flag so that New Zealand could declare independence as fast as possible, because James, who was kinda installed to be a sheriff for the whole country, thought he could control the local settlers easier if they did so. Unfortunately he was gravely mistaken, but that's another story. The flag survived a matter of months and then nobody cared about it ever again.

Anyway, back on point. If somebody thinks it looks like a feather, they are clearly mistaken. OK, this debate's getting boring, so let's play a game! Here's a feather and a silver fern side by side. I've taken pains to put them in the same spot, with the same colors at the same approximate proportions. Now spot which one is which.

Silver Fern Feather Flag

Much like con can point out differences between the flags of Australia and New Zealand, I can point out numerous differences between the land with an ecology dominated by ferns and feathertopia. As relevant as it would be to show our excellent avian biodiversity through our flag, this pretty clearly is not what the silver fern conveys. Moreover, feathertopia does not exist. I just made it up (gasp). There is no feather-based country we can be confused with. And finally, as I mentioned last round, we can teach people about what makes the New Zealand so special if we show something so unique on our flag. This whole point is approximately as important as it is that Canada's flag might be construed by somebody who doesn't know maples to be a marijuana leaf. If the white feather - an international symbol of peace and goodwill - is the worst thing we can be confused for, then I personally don't mind, although I doubt it'll ever be a significant issue. Practically every design can be misrepresented by somebody. Maybe somebody thinks the koru is the eye of a hurricane or something.

Hard to draw

For the artistically challenged (including myself) just draw a squiggly line through the middle with a bunch of points coming off it. I can't draw a symmetrical star either, nor a properly spaced union jack, but I can roughly draw out the New Zealand flag. And roughly speaking the same is true of the silver fern. Alternatively, one can always trace an existing silver fern. There's more than enough around.

Many meaningful flags take time to draw but are still good flags. Croatia or the United States are both good examples. Some, like Albania, are incredibly complex. Then there's flags like Vatican City that include very detailed drawings on their flags. The silver fern is nothing of the sort. It's a single, simple, memorable icon for the ages.

Current flags

Officially New Zealand has eight flags. There's the main New Zealand flag plus seven others: The queen's flag, the governor-general's flag, red ensign, white ensign, royal air force ensign, civil air ensign, and the maori flag. Con is right in saying our flag hasn't changed since it was first adopted in 1902/3.

Not just a national symbol, but a great flag

While the silver fern is used in sports games, I provided countless examples of how else it is already respected by New Zealanders. It accurately describes everything about our identity - where we come from, where we are headed, our people, our culture, our geography, our biology - everything that defines us as a nation is absolutely embodied in this flag.

Pro claimed the Koru would be a better symbol for the nation. The koru symbolises growth and rebirth. The silver fern does too, as each successive fern leaf slowly grows out from the central stem, each shoot heralding the next one. To the Maori that has always been what it meant - in fact the koru is largely inspired by the head of a fern, which is where it primarily occurs in nature among native species to the country. That's in addition to all the reasons I gave last round as to why the silver fern is better than any alternative flag.

The resolution stands.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-01-31 15:15:45
| Speak Round
nzlockienzlockie (CON)

I’d like to thank PRO for continuing his case.

It seems to me that this debate can be broken into to two separate issues. The first is whether the time to change the flag is now, and the second is whether “Black flag” is the optimal choice for our new flag. I’d like to structure my 2nd round argument this way.


PRO doesn’t contest my point that it would be breaking convention to change the country’s flag at a point in its history where nothing of appropriate national significance has occurred. Vexillology and Heraldry are all about convention. A nation’s flag is a powerful symbol of its internal strength which is why there are strict rules surrounding every facet of the flag itself and the way in which it is used.

The fact that Denmark has had their flag for literally centuries without change sends a clear message to everyone else that they are stable and established. Have they changed in the last 400 years? Undoubtedly! But by maintaining what, it must be said is not the most exciting flag in the world for so long, they have created a legacy – a pure connection from the Denmark of the past to the Denmark of today. The fact that NZ has one of the older flags in the world, (not really that surprising given the tumultuous 20th century) should be a mark of strength – not one of weakness! More about this later.

Considering that breaking convention in this manner is so serious we need to be REALLY REALLY sure that doing it now is the right move.

NZ’s current flag was birthed shortly after we engaged in our first major international conflict, the Boer War in South Africa. Since then our flag has seen us through the hardships of two World Wars, major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Palestine; and the triumphs of Commonwealth, Olympic and World sporting glories. The flag has been used in some of our nation’s lowest moments on the world stage, such as the Mau Massacre in Samoa; but also some of our proudest moments, such as telling the Yanks to keep their nukes at home. There is a lot of history that has gone on under that flag and to close the book on that is not a move to be made just because it looks kind of like Australia’s flag.

Let’s quickly revisit the previous round’s points and see what’s changed!

Reason 1: Too similar to Aussie

PRO correctly summarised my stance on this in his 2nd round. Firstly, it’s entirely normal and completely fine to have a flag that is similar to a neighbouring country and secondly, our flags have many differences which make them far easier to tell apart than many other countries.

He didn’t really contest the fact that our flags have many differences although he did call them minor. I don’t mind that because I feel that the differences between our two countries are pretty minor at a global level as well.

He is going to succeed in sucking me into one of his little distraction points though…

He claims that the features on our flags suit Australia more than us, for the sake of anyone reading that has not made the trip down under yet… (Do it. We have hobbits and we’ll show you a good time although I’ll leave Lars to handle all the MLP stuff.) …let me just address some of these things:
 BLUE – NZ is an Island surrounded by water and so is Australia. The difference is that in NZ you are never more than a few hours drive to the ocean, most of the time a lot closer than that. Australia is an island as well, but it’s an island only slightly smaller THAN THE CONTINENTAL USA! There are MANY places in Australia where you are days from ocean. Not to mention that Australia is one of the driest countries on earth, so I’d say we win the rights to the blue…

SOUTHERN CROSS – Both the Maoris and the Aborigines used the stars to navigate, but it has to be said that navigating across open water in a hollowed out tree, the stars are probably going to be a little MORE important to you than if you’re on dry land. The constellation has at least eight different names by various Maori tribes and is associated with many stories and legends.
 COMMONWEALTH STAR – This star has 7 points to represent the seven states and territories of Australia. NZ doesn’t have states. We are too small. Of course we can’t have a commonwealth star.

UNION JACK – I’m going to elaborate on this more in this round, but suffice it to say, all polls conducted in the last 20-30 years show Australians are far more in favour of disowning the Queen than we are.

Finally on this subtopic, here are some visual aids:


Compare these to the following countries...





This could go on and on. 75% of the world’s flags require “careful study” to be able to correctly identify them easily and all of the above countries could be easily confused "at a casual glance". I’ve chosen to only select neighboring countries as well, if I’d wanted to I could have chosen ones like Romania – Chad or Indonesia – Monaco.
 Clearly looking similar is by no means unusual, especially when the countries share so many commonalities – and poses no significant reason to change our flag.

PRO requested some info on shared history between our countries as well. He has actually provided a great deal of it hmself, detailing the interaction between our countries in the 19thand early 20th centuries. For quick extras, I’ll throw in WW1 and WW2. If he REALLY questions this further, he can read all about it here.

Reason 2: Relevance to Britain

Gentle readers, my opponent would have you believe that Britain was once very influential to New Zealand, (mostly in bad ways) but is now basically ignored and irrelevant – much like the afore-mentioned Tama Iti and Hone Harawera. This is not true.
 New Zealand’s relationship with Britain has changed over the last 100 years, but to say we are not still close is simply wrong. We needed her like a Mother when we were little, now we’re a little older and a lot more independent, but we still love her. This analogy is closer than it may appear at first glance.

The relationship between New Zealand and Britain remains strong and close. This closeness arises from our historical connection with Britain, common traditions and values, and family ties: New Zealand has enjoyed several waves of immigration from Britain, the most recent during the seventies. Beyond these personal links, Britain is still a significant trading partner and often throws its weight behind New Zealand in the EU where trade access issues are concerned.

The areas of interest to Britain and New Zealand are not as homogeneous as they once were. In Britain's case, intangible historical and cultural links have increasingly given way to a closer focus on Europe and its obligations as a key EU member state. There is, however, a symmetry of political perspective between the countries' two governments in many areas. This is particularly clear in the common ground displayed on a broad range of domestic policy issues. In economic policy, education and public sector reform, New Zealand and the UK find each other's experiences relevant and warranting closer study. This is a prevailing element in most ministerial travel in each direction.

Numerous bilateral agreements exist between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These include a reciprocal Health Services Agreement, a reciprocal Agreement on Social Security, a Double Taxation Convention and an Air Services Agreement - the latter was recently renegotiated and replaced in 2005 with a liberal ‘open skies’ agreement. “  - NZ Foreign Affairs Dept

Visitors from the UK still comprise one of the highest groups – on a par with visitors from China. They also are one of the largest groups of migrants to our country. And it goes both ways with large numbers of Kiwis living and working in the UK. 

The UK is hugely relevant to NZ today and there is certainly nothing prompting us to remove the Union Jack from our flag. A strong case could be made that NZ should remove the Union Jack upon becoming a republic, a move that many see as a certain, if distant, future; although precedence has been made for retaining it for its historical significance by countries like Fiji and even the state of Hawaii.

Reason 3: Ethnic Representation

PRO concedes that Ethnicities don’t NEED to be represented on a nation’s flag and doesn’t contest that the majority of flags don’t have such a reference. I hear his personal desire to have such a representation on a new flag. Should such an event come up, this is definitely a discussion that should be held.
 Nothing to rebut here.

Reason 4: The “Pop-iness” factor

Couple of quick points here:

“The flag should pop because WE pop.” – Nope. Flags are classy things full of dignity and decorum. (Except for the Seychelles) Nobody likes a “look-at-me” country. We ARE unique and special, but so is everyone.

“Canada wasn’t trying to be cool and trendy” – Good, because a new flag doesn’t have magical properties. It can’t make Canadians cool OR trendy. NZ does NOT have a need for a flag that represents us, the existing one does. As stated above.

“…uninspired flags…” – Sorry but offence taken at this. I can’t think of a single “uninspired” national flag – Canada included! Some are less inspirational than others but once you learn the meaning behind them it’s impossible to say that no thought had gone into selecting a nation’s flag.

Popularity of changing the flag of NZ

As stated before, given how many people have fought, died, won, lost, laughed and cried in over 100 years of history under our current flag, there would need to be a significant majority of public opinion to warrant such a change. And that just simply isn’t there.

In the extensive 1958 poll, over 80% of Canadians voted for a new flag. That is a significant majority.

Since 2009, opinion polls on the flag change debate in NZ have resulted in figures ranging from 40 to 75% in favour of retaining the existing flag. In 2010 a concerted effort was put in by a group to force a referendum on changing the flag. It failed to get even half the number of signatures required.

Even the most biased of polls still only show a small majority in favour, nowhere near the numbers required to indicate that it should be changed.

My opponent would have you believe that we don’t love our flag. Let me assure you, this isn’t true.

The Black Silver Fern flag:

Some quick points of rebuttal:

1.  I never said that the fern said nothing of substance. Of course it does – it’s a Kiwi icon. I agree with many of the points my opponent brought up as to why it would make a good symbol of NZ. I did make the comment that the flag says little of substance. I stand by that. I also stand by the fact that there are other ways of stating the same points – many of them much clearer.

2.  My opponent must not be married. As someone who lives with a woman who loves to educate me on my fashion choices, I can assure you that Black is well known for its ability to hide and blend. Ninjas wear black, magicians use it to hide objects in plain sight – black is known to compliment all colours, an ability made so by the fact that it always provides the background for THEM to pop.
 I hereby repeat my statement that Black does not POP – unless the background is completely white, in which case I concede the point. Too bad the flag is rarely flown on a white background. The point stands.

3.  Black fades. Dark colours absorb more UV light. Black is almost universally regarded as the colour most likely to fade in sunlight. Again, my married life has taught me this by my wife’s insistence that I hang her black clothes inside out.

4.  Risky play with the feather picture! Hats off to my opponent for making the gamble. I’m happy to leave his demonstration as is, due to the fact that I think he’s proved that the “fern” DOES, in fact, closely resemble a feather – albeit a stylised one. Unless one was reasonably familiar with a plant, which my opponent points out, only grows in NZ, one could be forgiven for thinking that the picture was a feather. In much the same way that I don’t get grumpy with Americans who ask why we’re named after a fruit.

5.  The fern is still a hard thing to draw accurately. By that I mean, most people would not remember how many points there were and how the thing goes exactly. That results in a lot of crude “squiggly lined” drawings of the proud symbol of our uniqueness. Not very respectful. The fact there are harder flags to draw is irrelevant. The fact remains that when choosing a flag, easy to draw is a PRO, hard to draw is a CON. Southern Cross is easier to draw than Silver fern.

Finally I’d like to attack my opponent’s claim that the Southern Cross was not a meaningful or loved icon of early NZ history.


When New Zealand soldiers sailed off to to fight in South Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, they were singing: ‘We are the boys of the Southern Cross, our stars shine on our flags’. Over a century later the constellation continues to be relevant to nationhood and national honour. It is depicted on the New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, unveiled in 2004. Featured on the lid of the tomb, the stars are seen to have guided the warrior back to New Zealand from distant battlefields.” - www.teara.govt


Thank you as always for reading – vote CON.

Notes to PRO:

Thanks for the reply re: the number of flags. This is what I thought you might be referring to. This is totally normal practice, every country has multiple versions of the flag for different purposes. State Flag, Civil Ensign, National Flag, War Flag etc etc.


Also re: the Maori flag, I know it’s not pertinent at all to this debate but FYI, the Tiro flag is not OFFICIAL official, as in, it hasn’t been included into the NZ Ensign Act. I concede the point that in 2011 it was officially recognised by the government as being the “nominated” flag for flying on the Harbour bridge. Even though it was only on the back of 1200 people, 20% of whom weren’t even Maori, and it was also JK being a grade A douche. That was my bad. Let the record show that you were right on that point.
 Even though the United Chiefs flag is an insult to half the Maori tribes in the country, it does remain the only “Maori” flag written into NZ law. I totally agree with any comment that it fails to represent Maori though.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-01 18:26:37
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
We're now at the last round of the debate. This is where I summarize what's just happened and why I've won. This is also the exact point where new arguments should not be brought up, out of fairness as the scope for both of us to respond to these arguments would be limited.

Why have I won this debate?

Let's cut straight to the chase. To win in this debate I had to provide:

1. A problem
2. A solution
3. How that solution solves the problem
4. That my solution is a net benefit

It's irrelevant what other issues there were in the debate. If I proved these four things, I have met my burden of proof. If I have not proved these four things, I have not met my burden of proof. Simple as that. Now here's how I've proved these things.

1. A Problem

a. Confusion

I explained that the New Zealand flag is often confused for Australia. I used that to demonstrate the flag's generic-ness and inconsistency with the purpose of a flag. Con agrees his two responses were to say that this isn't true, and even if it were true it isn't a problem. Now let me explain why these have been inadequate responses.

First of all, there's an important difference between discernible and confusable. Australia and New Zealand's flags are discernible. There are clear differences if you look at them carefully, and con has done a decent job of pointing them out. This proves the flags are discernible. But my problem is that the flags are confusable. For example, suppose Australia invaded New Zealand tomorrow (idk, maybe their wallabies ran out of trees to climb in a bushfire or something). It's quite plausible that we might confuse them for New Zealand soldiers returning home if it weren't for the way they hopped and had pouches to carry their young. I've also provided less hypothetical evidence for this by referencing historical precedent for such confusion, which con has not contested.

Secondly he said it's OK that New Zealand gets confused for Australia. First he said it's ok because lots of countries do it, and second because we're pretty much the same as Australia anyway.

The first rebuttal doesn't actually address the problem. Even if some other states are worse offenders (and I can assure you they are but a handful) that doesn't mean they don't have a problem. I'd be happy to debate that they should all change their flags too, but that's not at issue in this debate.

The second rebuttal he simply hasn't backed up. He said I've been providing this evidence for him, so here's everything I've said about Australia in this debate to this point:
  • They disowned us
  • They stole our flag
  • They were a British colony (much like the many colonies that I have pointed to which removed the union jack)
  • They are often confused for us
  • They're closer to Britain than we are (I'll get to this soon)
  • They adopted their flag by a slightly different mechanism
  • They have a completely different political background
  • They stole some other stuff from us too
  • They are also on the same half of the planet
  • They have practically nothing in common with us
  • They want to invade us with an army of kangaroos

Almost all of these statements show that New Zealand has massive differences with Australia, and any similarities are minor and not worth representing our whole nation by. Therefore let's look at what similarities con could find instead.

First he said we both have blue because we're both islands. Great, almost 50 countries in the world are islands. Do you see blue on Japan's flag, or Tonga, or Madagascar? No. I've already explained that flags are there to signify what's important to us. I explained that while our isolation by the water was once important, this is no longer the case. Con has conveniently ignored most of the "we've changed" analysis completely. If the ocean defined us in some significant way this would be valid, but it doesn't. Sure we're closer to the ocean on average that Australia, but that's all the more reason for Australia to change their flag to something that represents them well, rather than just sharing a dull boring flag with New Zealand. Worthy of note, however, is that there's more Australians living close to the water than New Zealanders, partly because there's just more Australians, but mostly because nobody lives in the middle of the desert.

Second, yes we are both former colonies. Everywhere from Hawaii to Canada to Brunei is a former British colony. That doesn't mean we all share similar flags, because again, we're not all defined by our British colonialism. I demonstrated that we've become a more multicultural society.

Third, yeah we can see the celestial south pole. So? I challenge con to tell us a single Maori story involving the southern cross. Not just something silly like "Kupe went to sea and looked at the Southern Cross as a navigational aid, the end" either - I honestly want to know why the southern cross is so intimately connected with the country that the whole country should be identified by it. Some specific Maori tribes did give it some significance, but then that is true of many constellations, just as Maori tribes gave almost every hill and tree in the country significance.

He also threw in the world wars, where we fought on the same side. That's because every British ally fought at Britain's side. This is no more than a reinstatement of the former colony's point. I've already demonstrated exactly how this is no longer the case. When Britain went to the Iraq and Afghan wars, Australia was one of the first to jump onboard and follow. Not so for New Zealand.

A flag is like a name. Countries that are pretty much the same do have like names (like Sudan and South Sudan). We're not just a new Australia, some other island in the southern ocean that the British so happened to claim. It may not be false, but that entirely misses the point of our country. We're proud and independent, and any flag that fails to recognize that in any way whatsoever is a complete failure of a flag.

b. Colonialism

I told you that it's no longer appropriate to use the British ensign on the on the canton because we're not a colony and don't want to be one.

It's true that a lot of New Zealanders like Britain, but then a lot of New Zealanders like the USA too. Still we don't let them boss us around. We are a multicultural country and no one group of migrants should be signified as superior to any other as our flag does. As for historical significance, I have already made the argument that they didn't give us anything of significance.

We have fewer bilateral agreements than Australia, our economic policy has always been more liberal than theirs but especially since the 80s, we left the British education system gladly and created our own, and our public sector may be as bureaucratic as theirs, but somehow manages to be more efficient by any metric you care to mention.

But even if all of these things were true, that would still be no reason to put them on our flag. That might be a good reason to call them extra-close pals, but we have more direct ties, more economic trading, more similar policy, more bilateral agreements and more links to Australia than we do Great Britain.

c. POP

Not everyone can be as unique and special as we are. That's not bragging, that's simply a fact. We were isolated from the rest of the world for a very long time, and so we have more unique stuff than almost every other country in the world. And the silver fern is just one of those things. It makes sense, therefore, for us to have an attractive and interesting flag, at the very least, not just some flag that's the same as everyone else's.

As for my opponent's offence at the idea of other countries having uninspired flags, even if some people have thought about flags for each country, that doesn't mean all flags showcase that country in the best possible way. Ultimately my opponent has not rebutted either the notion that our flag should be attractive/unique with any actual arguments, or that our flag does not currently meet that criterion.

2. A solution

Con has objected to my specific solution, the silver fern, on several grounds:

a. Says little of substance

Con never backed this up. I presented tons of analysis on how the fern says much of substance.

b. Other ways of stating the same thing

I went over why the silver fern is the best among all the alternatives in round one - con never answered these.

c. Black makes other colors pop

Great, that'll make that big white silver fern on our flag there really stand out.

d. Black fades

Pro never answered the fact that this has never been a problem on any one of the countless country's flags that include black.

e. Like a feather

The silver fern still only looks as much like a feather as New Zealand's flag does like Australia's. Pro doesn't rebut my central arguments here, that it's not a bad thing to be confused with, that it teaches people valuable things about New Zealand etc.

f. Hard to draw

For all his claims of disrespect, my opponent says nothing on how an accurate reproduction of our current flag is no easier. I already pointed out that many flags are more complicated and this presents no issue.

None of these grounds, therefore, stand up at the end of the debate.

3. That the solution would solve the problem

Pro has not rebutted this logical link.

4. Net Benefit

Solving the problems I have identified creates a benefit. All of the harms con brought up I have dealt with.

a. Make people sad (it's not popular)

This was a new argument that con introduced later in the debate. The fact is that most of us don't care about our flag because we don't connect with it. For us, we mostly don't want to change our flag because "why bother", not because "I love our flag". Ultimately this doesn't support the conclusion that we shouldn't change it. Every party wants it changed, and if we can bring in a flag without consulting the public at all as we did with the current flag, we can do it again.

b. Lose history

We don't carry the New Zealand flag to the Olympics, but the New Zealand Olympic flag, which features not a southern cross but a silver fern. Nor to sports games in general, with almost all of our national teams represented by the fern.

We don't carry New Zealand's flag to war, but we carry badges, and the most common symbol on those is the silver fern.

In protest we fly the silver fern as proudly as we do our national flag, because the silver fern is our flag.

I have already shown that we have as much history with the fern as we do with the current flag. This is not a marginal disadvantage.

c. Why now?

Unfortunately New Zealand is not stable and established like Denmark. We are young and fresh. Change has come slowly to our land, but it has come. That we should act to acknowledge this change is long overdue. So no matter how nice it would be to say we're all stable and stuff, it's not the case. This is only a dishonest advantage of the current flag at best, as I've shown numerous ways we've changed.

My burden of proof in this debate is therefore met, and the resolution is affirmed. Thanks to con for a fun and interesting debate, I sure learnt a lot about flags as I went!

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-03 15:02:03
| Speak Round
nzlockienzlockie (CON)

I’d like to thank PRO for the excellent debate on a most excellent topic. I’m a little bummed as he’s called conclusion a round early by my reckoning… we have reply rounds to come yet; that being said, I don’t think it’d be fair to introduce new information in this round so I’ll try to contain myself.

I disagree with PRO’s summation of the steps to his winning this case. His basic steps are right but as usual they’ve been simplified too much. Here’s how I’d see it...

What PRO had to provide to win this debate:

1.  A problem SIGNIFICANT enough to warrant finishing over 100 years of continuous history.

2.  A solution which would remedy this problem more effectively than any alternative.

3.  An explanation of this solution.

4.  Proof that the solution is a net benefit.

The major focus of this debate has been over exactly how significant the problem is.

In the previous round I established that fact that the current flag has had and does have enormous emotional impact on millions of proud kiwis, both past and present. Personally I agree with PRO when he says that people today feel apathetic about the flag. Fortunately we disagree on the ratios of those people! Every significant poll done in recent times has shown that Kiwis are still strongly in favour of our current flag – a fact which my opponent does not contest.

It’s my personal hope that young New Zealanders would take the time to LOOK at our flag, learn its history and symbolism and begin to really engage with it; it’s a shame that a vocal minority are spreading a message that may see us end up with a flag that may be distinctive, but ultimately says little.

So let’s look at how PRO did:

The Problem

a.  Significant Problem 1 – It is too similar to Australia.

I began by establishing a base line. I argued that Vexillology is not necessarily about looking different and distinctive. That’s what logos and brands are for. Vexillology is about representing the facts about a country; Geography, History, Culture, that kind of thing.

I presented the flag of Kyrgyzstan as an example of a flag which ticks ALL of those boxes, as opposed to Canada which barely ticks one.
 I supported my argument with the fact that countries ALL OVER THE WORLD have flags which are very similar to the untrained eye. PRO has repeatedly indicated that these are an abnormality. Not true, these are the NORM. I mentioned several regions which have well known “Flag Families”, and then last round I presented a selection of some of the better known examples.

Having established that being similar was not unusual but was totally normal and happens for a good, logical, reason – I then pointed out the MANY differences in our two flags.

These differences were obvious and having been pointed out ONCE, would be enough to stop the confusion of anyone who had a desire to get it right.

Way back in round one I also postulated that maybe the reason our countries got so easily confused was less to do with our flags, and more to do with the fact that we are just a little country that not many people know much about.
 And is a flag going to help you with that?

He mentioned that many people confuse Niger and Nigeria and then brought up the fact that they have very different flags. He’s right! They do and people still confuse them!

Conclusion: Having a similar flag is not a problem. Certainly not significant one that needs a remedy that would go against the wishes of such a large percentage of the people.
 He’s provided NO evidence that the “harm” of people not knowing we’re here, and we’re not Australian would be remedied by having a distinct flag and has, in fact, actually supported it by bringing up Niger and Nigeria.

NOTE: PRO also did a rehash of my defence of the elements on our flag. I want to address those because he’s made many statements that I don’t want to see go uncontested. Some of them might meet the definition of new information but since he started it and we still have a reply round, I’ll allow it…

HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET? Here’s a cool spin lesson kids. Check this statement out:

First he said we both have blue because we're both islands. Great, almost 50 countries in the world are islands. Do you see blue on Japan's flag, or Tonga, or Madagascar? “ – Chris Barron (aka Spin Doctor aka Lars aka PRO, Google it if you weren’t listening to music in the 90’s)

Everything he says there is true and yet it paints a negative image. Now watch this:

“We’re both Islands. Less than 25% of the countries in the world are islands. Of those, only about 12 do NOT have blue on them.” – CON.

He’s listed 3 names of Islands with no blue in their flag. I can list about 38 names of Islands that do – way more if I’m allowed territories as well.

It is crazy to say that the ocean is not still significant in our lives. We work in it, play in it, write songs beside it… it is hugely significant and always will be. 

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION He says that there are more Australians living closer to the sea than Kiwis. This is true. Then he says it’s only partly because there are more Australians – this is false. It is ENTIRELY because there are more Australians! Sydney alone has more people in it than our entire country! If you look at the top three inland cities in Australia – ALL of which are a LONG way further from the sea than it’s possible to be anywhere in NZ, the population of those three cities alone is over half the population of the entire South Island! And that’s only three cities!

STARS IN MY EYES Being able to see the celestial south pole is kind of a big deal. We are one of only a handful of countries for which the Southern Cross never sets. This means we can make cool pictures like this:

The Southern Cross was thought of as a hole in the sky by the Wairarapa Maori, through which the strong southerly storms came from.

b.  Significant Problem 2. Colonialism is Dead.

PROs whole argument around this point was that the Union Jack symbolised that we are a colony of Great Britain. I explained that although that may have been the original intention, it still serves a purpose today to pay tribute to the fact that we are still proud to share the same Monarch. I gave you EVIDENCE that NZ still shares very strong ties with the UK, PRO merely made unsubstantiated statements.

The most important angle I took on this point was that if the Union Jack bothered us so much, we should have removed it as soon as we became independent! By not doing so, we’ve allowed the Union Jack to morph into something else –a symbol of where we came from.
 The right time to remove the Union Jack from our flag is when we take the final step to independence and become a republic.

Conclusion: The “harm” for this problem was never clearly established by PRO. He basically just said it annoys us. He provided no proof for this and again, he can’t win by just making unsubstantiated statements.

If his “harm” is that an element of our flag annoys an unestablished percentage of the population, then he has not explained how giving us the solution of his proposed “Black Flag” will mitigate that harm. An unestablished percentage of the population will still be annoyed by an element of the flag.

c.  Significant Problem 3. Pop-i-ness of the Flag

My approach to this unfortunately popular comment was to try to educate PRO as to why we have a flag. I explained that how much a flag POPS is infinitely inferior to how much a flag SAYS. I’ve said it numerous times throughout this debate – a flag is NOT a brand. It’s not a logo. It is dignified and classy and tells a story.
 There is a place for the kind of flags my opponent is talking about. They are flags like the orange flag of the Netherlands, the Double eagle of Austria, the Boxing Kangaroo of Australia and yes, the Silver Fern of NZ. These flags are used in celebrations and DO play a part in representing the people – usually at sporting events; but they do not meet the criteria for a National Flag.
 Occasionally countries get a flag that tells a story AND pops –South Africa is a good example. This would be a nice thing to strive for IF we did change the flag, but this is always a fringe benefit, not an ultimate goal.

Conclusion: The “harm” my opponent spoke of for this problem was that people might not realise how special and unique we are.

[On a personal note, I have to say that even as a proud Kiwi I am sick to death of the “small country” syndrome I see here in NZ. Every major news event has to have a “kiwi-connection” and we have to take every opportunity to remind the world that we are here and we punch above our weight. What makes us so arrogant that we feel like we need to be that annoying country in the playground saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” Everyone hates that kid!]
 Firstly, PRO has not provided any proof that this harm is even harmful. There’s nothing to suggest it impacts us in any way except maybe a bruised ego. Which maybe we need.

d. Insignificant problem 4. The current flag is racist

Fortunately both sides of this debate agree that the current flag doesn't promote one race above another at all. I made the point that NZ is in the clear majority when it comes to this issue by not actually mentioning race on the flag at all. 

So was there even a problem? Well no, not really. Maybe a little one?
 My contention here has been that NZ does NOT face a problem significant enough to warrant giving away all of the history we share with our current flag.

I proposed that changing the current flag would significantly impact a wide cross section of our population who have fought and competed under it. PRO did nothing to rebut that point so it’s safe to assume that it stands. With that in mind, it was never going to be enough for PRO to simply state a problem. He needed to explain why the harm from that problem was so egregious that it required immediate action.

He’s failed to do that.

The Solution.

In this debate, the proposed flag that PRO nominated was the Silver Fern flag. As per the rules of this debate, he had the option of merely debating that we should change, or that we should change to a specific flag of his choice. He chose the argue the later meaning that for PRO to win this debate he must convince you that we should change from our existing flag to his new one.

He claimed that his new flag communicated all the same things that the existing one does, let’s look at that a little closer…

1.  Geography: His argument here was that the fern only grows in NZ. He failed to address the fact that this makes it much less likely that it will be recognised by anyone else in the world. On the other hand, I explained how the blue background of our existing flag visually portrays as being an island nation, linking us with other Pacific nations and that the Southern Cross locates us firmly at the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it) of the world.
 This is a strong win for the current flag for giving us more information in a clearer fashion.

2.  History: His contention is that the Silver Fern icon carries as much link with NZ’s history as the Union Jack and or the Southern Cross. My contention is that he’s right it does.

I score this point a tie.

3.  Culture: We both made the point and submitted evidence that the Southern Cross and the Silver Fern are strongly regarded emblems of the NZ people. I also made the point that the Union Jack speaks to the strong emotional ties our nation holds with our Royal family.

This point goes to the current flag because it has two elements communicating two different aspects of our culture.

By my reckoning, this comparison has come out as a clear win for the current flag.

There were some other points discussed…

THE COLOUR BLACK: PRO was all over the place here. First he tried to say that Black is a colour that will pop. Along with every season of Project Runway, I pointed out that Black is praised for its ability to hide rather than to highlight.

He also tried to say that Black doesn’t fade as fast. Once science and I established that it fades faster, he brought up a bunch of flags – none of which have more than 33% black in them. For heaven’s sake – he included such heavy weights as South Korea and Swaziland! Go check their flags out and tell me how much black you see!
 MULTI-CULTURAL: PRO suggests that our multi-cultural society is shown on the fern flag by the number of individual points on the ends of the fern. This is an unfortuante side effect of symbolism. People get all arty-farty about it and start reading things into it. Or did I forget to mention that each of the different points on the stars in the southern cross on our current flag also represent our Multi-cultural make up? 
Give me a break. If this is true, PRO should be able to tell me exactly which are the 46 races represented here? And what will they do when the 47th race shows up? 

LIKE A FEATHER: PRO actually conceded that it DOES look like a feather. He says that the similarity will give us a chance to talk about ourselves more. Hmmm. Even if that were true and what we wanted, (which it isn’t and it’s not) the exact same argument can be made for our current flag which apparently looks similar to Australia!

HARD TO DRAW: I’ll confess to missing the chance to pick this one up any more than I did in the first round. I’ll just echo the point I made there which still stands: It is a harder design to draw accurately than the current flag and on balance, it is preferable to have one that is easy to draw.

Does the solution solve the Problem?

I don’t believe that PRO has demonstrated that the solution WOULD solve the problem. This HAS been addressed all the way through but was summed up most succinctly in the above sections.

PRO has never addressed the issue that changing the flag from its current design would not be a popular decision. The way he’s presented his side of the case it sounds as though it would be no major deal at all. This is not the case.

Net Benefit:

As discussed, I don’t that there WILL be a net benefit. NET benefit means that the pros will outweigh the cons and in this debate, I believe I have demonstrated that the few pros will not even come close to outweighing the cons.

Judges, Pro makes an attempt here to convince you that the people of NZ don’t care about our flag. This is simply not true. A statement like that means nothing without proof. I am one of the Kiwis he’s including there and I personally love my flag!

PRO introduced some new information here as well, saying that we carry an Olympic flag into the games. I’m afraid he is very much mistaken here as this picture will show.

 I believe the NZ Olympic flag he is referring to is the one flown by a few athletes who unofficially attended the 1980 Moscow games. NZ was part of a boycott of those games but a few athletes were in with a chance to win medals so they went anyway. In times like that, the IOC creates a special “Olympic” flag for those athletes. For obvious reasons, the IOC goes to some lengths to ensure that any reference to the actual National flag for that country is avoided – which is why that flag had no southern cross on it.

Olympic flags are a fun little side-study, you can also see ones for South Africa, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and many more. They are always designed by the IOC and the actual country represented has absolutely no say in the design.

I explained in my side of the debate that changing a flag puts a bookend on one chapter of a country’s history. This is a natural part of a country’s life and WILL happen for NZ one day – my point is and has always been that that time is not now! The right time is in the future, when we become a Republic with no more ties to the British Crown.

When athletes compete and win against competitors with far greater resources and financial backing, they will stand at the same spot and hear the same anthem and see the same flag be raised in triumph as their own heroes did a generation earlier. That moment creates a special link from present to past that will be lost if it is not the same flag.

The time will come, but the time is not now.The Resolution is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-04 14:24:01
| Speak Round
nzlockienzlockie (CON)
I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate and I hope that this important issue has been clearly represented by both sides. I thank PRO sincerely for the spirited discussion. 

The last round was kind of our closing round and the judges have probably got enough to digest. I will finish on this picture of an otter showing you her baby. I hope it leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling much like the feeling I get when I look at my flag.

Thanks! Vote CON!


Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-04 14:30:03
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
A baby otter sure is hard to top. To conclude the debate I only have this rat, demonstrating what I feel like doing right now.

sleeping rat

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-05 00:18:51
| Speak Round

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Both are socially constructed, but I was talking about cultural diversity. I wouldn't say cultures are inherently superior, I'd say particular cultural practices are morally wrong. No culture has a monopoly on moral righteousness.
Posted 2017-12-15 09:08:53
oh it's fine to have ethnic diversity. But some cultures really are better than others. Ethnic =/= culture
Posted 2017-12-15 00:08:37
@Mharman in New Zealand we're pretty proud of our diversity
Posted 2017-12-14 08:34:55
The silver fern's points represent a multicultur- NO THANKS. Muliculturaism is a terrible belief and has caused many problems throughout history.
Posted 2017-12-14 07:33:25
Just seen this- not sure what you mean though? Based on the big "WINNER!" under your name, it looks like YOU won this debate?
(Which you did thanks to a little pony's voting policy! ;) )

This WAS a fun debate though. I miss talking about flags... oh well, only a few months til the Commonwealth games...
Posted 2014-03-17 07:38:07
nzlockie, there was a bug with the win determination. You got listed as getting the win but I got the ELO points. I fixed it for the future but I let you keep the win on the profile because it was an awesome debate. Just to save you reporting the bug... :)
Posted 2014-02-19 01:12:16
Posted 2014-01-29 15:06:58
I'll put up my argument once I'm done with CX testing. Seems that nobody is going to take my debate on DDO so this should be safe for me.
Posted 2014-01-29 15:06:06
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2014-02-05 05:36:23
PinkieJudge: Pinkie    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: nzlockie
2014-02-06 05:25:40
CermankJudge: Cermank
Win awarded to: admin
The cross-star point was the tipping point for me. Pro made a compelling case for proclaiming the uniqueness and ... independence, in a sense, of New Zealand- and the flag being a symbol for the same. I couldn't really agree with the stability rebuttal nzlockie brought forth, changing the flag does not seem to signal instability, in the similar way not changing the flag doesn't signal stability, given that apparently there has been quite a lot of fervent discussions on the issue, and there is clear public demand [conclusion based on the debate only]. If anything, not changing it even after public demand signals policy lethargy.

I liked Con's rebuttals, and I think he did successfully refute the ethnicity point, but fell short on the others. Even if other countries do have a significant proportion of similar flags doesn't explain why NZ should have one too. #UniqueSnowflake

An excellent debate, nevertheless. Kudos to both the debaters.
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NZ should adopt a new national flag at the earliest convenience.
PRO can choose to make this a case for the current flag vs a specific alternative they nominate or just for the idea that the current flag should be changed.