NZ FLAG FACT NUMBER 84
In August 1962 MP for Lyttelton and future New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk suggested erasing the Southern Cross from the national flag and replacing it with the kiwi because the flag looked so similar to Australia’s. The then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake retorted: ‘We could adopt a slogan—call us kiwis.
New Zealand economist and author Brian Easton later write of Kirk: ‘At the heart of his nation building was national identity.’
Kirk was not to be the only Labour politician and party member to suggest flag change. When Labour became the government in 1972, members of the party continued to advocate for changing the flag. They introduced a remit proposing that the flag be altered, only to have it defeated when it came to the vote at the party’s 1973 conference.
The party made the same attempt at its 1989 annual conference. This time the remit was defeated by 144 votes to 136. The previous year, Labour Minister for Foreign Affairs Russell Marshall had called for the flag to be changed. Four years on, the former Labour MP who become the leader of Mana Motuhake, Matiu Rata, claimed that the flag needed to change in order to ‘re-establish our national identity’. Helen Clark, Labour Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008, also supported changing the flag. She suggested removing the Union Jack.
In 2010 Labour MP Charles Chauvel promoted a Private Members Bill that called for a review of the New Zealand flag (see fact 90). Labour also promoted change as part of their 2014 manifesto, with MP Trevor Mallard releasing the Internal Affairs policy on the matter:
"The time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public. We would however support the ability of the RSA and similar organisations to continue to fly the current flag if they so wish. New Zealand changed its national anthem from ‘God Save the Queen’ on a gradual, optional basis and that process worked."
From New Zealand Flag Facts by historian Malcolm Mulholland. Read more at: