The child with two home-lands: The flag debate from an immigrant’s perspective


My mind’s been working over-time over where I stand in the flag debate? As a foreign born New Zealand citizen who faithfully took an oath to observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen, I decided that it was my duty to seriously consider the flag under which not just me but my descendants will hopefully make a positive difference in this world.

While I do love our current flag, I love the silver fern. If I were to choose a new design, it is my view that Kyle Lockwood’s red triangle with silver design could in future have helped us look back and remember the founding of the Treaty of Waitangi and our Commonwealth connection. To me the red represented both the British and Maori forebearers and the life-giving blood that flows through every New Zealander regardless of what country they originate from; the multiple points of the fern leaf of course representing multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future.

The black triangle of the same flag brings to mind unfortunate pictures of pirate ships and the ISIS militant group. No matter how hard I want to I don’t feel the colours work well together for a flag. But the democracy has voted and perhaps I will grow to love it, should the flag be chosen.

To have an open mind, I have tossed and turned, researched various viewpoints before coming up with a considered decision. Trolling through several writings and opinions in the media, the battle of the flags (existing or new) is fought on two fronts. Those that do not support a flag change say that the existing flag has meaning and history. Writers like Bruce Logan put this case forward well and explain that the Union Jack in the top left-hand corner recalls our historical and legal origin. It reinforces the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Southern Cross tells us where we are.

On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe that now is the time for change and as a stronger, newer and more vibrant nation we need to move forward. We are no longer under the roof of Mother England, they say.

Both points of view have their pros and cons; both sides of the argument moving me from one side to the next.

We all know that change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. Research shows that countries that have changed their flags had a reason to do so. Canada changed her flag at a time of turmoil and threat to unify her nation. India (my birth land) changed her flag to symbolize that she was free of the tyranny and the control of the then British Government.

Unlike Canada, we are not under internal threat; unlike India, Britain is no longer the strong, arrogant and stubborn power she once was. However, if a majority of New Zealanders want to change the flag, then we should get on and move forward.  But let’s do it with a purpose that is stronger than “Because our flag is too similar to Australia” (Why then can’t Australia not change her flag), or “Because we are not under Britain anymore” (Technically we are, should we therefore become a republic first, and is there any benefit for us in doing so at this point in time), or “the All-Blacks represent the Black colour and the fern, and so our flag should change.”

If the current alternate design is the flag that we choose, let’s come up with, and explain to our children the true meaning of the fern and the Southern Cross.

One of the clearest messages of the meaning of a flag, or the need for a flag that represents a land, came from Mahatma Gandhi, a true hero and a peaceful warrior who took on and defeated Mother England.  When India was going through a flag debate he said this: “A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy. For, a flag represents an Ideal: The unfurling of the Union Jack evokes in the English breast sentiments whose strength it is difficult to measure. The Stars and Stripes mean a world to the Americans. The Star and the Crescent will call forth the best bravery in Islam…It will be necessary for us Indians –  Muslims, Christians Jews, Parsis, and all others to whom India is their home-to recognize a common flag to live and to die for.”

Change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. If we were to change, I say to you New Zealanders, young and old, immigrants or not, black brown or white, religious or non-religious, gay or straight, and to all others to whom New Zealand is or will be their home and the home of their children, let’s recognize a common flag that’s not just a marketing logo, but a flag that will instill in us a sense of positive pride, integrity and strength of character, a flag that we will be proud to live and die for.


(Sneha Gray is a writer, former journalist and dream catcher based in the sunny Bay of Plenty)


14 thoughts on “The child with two home-lands: The flag debate from an immigrant’s perspective

  1. I like your article. I think you missed the economical point. Country like NZ cant aford a burden of changing flags accross the glob including with in nz. Your thoughts.
    So i will stick to old one until unless there is meaning to it. As you rightly mentioned just to differentiate from OZ is not a good reason to change. John Key sold this idea in a very wrong way.


    1. Thanks for your comments Yogesh. Very valid.

      This is only my personal view, but I am not totally sure of the economical point of view. At some point in time we need to change our flags and our stationary. In the grand scheme of things it is nothing.

      However, in my perspective, the main issue is that if we were to change we need to change for a good reason and not change because it sounds cool or because its too close to the Australian flag. If the only reason we want to change our flag is because it looks too similar to Australia’s perhaps Australia can spend money and change the flag. If the real reason had to do with National identity, then no amount of money should stop it.

      While I personally don’t think Black looks good on a flag, if the country were to vote for it, then we need to support it – because that is what democracy is about.


  2. As an imigrant to NZ, the country from where you came, would I be entitled to the same rights you receive here in NZ?

    Why fix something that is not broken?

    What do you know about the Treaty of Waitangi and the flag that was supposed to be flown since then, and was to precede any others, as an alternative?

    Did your family fight and die for the current flag, in the last century?

    Remember you arrived as an imigrant and are entitled to your opinions, but the significance of being here pre-European and then the history of our lands stolen from us, even up until this present day. Your arrogance is focussed more upon a new flag you are newly associated to.
    Instead of a new flag with a wasted cost of $26 million, why are the homeless not cared for first? Why are there not enough homes being built to house the lower income families? Why are imigrants getting more of a welfare, when those who have lived in this country since birth, or inheritance get a bare minimum?

    You are seeking self glory and understanding, instead you should be studying our history and judge for yourself, the injustices upon the natives and why the majority of NZ natives will and have voted for the original flag.

    Go and ask all of the R.S.A’s members in your surrounding area’s, what they think of your survey and the truth would be known.
    It would be more than likely, if the new flag was to win this vote, corruption would be the assurance of it’s win…


    1. Dear Nikora

      If your parents were to emigrate to the country I was born in, work hard and pay taxes, yes then you will receive the same rights I receive in my new homeland – NZ.

      Why fix something that is not broken – absolutely right.

      Re the Treaty of Waitangi – As a student of History, and having got certificates after attending Treaty of Waitangi courses, I think I probably know quite a bit about it. I am a firm believer that if a wrong was done, it needs to be put right; I also believe that once things are put right we must move forward.

      Did my ancestors fight under a flag – Absolutely. I believe both your ancestors and mine fought for the allies under the same flag. (The flag of Mother England).

      Today my Whanau is a depiction of 21st century NZ, very multicultural with whanau of different races including Maori, European, Asian and Indian.

      The most important point though is that if you were to read the article in its entirety, the article does not talk about CHANGING THE FLAG. It rather points out the pros and cons of both points of view, and if people wanted a change of flag, then there needs to be good reason to do so. Any bias at all in the article leans towards keeping the current flag if we don’t have a good reason to change.

      Can I encourage you to re read the article and truly understand what it says.

      In the end though, I may not like the black flag, but if that is what NZ votes for, we need to stand by it because the majority has spoken.


  3. If we are not under Britain as you say, then why haven’t the natives of New Zealand had their lands rightfully returned to them. The lands were confiscated by the British and should be returned by the British.

    I would give my life to fight against those who have refused to return what once belonged to my ancestors, if there were a rebellious uprising by NZ natives. Who knows, there may already be hidden cells ready to cause extreme mayhem.


    1. Hi Nikora – What do you think is the solution?

      Every country is created because of change. If you look through the history books you will see that every country has seen wars and battles, and this includes NZ right from the time the Maori ancestors came over about 1000 years ago, to the time when the Europeans came over about 200 years ago. From the scares and ashes a nation is built. The beauty of NZ is that while bad was doneto a certain degree the people and the Government have tried to put things right and so we must all move forward.
      However, I understand where you are coming from and how you feel, because at the height of its power Britain ruled the world, including India. I can choose to sit and mourn and hate what happened to my ancestors or move forward into the future. I choose to move forward and I hope you will too.
      The best and the healthiest way is to be positive and move forward as one country. We need to adopt the rich heritage of your ancestors and mine, set aside the bad practices in all the cultures and move forward to create a powerful and peaceful country.


  4. Firstly NZ is multi-racial living in a mono-cultural society secondly Te Tohu & Te Whiti o Rongomai Parihaka Taranaki were actually the first to lead their people in a peaceful protest against the British government 70 years before Mahatma Gandhi however history in terms of maori is hidden away unless you look for it. Honestly maori have given so much to this country even to become NZ citizens maori had to go to war to support the British empire additionally maori continually have the highest negative impact in regards to health, socio-economic & prison population which leads to an oppressed culture that is brutally blatant. I have personally chosen to tick the flag change option why because the British flag has done nothing for my people even though i swore allegiance to the Queen while serving in the NZ Armed Forces many years ago. I welcome people from overseas to enrich the diversity of this country however don’t forget it takes more than a few treaty classes to understand the history of pain that maori have experience & continually experiencing also i note that in your comments to Nikora that immigrants work hard pay taxes somehow alluding to that maori don’t however the maori economy is worth $40 billion where taxes are extracted by the government. Maori has been through colonization, globalization & still we hold onto our culture, values & beliefs & so it’s vitally important now that when TPPA is finally signed off that New Zealanders understand their lives will dramatically change because the economic gate keepers don’t care if your white, black or blue. Capitalism has failed because basically you the haves & the have not’s & the have not’s are continually working hard stressing out to keep their heads above water so the haves can have it all unfortunately you & i, government, politicians, New Zealanders are part of the have not’s & we just don’t realize it. Neo-liberal conservatives policies that have shaped NZ is also coming to an end weather it’s world war 3 or global economic collapse, change is coming & we better prepare.


  5. I have noted that some comments here are beginning to show elements of racial intolerance. This debate never encouraged racial discord. In making racial comments against Indians shows that some people in all races show intolerance to other races.

    India as a country suffered more under the British Raj than those in New Zealand. However, many Indians are choosing to move forward and focus on the future. To be successful as a nation, I think this is essential in NZ too.


  6. Your last comment is disgusting however you don’t see your own racial intolerance in regards to “India has suffered more under British Rule” than NZ. Per population maori has suffered it doesn’t matter what suffering looks like at least India has their land back additionally arrogance & ignorance that is displayed here belittle’s you & your culture – i will not write anymore comments however what i said in my last post is all true. Snehagray do not comment about maori or treaty issues if you don’t have a clue.


  7. Eddie whether you like it or not, India suffered far worse under colonial rule than New Zealand will ever have. That’s not racial intolerence… It’s the raw truth. I suggest you get your head out the sand and read the hardships endured by other countries to truly understand that no one particular race or country is immune from hardship… Including I might add… The U.K. The sad reality is that mankind (including Maori) is inherently cruel and loving in the same breath no matter where you come from. At least in NZ some of the wrongs have been put right…. This is not so in many other countries, not least of all India. The funny thing is you are so blinded by racial intolerance that you don ‘t actually see that in a way the author is supporting many of your arguments. The way I read it she’s not necessarily saying we need to change our flag – just that we look at both sides of the argument. Get off your high horse and be a bit more respectful – A fourth generation Kiwi


  8. Thanks Steve. Unfortunately, as amateurs in paradise, the human race seems to continue to have discord and hate. Of course, where wrong was done things need to put right. But then we need to move forward.

    I do appreciate the others who made comments too. They are entitled to their points of view which obviously they believe it. I hope any negative experiences they have had can be put right.

    I am also not certain how a simple view on the Flag debate morphed itself into something totally different.


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