MOVE over Fern Leaf. You have competition from Red Peak.
New Zealanders have been given a fifth design to choose from for their new flag. A popular campaign for a geometric design called “Red Peak” prompted lawmakers yesterday to amend the rules to add it to the original four finalists, all variations of the fern leaf.
The Pacific nation of 4.5 million people is considering changing its flag because many consider it outdated and too similar to Australia’s. It features Britain’s Union Flag in the top left corner, signalling a colonial past some are eager to put behind them.
A government-appointed panel had winnowed down more than 10,000 designs submitted by the public to four finalists. But many people felt those designs did not offer enough choice, with three of them featuring silver ferns and the fourth a representation of an unfurled fern. The Red Peak eschews fern for a red triangle topped by a white triangle against a black background.
The fern is indigenous to New Zealand and features on sports emblems including the rugby and cricket teams’ uniforms.
Yesterday, New Zealand’s Parliament voted overwhelming to add Red Peak to a November referendum, after about 50,000 people signed an online petition urging that the design be considered. The vote came after weeks of political posturing and manoeuvering on the issue.
The flag that wins in November will be pitted head-to-head against the current flag in a second nationwide vote next March.
However, there are plenty of New Zealanders who want to keep their current flag. Many veterans fought under it and feel a special bond to it.
Others do not like the new designs, or view the process as an expensive stunt initiated by Prime Minister John Key to distract from more pressing political issues.
The two flag votes will cost taxpayers about NZ $26 million.
Mr Key told reporters yesterday the government had tried to be pragmatic by adding Red Peak after so many people expressed their feelings about it, albeit after the four finalists had already been chosen.
“I think it took a while for people to really engage in the process,” he said.
However, Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the process set by the government had been deeply flawed from the start.
He said: “The Prime Minister always has the option, it is kind of ridiculous that it has got to this point.
“He could have, with the flick of his pen, included Red Peak as one of the options if he wanted to.
“The fact that Labour have had a go, we have had a go, to get it through the process is kind of absurd, because he always had that option.”