Flag Cebate: Migrants Want Change To An Ensign For All Cultures

Flag debate: Migrants want change to an ensign for all cultures

By Lincoln Tan
The New Zealand Herald
4:00 AM Friday Feb 12, 2010

Nearly half of a sample of immigrants spoken to by the Herald want the New Zealand flag changed.

The new Kiwis say the current design does not represent them or the ethnic diversity of New Zealand today.

But those wanting to keep the flag say a change is something the country cannot afford at present and will make New Zealand lose its identity overseas.

Among suggested new designs was a silver fern with three stars, representing Maori, Pakeha and the newer arrivals, and a simple black, white and red flag (with a small white koru or silver fern) to represent the three communities of Maori/Pacific, Pakeha and Asian/others.

“This country is no longer made up of just Maori and Pakeha,” said Terrence King, originally from Singapore. But a new flag “must have a Maori flavour to recognise the first people of the land”.

To the 38-year-old ANZ mobile manager who became a citizen in 2007, the present flag is a constant reminder of British colonisation that fosters anger, not pride.

“Like the Maori people, my ancestors too were ill-treated by the British when Singapore was a British colony, and we need a flag that is neutral and encompasses all cultures.”

Asoka Basnayake, from Sri Lanka, says the present flag doesn't do anything for her. The Union Jack on it is one reason the communications leader for Taikura Trust is still not willing to become a citizen, despite having lived in New Zealand for 15 years.

“I am no royalist, and the current flag shows that this country is still clinging to a past when its apron strings were tied to Britain.”

Six of nine British immigrants spoken to backed change.

“The Union Jack is a little bit dated,” said Mark McKenzie, a nurse originally from South London.

Indian migrant Abdul Jalil Patel, 59, who gained residency last year after a 22-year immigration battle, says he loves New Zealand, but the flag is “something I don't like”.

But South African migrant Dean Mittens, a telecommunications project manager and a citizen since 2006, said the flag should be kept for practical and economical reasons.

Debra Anderson, from Canada, said NZ's clean, green, friendly branding would be lost if the flag was changed.

Thuten Kesang, who arrived from Tibet 30 years ago, says he flies the flag with pride outside his North Shore home and feels strongly that it should be kept. “For 30 years, it has given me a sense of identity.”


70 immigrants interviewed

Where they came from: Britain, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, China, Tibet, Taiwan, Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Japan, Argentina, Fiji, Burma.

* Change the flag – 34
* Keep the flag – 14
* Undecided – 22