Push to get rid of our 'Model T' flag

The New Zealand Herald, 26 January 2005.

Dame Catherine Tizard, who was the Queen′s representative from 1990 to 1996, spent about an hour collecting signatures for a petition in central Auckland yesterday. She said she supported the campaign because "the time has come".

"We are not the country we were 100 years ago. [It“ is a very different country now. I can see no dramatic argument against changing to a symbol where people say, ′Ah, that′s New Zealand′."

Dame Catherine has written an endorsement of the change which says: "We don′t wear the clothes of a century ago or drive around today in Model T Fords. Our present flag served a young post-colonial country well, but the time has come to consider a change which more appropriately recognises our changed identity and confidence in ourselves."

She was one of a brace of sporting greats, authors, media figures and other prominent New Zealanders who hit the streets yesterday to campaign for a change.

Signature collectors representing the nzflag.com trust were in five cities asking passersby a Government-approved question: Should the design of the New Zealand flag be changed?

The group is attempting to collect the 300,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on the subject. Petition gatherers in Auckland said they had received a mixed response, from gestures of support to insults and abuse.

Young Maori and Pacific Islanders were most in favour of a flag change, while older people seemed happier to retain the status quo, one signature collector said.

Many people were using the flag petition as an opportunity to vent their frustrations on a number of subjects, from smoking in bars to the performance of Prime Minister Helen Clark.

One passerby - a Scotsman turned NZ citizen – was adamant he would not support a flag change. "I would not sign it for the simple reason that I lost my old man in Algiers Harbour in the last war." However, the man had nothing against the signature gatherers, as they were "young people".

In Wellington, several alternative flag designs were flown outside Parliament as a group of prominent people ranging from former rugby players to the head of the stock exchange signed the petition.

Television sports commentator Keith Quinn said it was time the country had its uniqueness represented in the flag. "It′s time we shrugged off some attachment to our former world."

He said the current flag was too similar to Australia′s and during All Blacks-Wallaby rugby clashes NZ fans waved the All Blacks′ silver fern flag while the Australians waved the gold and green Wallaby flag.

The nzflag.com trust is not pushing an alternative flag design. Instead, it wants the Government to seek public opinion on changing the flag, then come up with a new one.

Trust spokeswoman Jo Coughan said the campaign′s launch in Auckland, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch marked "a defining moment in New Zealand′s history". The trust wants the issue included on this year′s election ballot paper.