Flying the fern
New Zealanders have been voting for a new national flag design, one that will go up against the existing flag in March.
The chosen flag was designed by Kyle Lockwood, an architectural technologist, who designed five of the 40 flags in the longlist. Almost half of eligible voters voted in the first flag referendum, and a higher turn-out is expected next year in the face of the potential flag change.
The chosen flag design is a combination of the old flag, with its four stars, but instead of the Union Jack flag, which currently sits in the corner, there is a black and white silver fern-inspired design. The flag therefore succeeds in maintaining aspects of its heritage, while discarding the colonial connotations of the Union Jack design. The silver fern, on the other hand, is a popular and widely-recognised symbol of New Zealand, and is worn by its world famous rugby team, the All Blacks.
Tim Dove, design director at New Zealand brand and design agency, Cluster Creative, says, “The NZ government has spent $26m on the flag referendum. As one of New Zealand’s leaders in Māori design communication for commercial and Government clients, we feel that it’s unfortunate that no money has been spent on professional designers. Not in the selection process, nor in the refinement process.
He says, "The flag options were obtained from the public, and that is why none of them quite hit the mark. This is the same as if the national museum was designed by builders, and no architects.”
Among the votes counted, nearly 10% were considered to be ‘informal votes’, which includes spoiled ballot papers; likely protest votes from those who do not want the flag to change or are indifferent to the proposed designs. It remains to be seen which flag design the New Zealand public will choose, the current flag or the replacement, but there does seem to be a general feeling that the project could have been handled better.
The silver fern design was named as a preliminary winner on Friday (11 December), but was confirmed today (15 December) after late and overseas votes were counted. Another Lockwood design came in close second, it is identical but for the red in the top-left corner.
Dove says, "If the NZ flag does change next year, then it probably won’t get the final design refinement that it deserves, and which would normally be part of a professional design process. We may have to wait another century for that."