British ensign flags, Flags

12 states discarded Jack, kept Queen


Many people confuse changing our flag with becoming a republic.

But they’re clearly separate issues, as you can see in the chart I’ve compiled below.

New Zealand’s blue ensign is one of 64 former British colonial ensign flags.

Most of which, like ours, are blue.

(Actually, there are many more blue ensigns, if you include states and provinces that were once colonies, and the ensigns flown by dozens of state institutions.)

Of those 64 former colonies, all but 12 now feel independent enough to fly a national flag of their own design.

Some of these countries (Burma, Fiji, Ireland, Somalia, Yemen, Zimbabwe) did not join, have left, or have been suspended by the Commonwealth since  independence.

Others have become republics with their own heads of state.

But 15 remain constitutional monarchies within the Commonwealth, with the Queen as head of state.

Of these monarchies, 12 display no trace of the monarch’s home country on their flags. 

You’ll see on this chart not only how stultifyingly unoriginal our flag is, but also how out of step we are in clinging to mother’s apron strings when mother abandoned us in the 70s to shack up with her neighbours.

 Omission: between Canada and Ceylon above should be this flag of the Cayman Islands. As Jim from the Caymans kindly pointed out in Comments  below, the Caymans still use an ensign flag – one of 14 countries to do so.

Oddly, despite their loyalty to the Union flag, only two of these countries – Australia and New Zealand – remain Commonwealth realms (in other words, have the Queen as head of state). 

The full list of ensign fliers is: Anguilla, Australia, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Montserrat, Niue, New Zealand, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and Dependencies, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Tuvalu.  

Of the 15 Commonwealth realms outside the UK that retain the Queen as head of state, only Australia, New Zealand and Tuvalu still fly an ensign flag.

The other 12, and the dates they adopted their new flags, are: 

Antigua and Barbuda (1997),  The Bahamas (1973), Barbados (1996), Belize (1950), Canada (1965), Grenada (1974), Jamaica (1962), Papua New Guinea (1971), Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983), Saint Lucia (1979), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1985), Solomon Islands (1977) and Tuvalu (1978).

When you slice it up a different way, you see that for 22 of our Commonwealth cousins, a quirky inconsistency is the norm:

10 countries have the British flag on their flag, but do not have the British monarch as their head of state. 

12 countries have the British monarch as their head of state, but do not have the British flag on their flag.

Only 3 countries (Australia, New Zealand and Tuvalu) have both.

I say if 12 countries can discard the Jack and keep the Queen, so can we.

Flags, Oregon flag, Trivia

How to compromise your flag

Oregon's State Flag

I was looking for a flag with a beaver on it. Why?

So you could see what the Canadian flag might have looked like had lovers of their national animal had their way – and why it would be just as nutty to put a kiwi on our flag.

And what did I find? That the beaver is also the state animal of Oregon (the Beaver State!)

And that Oregonians must have been similarly split over having fauna on their flag, because they’re the only state to have a different design on each side.

This will be ammunition for the day – and it’s only a matter of time – when some helpful person suggests that a New Zealand flag have the Union Jack or silver fern on one side and the Southern Cross, kiwi or koru on the other.

But back to beautiful Oregon, which maybe should be called the Schizophrenic State. 

A trawl through their state symbols reveals that they also have:

  • a state beverage (milk – believe it or not, so is Kentucky’s)
  • a state dance (the square dance)
  • a state mushroom (no, not magic – that’d be California’s)
  • a state insect (the Oregon swallowtail)
  • a state rock (the thunder egg), and even
  • a state fossil (the Metasequoia).

And let’s not forget: 

  • the state nut (the hazelnut).

On second thoughts, make that the Nutty State.

Hey, let’s put a kiwi on our flag – so we can be the Nutty Country.

But seriously, this is why creative people often seem precious: because they know that compromise kills good design.

When politicians think compromise is cool, you get the Oregon flag. And, of course, Wanganui/Whanganui. 

I hope we’ll take a leaf out of the Canadians’ book and have the courage to be single-minded.

Scroll down to check out the other flag posts – especially the flag poll, the latest variants, and the plan to fly a gigantic fern flag over the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day.

1884 NZ rugby team, Design, Flags, Joe Warbrick, John Diefenbaker, Kenneth Wang, Lester Pearson, Native Rugby Team 1888, NZ Rugby Museum, Skybanners, Tom Ellison

“Let’s fly our fern over the Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day.”

Update: this is the flag we want to fly: The Black & Silver

“Good idea, Kenneth.”

Kenneth Wang doesn’t think small. I guess if Mao Zedong’s army commander was my grandpa, I’d be fairly bold too.

So don’t be surprised if on Waitangi Day – one month from today – you see more than two flags flying above the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

And we hope you don’t mind if one of those flags is a little bigger than the other two.

10,000 square feet bigger, to be exact.

You heard it here first. 

If we can raise $20,000 by 20 January, Skybanners are going to make us a gigantic fern flag and chopper it all over Auckland.

If that doesn’t getting Kiwis talking about a new flag, we don’t know what will.

There are two pressing issues:

  1. Where to find $20,000. 
  2. Which design to use for the giant flag. 

If you can help with the funds – or know anyone who can – email john@johnansell.co.nz ASAP. (Needless to say, if we don’t raise enough, you’ll get your money back.)

If you can’t send money but want to give us your view on which fern flag to fly, comment below.

I’ve had some other design thoughts since my poll and subsequent posts…

Both Kenneth and I feel there’s not much point in a new flag that keeps bits of the old one as a bob each way. A proud nation doesn’t make a Declaration of Semi-Dependence.

We say we need to Think Bigger – like Canada did in 1965.

In previous posts, I’ve done my best to do justice to my red-stars-on-blue and red-stars-on-black options. Let’s know if you still prefer one of those.

But in this post, I want to try to make the black option work for those of you who think a black flag is too sombre.

What about if we add some white or silver… 

  
Variant 1: two white vertical panels

Unashamedly based on the Canadian flag, the world’s best.

Before Canadian PM Lester Pearson led the charge for this beautiful maple leaf flag, former PM John Diefenbaker had this to say about it:

“The Pearson flag is a meaningless flag. There is no recognition of history; no indication of the existence of French and English Canada; the partnership of the races; no acknowledgement of history. It is a flag without a past, without history, without honour and without pride.”

Sound familiar?

As Canadians now know, if you’ve got the courage to make history, honour and pride follow in spades.

There are so many parallels between the Canadian and New Zealand situations. Especially when it comes to rivalry between the national leaf and the national mammal.

Just as some New Zealanders would sooner see a kiwi on our flag than a silver fern, plenty of Canadians wanted to bypass the maple leaf for a beaver!

(Let’s just hope taste prevails here too.)

Variant 2: one white vertical panel

A good way to keep the fern big and still have some light relief.

Variant 3: two white horizontal bars

Variant 4: two silver horizontal bars

Variant 5: a silver silver fern

After all, in its natural state it is a silver fern, not a white fern. (Even the white fern is still called silver.) 

White can make foreigners think ‘white feather’. But silver would be unique in the world of flags – a bold statement of a confident young nation.

I’ve had a shirt made with a silver silver fern on black, and it does look smart.

OK, do any of these options change your mind about a black flag?

Now a little about the heritage.

WHERE DO THE SILVER AND BLACK COME FROM?

Good question.

The silver fern is the native ponga. It was chosen as an emblem in its white form by Joe Warbrick, captain and organiser of  the New Zealand Natives (Maori plus five pakeha) rugby team of 1888.

Warbrick, now a subject of a short film, was inspired by two Maori proverbs: 

Mate atu he toa ara mai he toa.” 
“When one warrior dies, another arises.”

“Mate atu he tetakura ara mai he tetakura.”
“When one fern dies, another arises.”

Which does seem most apt for a game based on men supporting each other – not to mention an excellent  justification for a national emblem.

But why the black jersey?

The answer comes from All Black Tamati Ellison’s family, whose ancestor Tom was a star of  that Natives team.

More to the point, it was Tom Ellison’s idea in 1893 to make the  black jersey with silver fern the official New Zealand team uniform.

According to the Ellisons, Joe and Tom just thought black was the colour that would provide the best contrast with the white fern.

I can guess why Warbrick would have felt that way. You see, in 1884 he’d been in the first-ever New Zealand rugby team. 

And that team played in blue jerseys with a gold fern.

We know that, because last year the one below (right) was loaned to the New Zealand Rugby Museum by the family of the team’s first try-scorer.

But you’d never know looking at the official team photo that there was a gold fern on the jersey, would you? 

[575429D9-FBD7-A5C6-BD2DF5DBA5BA8FB7.jpg] 
The 1884 rugby team in blue jerseys and (invisible?) gold fern.

Were these players having their ferns drycleaned that day? Or did the dark gold simply not show up against the blue?

Could it be that Warbrick wanted a colour contrast that would let his emblem be seen in black and white photos, and so chose, um… black and white?

The photo of the 1888 team below suggests he succeeded – and a tradition was born.

The 1888 Native team, now in black jerseys with white fern.

In the 121 years since, the silver fern has been ‘our maple leaf’, representing New Zealand in sporting and non-sporting fields alike.

It would be a shame if the anti-sport brigade were to veto its use on a flag solely on the grounds that it started life on the Natives’ rugby jersey.

Because, of course, it didn’t.

It started life in the ground – as a native of the New Zealand bush.