As a kiwi living overseas it all seemed to come from out of the blue. Or perhaps not so much out of the blue as a rare deviation from the usual pattern of talking and talking about it without anything ever coming to fruition. The leap from let's talk about it to let's vote on it happened very quickly from my perspective.
I've been through a roller coaster of emotions about it. At first I thought it was a great idea. Let's get rid of that very blue, very unoriginal design and file it in the archives. I was all for chucking the fern on there and calling it a day. After all that is the symbol that is more widely recognised for its association with the almighty All Blacks.
I have to suffer the indigence of being asked if I'm Australian on a weekly basis. I can't do much about my accent but we can do something about the picture we put out there to the rest of the world. It was exactly this thought that started to make me uneasy.
Honeymoon period over
That idea lay fermenting in the back of my brain as the debates started and people's opinions were made public. I learned more about how the process had worked and how much money had been spent on it. I was for a change but at the expense of what other cause?
I looked harder at our options and began to see it less and less as an opportunity to free ourselves from our colonial past and neighbourhood confusion and more as an exercise in pigeon holing from our own government.
The distinguished committee gave us no other choice but the fern, in different forms and colours. To most people the fern means sporting endeavours, which is great because we are a proud sporting nation, but is that really all we see in ourselves?
The proposed designs do not leave much to interpret as they either reference our old flag or the All Blacks. I suppose at least other countries might understand it.
Who are we?
Since bringing it up I have had many people ask me what the stars on our current flag even mean. To anyone who is wondering, they are the stars of a constellation called the southern cross. Something unique to the entire southern hemisphere, as demonstrated by the inclusion on the Australian flag although of course they one-upped us and added an extra star on there.
Another common response has been "oh so you're getting rid of us are you?" Of course referring to the union jack being a half of the current design. In saying this I think it affirms the need to do so. Why wouldn't we get rid of it? To Britain we are the cousin whose birthday everyone forgets. We don't need to have an independence referendum to assert our position as our own nation when our geographic location does that for us.
But there's no need to keep holding on to what seems like a little token gesture to a past that many people would like to move on from.
What are the options?
I have personally signed the petition for the red peaks flag. I think it looks more like a proper flag than something created on microsoft paint. I think it could mean many things to different people and I also think that it is very cool the way everyone has rallied behind it so it's inclusion would be a real win for democracy.
It may not be perfect and it is guaranteed that not everyone would like it but it would be undeniably ours. There are people who are going to resist the change no matter what it is. What's important is that we don't blow this opportunity and this money and leave the next generation something that they feel no connection to.
I believe the red peaks flag could be something that could be made very special and something we could be truly proud of. https://www.facebook.com/redpeakflag
Helen McIntosh is a 22 year old Kiwi living in England and trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html