New Zealand Wants to Change Its Flag. These Are the Finalists.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is tired of being confused for Australia.

GettyImages-149756388crop
GettyImages-149756388crop

There really isn’t much by which to distinguish the flags of New Zealand and Australia. The former comes with a Union Jack flag in the top left against a deep blue background with red stars. The latter includes a Union Jack flag in the top left against a deep blue background with -- wait for it! -- white stars.

That has resulted in quite a bit of confusion -- usually to the disadvantage of smaller New Zealand. The country’s prime minister, John Key, has spoken of being seated in front of Australia’s flag at multilateral fora, a wonderful bit of small-country anxiety that HBO’s John Oliver recently satirized to great effect.

Confusion over the New Zealand flag and discontent over its colonial iconography has led to a campaign to change the country’s banner, and on Monday a panel charged with overseeing that process released its long list of candidates ahead of a referendum. The candidates prominently feature the silver fern, the symbol worn by New Zealand’s beloved rugby team, the All Blacks. The fern also plays an important role in Maori legend.

There really isn’t much by which to distinguish the flags of New Zealand and Australia. The former comes with a Union Jack flag in the top left against a deep blue background with red stars. The latter includes a Union Jack flag in the top left against a deep blue background with — wait for it! — white stars.

That has resulted in quite a bit of confusion — usually to the disadvantage of smaller New Zealand. The country’s prime minister, John Key, has spoken of being seated in front of Australia’s flag at multilateral fora, a wonderful bit of small-country anxiety that HBO’s John Oliver recently satirized to great effect.

Confusion over the New Zealand flag and discontent over its colonial iconography has led to a campaign to change the country’s banner, and on Monday a panel charged with overseeing that process released its long list of candidates ahead of a referendum. The candidates prominently feature the silver fern, the symbol worn by New Zealand’s beloved rugby team, the All Blacks. The fern also plays an important role in Maori legend.

“A potential new flag should unmistakably be from New Zealand and celebrate us as a progressive, inclusive nation that is connected to its environment, and has a sense of its past and a vision for its future,” the Flag Consideration Panel wrote in an open letter releasing the long list.

Key has in the past favored a design featuring a white fern against a black background, but backed off that idea after some commentators said it resembled the flag of the Islamic State militant group.

The full long list can be viewed below. And the design that allegedly resembles the Islamic State flag — which it really doesn’t! — made the cut.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.44.56 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.44.56 AM

Photo credit: Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Twitter: @EliasGroll

More from Foreign Policy

U.S. President Joe Biden listens to remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on May 19.
U.S. President Joe Biden listens to remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on May 19.

Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem

Victory in Ukraine could easily mean hubris in Washington.

Russian and Belarusian troops take part in joint military exercises.
Russian and Belarusian troops take part in joint military exercises.

Russia’s Stripped Its Western Borders to Feed the Fight in Ukraine

But Finland and the Baltic states are still leery of Moscow’s long-term designs.

Electricity pylons are shown under cloudy skies during rainfall near Romanel-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 15.
Electricity pylons are shown under cloudy skies during rainfall near Romanel-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 15.

Europe’s Energy Crisis Is Destroying the Multipolar World

The EU and Russia are losing their competitive edge. That leaves the United States and China to duke it out.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces new European Union energy policies at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels, on Sept. 7.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces new European Union energy policies at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels, on Sept. 7.

With Winter Coming, Europe Is Walking Off a Cliff

Europeans won’t escape their energy crisis as long as ideology trumps basic math.