Find out more about the Flag Consideration Project.
Why New Zealand is considering a new flag
The current flag was adopted in 1902 and since the 1960s New Zealanders have been debating whether it should be replaced. Suggestions for alternative flag designs have been put forward from time to time, but until now there has never been an official public discussion to consider the flag.
The decision to change the flag
By law, the flag can be changed by a simple majority of Parliament. However, the Government’s view is that decisions on the flag should be made by all New Zealanders eligible to vote.
Making a decision on the flag
This process may or may not result in change. New Zealanders have a range of views regarding the flag and the independent process will be respectful and transparent with no assumption of change.
How to have a say in the process
A group of New Zealanders, the Flag Consideration Panel, have provided an opportunity for all New Zealanders to participate in discussions and suggest their designs and ideas. This process happened between 5 May and 16 July 2015. Following this, the Panel will report back to the Government with a shortlist to go forward for ranking.
The first referendum will be held between 20 November and 11 December 2015, using the preferential voting system. Voters will be asked to rank four alternative designs. The design receiving the most support will go forward to the second referendum held 3-24 March 2016, where voters will choose between that design and the current flag.
Referendum dates will be confirmed in the final legislation.
If you don’t want the flag to change
Make sure you vote in the second referendum, where you can choose between the current flag and the preferred alternative.
What happens next
The Flag Consideration Panel will narrow down public suggestions to a shortlist of alternative designs that reflect the values the public have shared online as well as at the workshops, hui and information stands around the country.
Continue the discussion in your community
Anyone can download a Community Resource Kit to hold their own discussion with their whānau, workmates or other people in their community. Schools can use the Schools Resource Kit to replicate the flag consideration process and go as far as running their own referendums as a learning exercise.
Consultation with Māori communities
The Flag Consideration Panel includes members who will bring a Māori perspective and will take advice on how Māori communities can best be consulted as a key part of the public engagement process that concluded on 16 July, as well as during the design selection process.
Participating in the referendum if you're overseas
Eligible New Zealanders who are either enrolled at an overseas postal address, or who provide a temporary one will be sent referendum voting papers. Voting papers can be posted back or uploaded to the Electoral Commission's website.
What will happen to the information that New Zealanders shared online and at community meetings
New Zealanders shared what they stand for, and what New Zealand means to them. These values will help the Panel select the final four flags for the first referendum.
Who can vote in the referendums
People who are enrolled prior to the start of the voting period will be able to vote in the binding postal referendums.
The Responsible Minister
The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Bill English, is the Minister responsible for the New Zealand Flag Referendum.
The Cross Party MPs’ Group (CPG)
The CPG made nominations for the Flag Consideration Panel and has been involved in the development of the draft New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill, making recommendations to the Responsible Minister as necessary. The Cross Party Group includes these Members of Parliament:
- Jonathan Young (Chair) - National
- Hon Trevor Mallard - Labour
- Dr Kennedy Graham - Green
- Marama Fox - Māori
- David Seymour - ACT
- Hon Peter Dunne - United Future.
New Zealand First opted not to take part.
The Flag Consideration Panel (FCP)
The role of the FCP is to design and lead the public engagement process regarding the New Zealand Flag, and to select a shortlist of designs. The group is independent and non-partisan. The members of the Panel are:
- Prof John Burrows (Chair), ONZM, QC
- Nicky Bell
- Peter Chin, CNZM
- Julie Christie, ONZM
- Rod Drury
- Kate De Goldi (Deputy Chair)
- Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM
- Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM
- Stephen Jones
- Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE
- Malcolm Mulholland.
How much the project will cost
The estimated cost is $25.7m over two years. Two thirds of the budget is for two postal referendums ($17.3m) and public consultation ($6.7m). To have a process which is legitimate, and for the outcome to endure, it is important to do it properly. Our current flag has served us for over a century, and it is possible that a new flag would serve us for another century or longer.
What the Flag Consideration Panel will be paid
In keeping with the Cabinet Fees Framework, Panel members will receive $640 per day and the Chair will receive $850 per day.
The cost to government organisations if the flag is changed
It will cost up to $2.66m to replace flags on government buildings and facilities and Defence Force uniforms over time if the flag is changed. Other costs, including changing flags on government ships and on drivers' licences, are not known at the moment, but these changes will happen over time.
Costs for the advertising campaign
The project has an obligation to ensure that all New Zealanders are aware of the process and can participate. Advertising has a key role to play in this - it helps inform large groups of people and is cost-effective compared to other means. The advertising schedule will also include a range of publications in multiple languages.
While these costs are commercially sensitive, we have been comparatively moderate in our scheduling and will ensure costs are well within the agreed budget for this project.
Contact phone numbers
The freephone number is 0800 36 76 56. If you're calling from overseas, the number is +64 9 909 4182.
Getting information if you don't have internet access
You can visit your local library or Citizens Advice Bureau and ask them to show or download information for you.
Information in other languages and for blind and deaf people
Information is available in Te Reo Māori and Mandarin in the first instance, and will be made available in other languages as well. We'll soon have the material ready in an easy-read format, and there will be video translations into New Zealand sign language.
Previous changes to the flag
The flag has changed twice, so we’ve had three flags. In 1834, the first flag – now known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand – was chosen by Māori at Waitangi to represent New Zealand. Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Union Flag (‘Union Jack’) became New Zealand’s official flag. The New Zealand Ensign was officially adopted in 1902.
Find out more about our flag and its history:
Why the flag referendum isn't being combined with local government or general elections
Combining the referendums with other elections could be confusing for voters. Also, previous referendums held with parliamentary elections have cost at least as much as running a stand-alone postal referendum, so after careful consideration a decision was made to proceed with a two referendum process.
Why we're having two referendums
A two referendum process is considered more likely to lead to a legitimate and enduring result.
Why we're not voting on whether we should change the flag first
The two referendum process means that New Zealanders will know what the alternative flag would look like before they decide whether to keep the current flag.
What happens to the current flag if we get a new one
If New Zealand votes for a new flag, within 6 months of the change it will be flown on days of national commemoration and on government buildings as detailed in the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act 1981. Outside of these rules, New Zealanders will continue to fly the flag of their choice (including the current or previous flags).
When we'll see the new flag in use if we vote to change it
The legislation setting up the referendums will specify when the change of flag would happen, if there is a vote to change the flag. It's likely that the change would take place within six months of the second referendum.
The impact on the current national Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) Flag
In 2009, the Government recognised the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag as the preferred national Māori flag, and noted that it will complement the New Zealand Flag. A change to the New Zealand Flag would not affect the status of the national Māori flag.
The Prime Minister's views on the flag
The Prime Minister has indicated his views regarding the flag, and he acknowledges New Zealanders have a range of views. All eligible New Zealanders will have one vote in each referendum.
New Zealand’s Anzac commemorations
The flag referendum will have no impact on NZ's Anzac commemorations. The centenary of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 2015 was observed under the current flag.
The impact of the referendum on New Zealand’s relationship with the United Kingdom and membership of the Commonwealth
This is a debate about our flag only - it’s not a discussion about a republic or membership of the Commonwealth.
There are 54 member nations of the Commonwealth and 45 of these (83%) have removed the Union Jack from their flag design. 35 of those countries made their decision between 1957 and 1979.
The ‘Process to Consider Changing the New Zealand Flag’ Cabinet paper (28 October 2014) talked about a single vote in the first referendum - why this has changed
Following recommendations by the New Zealand Flag Cross-Party MPs’ Group (the CPG), a decision was made to use preferential voting in the first referendum. It was also agreed that four alternative flag designs will be included in the first referendum and that the second referendum will be held in March 2016.
What will happen after the second referendum
The flag referendum legislation makes our decision about the flag binding. That means New Zealanders can be sure that if the alternative design receives the largest number of votes in the second referendum, it will become the new national flag. If the current flag receives the largest number of votes, it will remain the New Zealand Flag. If a new flag is chosen, the referendum legislation will determine when the new flag will become official.
What will happen to other symbols of state (eg the New Zealand Coat of Arms) if the flag changes
The current New Zealand Flag is only one design element of the New Zealand Coat of Arms. If the flag changes, the Coat of Arms will not become invalid or obsolete. Government departments that use the Coat of Arms on their stationery and websites will continue to do so even if there is a change of flag.
The same is true for other items which incorporate the New Zealand Coat of Arms, such as the Seal of New Zealand. A number of other flags and ensigns, including the New Zealand Police and New Zealand Fire Service flags are based on the current flag. If it changes, these agencies may revisit their flags in future, but change will not be automatic.
Why voting online isn't an option
New Zealand legislation doesn't currently allow online voting in parliamentary elections or referendums. Developing a secure and tested online voting system for the referendum would be too expensive and difficult to do in the time available.
The New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill
The Bill will establish the processes for the two referendums. It will also outline what will happen if a new flag is chosen.
Guiding principles for the Flag Consideration Project (FCP)
The FCP is:
- independent: the process is as apolitical as possible, with multi-party support and public input into decision-making
- inclusive: all perspectives are invited and considered from within New Zealand’s diverse communities, including Māori as tangata whenua
- enduring: the outcome (whether change or status quo) is upheld and not revisited for a significant period
- well-informed: the public has access to information to enable it to make decisions
- practical: the process is workable, cost-effective, and implementation is possible
- community-driven: designs and suggestions come from the community
- dignified: the process upholds the importance of the flag as a symbol of our nationhood
- legitimate: all legislative and other requirements are followed, and
- consistent with the Crown’s Treaty obligations.
- Late 2014: Cross-Party MPs’ Group nominations for the Flag Consideration Panel.
- Feb 2015: Flag Consideration Panel appointed.
- Mid 2015: Public engagement process (including flag suggestions 5 May – 16 July).
- Late 2015 / early 2016:
- 1st referendum (public to choose a preferred alternative design) - 20 November to 11 December 2015
- 2nd referendum (public to choose between current flag and preferred design) - 3 March to 24 March 2016.
Referendum dates will be confirmed in the final legislation.