World Facts

What Do The Colors And Symbols Of The Flag Of New Zealand Mean?

The flag of New Zealand was adopted on March 24, 1902.

The Pacific Ocean island country of New Zealand adopted its national flag and state ensign on March 24, 1902. Albert Hastings Markham, the Royal Navy’s First Lieutenant, designed the New Zealand flag in 1869, and its use began the same year. The official adoption came after King Edward VII approved the Ensigns and Code Signals Bill in March 1902.

Design and Symbolism

New Zealand’s national flag’s design is a defaced British Blue Ensign and has the national flag of Great Britain at the canton. On the flag’s fly, there is a pattern of stars representing the Southern Cross in the Crux constellation. The flag’s proportion is 1:2, with three colors: red, blue, and white. The 1902 flag is a symbol for the people of New Zealand, its Realm, and the Government. The Union Jack at the canton represents the close relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as New Zealand’s past as a colony of Great Britain. The Southern Cross shows the South Pacific Ocean location of the country. The color blue represents the sky and the sea.

History of Flags in New Zealand

James Busby, a British resident, convened a meeting of Maori chiefs to vote for New Zealand’s first flag at Waitangi. The United Tribes of New Zealand rejected two of three flags designed and proposed by Henry Williams. On March 1834, the confederation voted and adopted a flag with two crosses of St. George, one in a blue background canton bearing four eight-pointed stars. This flag became the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, with its use ending in 1840. From 1840 up to 1867, the country used the British Union Flag, after signing the Treaty of Waitangi. The Colonial Navy Defense Act 1865 led to an introduction of a New Zealand flag in 1867 based on the British Blue Ensign bearing the initials “NZ” in the fly, with its use up to 1869. Use of the current flag began in 1869, but official adoption occurred in 1902.

Change of the Flag of New Zealand

New Zealand has over several decades had debates on changing its national flag. During their national conference, the Labor Party voted down a remit seeking to alter the flag on May 1973. The Internal Affairs Minister in New Zealand proposed a flag bearing a silver fern on its fly on November 1979, receiving little support. Another move came in 1998. New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced a plan for two referendums on March 11, 2014, to determine the adoption of a new flag. The first referendum sought to choose a new flag from five choices. The winning flag lost to the current one in the second referendum, which had 67.3% being its voter turnout. 56.7% of the voters chose to retain their national flag while 43.3% wanted a change.

Rules Concerning the Flag

The law permits the use of the New Zealand national flag officially on vehicles of the Prime Minister, Government Ministers, High Commissioners, and Ambassadors of New Zealand. When using multiple poles, the national flag flies on the left followed by the National Maori flag. The law forbids the display of old flags and permits destruction by burning, which should not be in public. When flying at half-mast, the National Flag of New Zealand should always be above any other flag.

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