Poll: Who do you think should have won our flag competition?

Gareth MorganTreaty

It is your turn to choose the winner of our flag competition. At the bottom of this blog is a poll where you can choose between the judges picks, my favourite, and the winner we ended up agreeing on. I’ve also thrown in the current public favourite. But before you take the poll, I ask that you first read the background below so that you understand the views of both myself and the judges. I can promise you’ll learn something.

Choosing our alternative flag: the process tells it all

The winner of my flag competition, Wā kāinga / Home, while shortlisted by our invited panel of design and vexillology professionals was not their most favoured. We negotiated before settling on the winner.

That process demonstrates the tension that is in the flag selection process so is worth elaborating upon. When I was told of our panel’s most preferred couple of flag designs I was in shock and to be honest, it took a few days to get my head around it. You can see the judges’ two top choices at the end of this blog, along with their comments on the winner.

Here were the reasons for my initial rejection of their finalists;

  1. I couldn’t see how their choices fitted the brief of ensuring Maori, British and other immigrants were identified and represented. This is a multicultural country founded on a bicultural document that remains central to our constitution – so for me is a big part of any flag alternative.
  2. I don’t like so much black on a flag – that’s a personal taste thing I know but heaps of black on a national flag just feels too morbid. I guess this is one thing that makes it different to a corporate logo.
  3. Like 90% of New Zealanders I felt any new flag should be strongly traditional still with the southern cross in its current colours represented, and but joined by some of other traditional symbols to convey the meaning of our multicultural society with its treaty foundation. That is why prior to talking to the designers my favourite entry was this effort by Timo Rannali.



The professionals told me that most entries to the competitions (ours and the official one) are little more than cut and paste efforts, meet virtually no requirements of vexillology and are better suited to a tea towel of kiwiana. The design profession has published their views.

In other words the design imperative is that the flag must be more abstract than the bulk of those submitted to the competitions. In short it must be

  1. recognisable at a distance
  2. recognisable in most wind conditions
  3. simple to replicate
  4. unique

I must admit that most designs submitted are anything but simple to replicate.

The aim of our exercise was always to see if we could get a design that satisfied the design purists but also conveyed our identity  – all New Zealanders but importantly of different ethnicities. There would be no point in just changing to another flag that satisfied one group and is an affront to others. This is the issue with our current flag.

We negotiated, compromised and found our winner, Wā kāinga.

But it is worthwhile to show the professionals’ two most preferred designs and their rationale as to why they chose them. Also I think it is interesting to see their perspective on Wā kāinga.


Judge’s Finalists:

1. A New Dawn — by Jarred Bishop


What the artist says

Our new flag should honour our past and look to the future.
This design is inspired by a crop of the Tino Rangatiratanga and suggests a new dawn, long white clouds and the shoulder of a mountain.

What the judges say

While this design may be seen as derivative (and politically controversial as detail section taken from Tino Rangatiratanga), this is a strong abstraction of symbolism. Reductive, graphic, and emotive. The colours and curvilinear shapes reflect that of Māoridom, and multi-culturalism. The upward movement expresses aspiration, freedom and possibility. An openness evolving from a past that is acknowledged rather than erased. At first glance, the koru reference may not be immediately picked up: when it is, this element of discovery is rewarding.

2. All — by Kris Sowersby



What the artist says

Represents all people and all things throughout time. With regards to Ralph Hotere.

What the judges say

A minimalist design that portrays extraordinary confidence, strength, and sophistication. Whilst it acknowledges Ralph Hotere, one of our greatest artists, the circle is utilised as one of the simplest and most powerful graphic forms: all inclusive, democratic, power to the people — I AM!

Te kore, te po, te ao marama [reminiscent of Māori creation story]


3. Wā kāinga / Home — by Studio Alexander


What the artist says

Each triangle of colour fits into each others space. Symbolic of the transition we currently have underway in Aotearoa. Maori/Colonial/Multicultural. Coexisting around the Maihi. (white space between the colours). The bottom multicultural triangle in our national colour black is symbolic of strength.

What the judges say

A thoughtful, well-executed submission displaying pure graphic form, this design reached the judge’s second-level shortlist, before being a late inclusion in the final selection. The symmetry of the composition conveys a formal sense of place and calm, however, there was a reservation that this tended to an overly cerebral geometric, rather than an emotional force which would engender strong attachment and feelings. In one breath this design is identifiably Aotearoa New Zealand, in another it just holds back from entering new territory expressive of inherent explorative and innovative characteristics of New Zealanders.

So, what do you think? The poll below lets you pick between the judges finalists, my initial favourite, and the winner. We have also thrown into the mix the perennial favourite from other polls – the Kyle Lockwood entry ‘Aotearoa Colours’. Note – this entry didn’t make the judge’s shortlist and the story behind it didn’t sufficiently capture the spirit of the Treaty and its partners (Maori, Pakeha and multicultural NZ) for me. But ultimately this is your call.


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Poll: Who do you think should have won our flag competition? was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.