We’ve had some fun with flags in the past, and as a result of writing that article I have developed a keen sensitivity to vexillological developments around the world. So it was with great interest that I learned that New Zealand has decided that they’ve had enough of being confused with Australia, and are therefore exploring a two pronged strategy: adopting a new flag, and exploring options to tow the country some 500Km east. Let’s look at the flags.
To choose a new flag the Kiwis allowed any native crackpot to submit an idea, and thus received over 10,000 submissions. Sadly they did not release the top 40 worst submissions, but they did release a top 40 “best” flag ideas. Next up they will winnow this down to a top 4, and then pick the best one of those, and THEN they will have a final vote between the new design and the old flag. Looking at this pile of miscreants and derivatives the old flag has nothing to worry about.
If the NZ government is to be believed, their flag committee culled these from ten thousand ideas. If that’s the case then how the hell are at least half of them almost exactly the same: a swirly thing on one or two colours. I don’t know if using the Swirly Flag template on vexillogofun.com and just changing the colours really counts as novel designs. And this from the people who have the whole vast world of Maori iconography to choose from. And yet? Take a look at these:
Is it not extremely weird that fourteen of the final designs are a tentacle/scribble thing on a field of one or two colours? That’s thirty five percent! Seriously, how did they manage to all look exactly the same? And don’t you think the selection committee is maybe, just a teeny bit, suggesting to the Kiwi public “hey, what about tentacles?”. Now I checked it out, and fine, it’s not actually a tentacle. It’s a koru. Which is an unfurling fern frond. Which is a… fiddlehead.
Weak. But these guys are totally obsessed with fiddleheads. Here’s some two more stylized fiddleheads, but we know what’s really going on here.
Now please, merciful god, enough with the freaking fiddleheads. Fine. But you know what fiddleheads turn into when they grow up? Ferns! And flags, apparently.
Now we get to the most ridiculous part, the Kyle Lockwood Section. Now remember that there are only 40 selected, of ten thousand. So along comes Kyle Lockwood, who submits this:
This guy gets to have five different designs considered, four of which are literally exactly the same, except he changed a colour. Why not just have this flag forty times?? I’m picturing him shuffling around the flag HQ boardroom saying “no, you don’t like red, well what about (pause) YELLOW?!” while the committee gasps in surprise. So now we’re at twenty seven designs, all of which involve a fiddlehead or a fern leaf. Zero kiwi birds, zero kiwi fruit, no sheep, no hobbits, no rugby dudes, no exploding Greenpeace boat, basically nothing cool. Next up we have the entries based on stars.
And then two bizarrely similar entires based on the KOA logo.
These look like they would have coded meanings in a European train yard. No, don’t hit that switch! Only three more to go. Our next two are fine. But they are from someone with a really, really cool name: Pax Zwanikken. For real. No he’s not a Futurama character.
These are cool enough. They’re stark, easy to remember and identify, and sort of kind of reference the current flag. But only one person really understood this whole business. Only one freaking person in all of New Zealand understood that the flag should be recognizable. That it should reference the past. That it should point to the future. That it should be distinct and actually look like a flag and not the icon for a phone app. Only one person took the simplest possible route to success: just make a Union Jack OUT OF FIDDLEHEADS. And it works.
But can it take down the old flag?
You know, I think it can. But any of those squiggly ferny things get in there, and it’s a first round knockout for the OG flag. NB: when I become King of Canada we will absolutely be returning to the Red Ensign. Love that flag.