The Silver Fern – New Zealand’s new flag?


In the near future we will be hearing about the two flag referendums taking place in New Zealand.

In March 2014 New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, said the country would hold a referendum on whether or not to change the national flag should he be re-elected. He was, and said referendum will now take place later this year and next year.

A public consultation period, led by “respected New Zealanders” will begin in May and will last until November. This will result in a shortlist of three or four proposed new flags that will compete against the current flag this coming November or December.

A second referendum is scheduled for April 2016 where New Zealand’s current flag will go head-to-head against the most popular new proposal. However, if one flag gains over 50 per cent of the votes in the first referendum this second round could be cancelled.

New Zealand (Silver Fern)The Silver Fern flag, a silver fern (New Zealand’s national symbol) on a black background, appears to be the favoured alternative of those who do want a change. The design heavily leans towards New Zealand’s All Backs, Black Caps and Silver Ferns netball team, leading critics to argue that the Silver Fern proposal is too closely associated with New Zealand’s sports teams and also resembles the Jolly Roger.


Other designs in the running are one based on Kyle Lockwood’s 2004 design and James Bowman’s ‘Koru Fern’.

Arguments for a new flag for New Zealand:

  • The current flag is too similar to Australia’s.
  • It doesn’t represent New Zealand’s status as an independent nation.
  • There is no Māori representation on the current flag.

Arguments against a new flag for New Zealand:

  • The current flag has been used as the national one since 1902 and dates back to 1869.
  • It represents New Zealand’s links with the United Kingdom and the Southern Cross represents its location on Earth.
  • New Zealanders have fought and died under their flag, which was first flown in battle on H.M.S. Achilles during the Battle of the River Plate (1939).

The latest opinion polls show that the current New Zealand flag will win the referendum.

Send us your thoughts on the New Zealand flag debate. We’d also love to see any designs you may have for flags, New Zealand or otherwise.

Alex Crouch is a 2014 journalism graduate from Southampton Solent University. He has followed Formula One since before he started infant school, was a Games Maker during the London Paralympics and saw Pink Floyd reunite for one song at The O2 in London. Links: Twitter, blog, YouTube. Alex is an accredited Flag Institute journalist.

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7 Responses to The Silver Fern – New Zealand’s new flag?

  1. Sam McKittrick 4 April 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Perhaps a design like the canton of the United Tribes flag could work? 💡

    • Alex Crouch 5 April 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      A nice thought, but perhaps a little too similar to England’s flag for those who want to change New Zealand’s based on its Union Flag portion.

  2. Geoff Leonard 6 April 2015 at 12:53 am #

    The Silver Fern on a black field could not possibly represent any country other than New Zealand. Therefore the concept is very appropriate (as is the Maple Leaf for Canada).
    However to conform with the rules for good flag design the obverse and reverse should be identical i.e. the silver fern would need to be vertical instead of angled as it is on the All Blacks jersey.

  3. Mr S 9 April 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    I personally think that a black and white flag on this model has design merit, but it may from a great distance be mistaken for a terrorist flag from a distance, the reason being the black/white repeated colour. Furthermore, if many thousands gave willingly their lives for the current Flag, why change it?

  4. lachy 3 May 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Thousands didnt give their lives for our flag…..they fought for adventure and nationalism. My grandad is buried in Belgium, his RNZAF gravestone is marked with the silver fern not a union jack emblem. I for one cant stand our flag however I along with thousands of other kiwis have no hesitation at flying the silver fern on black.

  5. Colin Sinclair 25 June 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    I think the Silver Fern on black would have to used a canton on flags such as the naval, civil and air ensigns – I cant see how it could stand as an ensign in its own right.
    Likewise with defence service colours and a whole host of other domestic flags.
    Coming up with a ‘popular’ basic design doesn’t necessarily fulfill a whole nation’s flag needs.

  6. Stephen 27 June 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Black flags are for Pirates and ISIS!