One of four designs could be New Zealand’s new flag — if Kiwis accept any of them.
The island nation’s government unveiled the shortlisted designs at a ceremony Tuesday, a key step in a multi-million-dollar campaign to replace the current flag that Prime Minister John Key has complained looks too much like Australia’s national emblem.
Culled from a pool of over 10,000 submissions by an aptly named “Flag Consideration Panel,” three of the four final designs feature a prominent fern leaf — a national symbol that also recalls a flag popular among the country’s rugby fans.
The fourth design features a black and white koru — a Maori symbol reminiscent of curled fern frond.
New Zealanders will get to make their choice later this year — and the winner will face off in a poll against the current flag in 2016.
But New Zealanders haven’t shown a great deal of enthusiasm for change.
Online, users reacted overwhelmingly negatively, calling the designs “insipid,” “bleak,” and “a disgrace.” The three fern leaf designs were slammed for being too similar, while the koru design received a mocking nickname: “Hypnoflag.”
Many Kiwis bemoaned the fact that no designers or artists were asked to sit on the flag panel, which included a handful of business elites and academics.
Others grumbled the ferns weren’t “botanically correct” — the flags depicted leaves arranged opposite one another, when the leaves actually alternate along the stem.
But perhaps the most anguish was expressed at the defeat of fan-favorite designs, including a crude Kiwi with a rainbow trail, a Kiwi bird shooting green lasers out of its eyes, and a stick drawing of a “deranged cat raking its garden.”
The irreverence wasn’t totally unexpected: A survey conducted by the New Zealand Herald earlier this year found just a quarter of Kiwis in favor of a new flag.
PM: Let’s get a flag like Canada’s
The existing flag — with the Union Jack in the top left and four stars representing the Southern Cross constellation against a field of blue, was adopted in 1902 and has flown ever since.
But Key has pushed for a new flag, arguing it would create a stronger sense of national identity — and rake in “billions” of dollars.
“If we put our flag on a sweatshirt, not a single person outside of New Zealand, well, very few people will recognize that,” he told local radio station More FM last month.
“How much is it worth ultimately if we change the flag and people recognize and buy our products? It’s got to be worth billions over time.”
Key said that his country should take after Canada, which swapped its Union Jack for a maple leaf in 1965 and never looked back.
What do you think of the proposed designs for New Zealand’s new flag? Let us know in the comments.