New Zealand flag confirmed

12 June 1902

The official flag of New Zealand since 1902

Following the news of royal assent to the New Zealand Ensign Act 1901, the New Zealand blue ensign that had been adopted for use on government ships in 1869 (see 23 October 1869) was proclaimed as ‘the recognised flag of the colony for general use on shore within the colony and on all vessels belonging to the Government of New Zealand’. On 27 June its specifications were gazetted – the red-on-white stars of the Southern Cross were now considerably larger than on the 1869 ensign.

The legislation confirmed what had long been a widespread practice, and it also laid to rest a misunderstanding that had seen a different New Zealand flag flying from public buildings for several months in 1900. A new version of the blue ensign sporting the Southern Cross on a white disc was supposed to be flown only at sea, but this was not communicated to local officials. Flag-makers were bemused. One newspaper derided the flying of ‘the Blue Ensign with a portion of a pawnbroker’s sign’, while another likened the new design to ‘four oysters on a plate’. By 1903 this ‘abortion’ had also been removed from the red ensign that was flown by New Zealand merchant ships.

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