Flags of New Zealand

Page 7 – Flag debates

Flags in schools

Flags in schools

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was considerable public and government support for flag-raising ceremonies in schools. Regulations introduced during the Second World War to dictate when and how schools held ceremonies to honour the flag also seem to have had wide support. But plans a few decades later to reinvigorate these regulations and make daily flag-raising in schools compulsory aroused great debate. Read more about flags in schools.

Burning the flag


In 1981 Parliament passed the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act. This Act strengthened existing legislation relating to the New Zealand flag, and gave formal protection to certain flags and emblems. It also made it an offence to destroy or damage the New Zealand Flag ‘in any manner with the intention of dishonouring it'. Read more about flag burning.

Calls for a new flag

Fern flag

There have been numerous calls in the last few decades for New Zealand to adopt a new flag. Some people argue that the current flag is too similar to the Australian one and/or that it is no longer appropriate for the Union Jack to so dominate our national flag. On the other side of the debate, the Returned and Services’ Association (RSA) believes that the current New Zealand flag is just as relevant today as it was during the First World War. In 2015 Prime Minister John Key announced a two-stage referendum process to determine whether New Zealanders wanted a new New Zealand flag. Those who voted in a referendum in November 2015 selected a black, white and blue silver fern design from among five short-listed options for a new flag. In March 2016 voters had to choose between this and the current flag. Preliminary results were revealed on 24 March with 56.6% of respondents choosing to keep the current flag. Read more about calls for a new flag

How to cite this page

'Flag debates', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/flags-of-new-zealand/debates, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 24-Mar-2016