12 Sep 2015

Silver fern flag design 'heartwarming'

5:05 pm on 12 September 2015

A descendant of the man widely credited with putting the silver fern on the All Black jersey has welcomed the three fern designs for an alternative New Zealand flag.

10 year old Sam Cooper, from Ngaio Primary School, likes the koru.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Four designs that could replace New Zealand's current national flag were revealed last week. Three feature a silver fern with a variety of background colours and one has a large white koru on a black background.

A fifth design by Aaron Dustin from Wellington, featuring triangles of red, white, black and blue, gained traction on social media but his Red Peak design has been ruled out of November's referendum.

Thomas Ellison

Thomas Ellison Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas (Tom) Ellison captained New Zealand's first official rugby team when it toured Australia in 1893, and was a member of the New Zealand Natives football team, a professional side, which toured Great Britain and Australia in 1888/9.

His great nephew Edward, kaumatua of the Ellison family, grew up in the homestead built by Tom Ellison's parents on the Otakou peninsula.

He said the family was very aware of the history and associations of the silver fern.

"It always gives us a buzz to see it in any form in a national sense, so it was pretty heartwarming really to think that it came through on three of the four options," he said.

Mr Ellison said as far as he knew the whole whanau - which includes New Zealand Sevens player Tamati Ellison and American football star Riki Ellison - supported replacing the current flag with one that features the silver fern.

Denis Dwyer, the author of the recently released Black Jersey, Silver Fern: Tom Ellison - First Maori to Captain the All Blacks, told Sunday Morning the silver fern pre-dates the All Blacks and was actually first worn by New Zealand Native team of 1888, of which Ellison was a star player.

And historian Dr Danny Kennan argued this week that the fern dates back to a time when Pakeha decided they wanted to be New Zealanders.

"The fern represents us, it should be on our national flag, " he said.

Red Peak NZ Flag

Red Peak flag has gained support on social media but has been ruled out of contention. Photo: Facebook / Red Peak NZ Flag

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs