15 Sep 2015

The silent supporters of the current flag

1:28 pm on 15 September 2015

Prime Minister John Key's change of heart over possibly including the Red Peak flag in the final mix has once again sent social media into a spin.

Residents at Wellington's Malvina Major Retirement Village, from left, Barbara Gillespie, John Scott, Kath Herman, Margaret Batley and Mavis Johnston.

Residents at Wellington's Malvina Major Retirement Village, from left, Barbara Gillespie, John Scott, Kath Herman, Margaret Batley and Mavis Johnston. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Lundy

Reactions are mixed and range from "Red Peak Sucks" to "Sounds like progress to me".

But there are voices that are unlikely to be heard in the rush to be part of the trend on Twitter, and they are the voices of our older folk, some of whom fought under the current flag.

At Wellington's Malvina Major Retirement Village there is overwhelming support for keeping the flag, and a consensus that the $26 million the debate is costing would be better spent on feeding hungry children or helping out new migrants.

Jim Fleming does not see the need to change the flag and suspects it might be a case of change for the sake of change.

"I think the only thing that's changed is the politicians," he says.

"I'm old enough to have had a father who fought in the First World War, Home Guard in the Second World War, so why the rush to leave behind what they fought under and died under?

"I just haven't seen anything that means anything to me, whereas that has got history attached to it that's very, very personal and I think to most New Zealanders."

Mr Fleming says whether Red Peak is included or not is beside the point as he simply can not understand why it should be changed at all - and he believes the money would be better spent elsewhere.

"I'll be voting for the status quo."

Also for the status quo is Bruce Perry, who says he can not see any point in adding Red Peak to the mix.

Mr Perry attended the Gallipoli commemorations earlier this year before visiting London and tells of asking an ex-pat Kiwi there for directions to New Zealand House.

He says the man gave directions and then got stuck into him over the possible change to the flag.

"He was quite vehement that he didn't want a change and he wondered why we were changing.

"He said 'people died under that flag'."

New Zealand flag.

The majority of residents at Malvina Major Retirement Village are loyal to the current New Zealand flag. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Perry says there are plenty of other things the $26 million funelled into the flag debate could have been better spent on, and it would take a lot to convince him otherwise.

Murray Richardson served under the present flag in Britain, Europe and North Africa and he believes those rushing to change it are overlooking the fact people died under it.

"The present flag means something to me and I would be very reluctant to support a change at all. I think we should stick with what we've got and be proud of it," he says.

Mr Richardson says the flag debate has generated plenty of discussion at Malvina Major, and the general consensus is that it's a waste of money.

Colin Tisdall is the only dissenting voice among those interviewed, and says he's keen for a change because our flag is too similar to Australia's.

But he is not happy with the options, including the possible late inclusion of Red Peak, and says it shows there is no specialist flag designer on the panel.

"To me it doesn't indicate New Zealand, so I don't care for it very much," he says.

Red Peak NZ Flag

Photo: Facebook / Red Peak NZ Flag

John Scott agrees our current flag is too much like Australia's and says he favours the silver fern. But that doesn't mean he's going to vote for a change, as he agrees with many other residents that we should not be hasty to do away with history.

He says it frightens him how much is being spent on the process.

"It might help all these refugees that we're going to bring into the country to settle here and find a home, to educate them," he says.

Margarety Batley's father, brother and other relatives fought under the flag and she is unequivocal in her belief the status quo should stand.

"We've lived through a war. There have been wars before and people have fought under that flag and to me it's very, very important and I'd hate to see it go. I don't think any of the other flags quite come up to it," she says.

"It's always the change. Sometimes it's just change for changes sake and it happens an awful lot in all sorts of ways.

"We're certainly not hearing enough about keeping it, especially when the prime minister has been so in favour of it, and people just follow along behind, I think. I don't."

Mrs Batley and fellow resident Barbara Gillespie have no time for the argument our flag is too close to Australia's.

no caption

The four options. Photo: flag.govt.nz

"It's our history and whether it's very like Australia, doesn't matter. We're both from Down Under," Mrs Gillespie says.

Mavis Johnston feels many of the options are too "fancy".

"I sort of thought that maybe we have to make the adjustment and be prepared for change ... but suddenly you see the Union Jack up there and it looks so much better," she says.

Final word goes to Jocelyn, who didn't want to give her last name.

"I don't support that (Red Peak). It doesn't mean anything to me. I want the flag to stay as it is."

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