I often sat in the old Intercity Bus Terminal in Dunedin.  I would be waiting for a bus to come in from Invercargill, or waiting for the bus that would take me there.  I don’t travel much otherwise.  Sitting on the benches I would gaze on the bunting that had not been taken down since the last Rugby World Cup.  It was a diversion to run through the flags on display in the bunting and identify them.  I couldn’t tell you the order now.  I figured out most countries.  Either they were obvious by their flag, or if I could deduce the identity of the flag by remember what rugby-playing nations were participating.

What intrigued me was that New Zealand was represented by both the New Zealand flag and by the New Zealand Rugby Union Silver Fern flag.  I speculated on the All Blacks being a different team to New Zealand, perhaps they come from Alblacia (near Albania perhaps?), or All-Blackistan (a former Soviet republic).  The Irish also played under a composite flag which I guessed included players from the four counties of their rugby union, rather than play under the competing flags of their politically divided island, the Irish Republican Tricoleur and the Union Jack.  They were the only team not represented by a national flag.

If All Black Land is a different country to New Zealand then I view the flag referendum with more ambivalence.  The whole thing looks like a hatchet job.  The prime minister’s office has decided to re-brand us with a new flag that scrubs off the Union Jack, another step on the process of our new corporate nation.  The prime minister favours a silver fern flag.  We still want a flag that looks like the old one.  There is the old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee and the options in the flag referendum fit that description.  The first referendum will be ‘which option do you like?’ and the second referendum ‘do you favour the new flag or the old one?’  My opinion is not to vote in the first referendum, and vote ‘keep the old flag’ in the second.

I confess I think the koru flag, popularly called the Hypnoflag is a solid, identifiable flag, and of the four I favour it.  It’s trailing fourth in popularity and I think it is not a goer.  It will unfurl over New Zealand when R’lyeh rises from the ocean depths to cast its shadow over the country.

I would drag myself out to vote for Red Peak.  It’s a simple design, four colours, three triangles of black, red and blue separated by a white division.  It has immediate symbolism, The black is the night, the world of potential, Te Po in Maori, the blue is the day sky, the world of realisation, the world of light, the created universe (Te Ao Marama?), the red the dawn light, the white forms the gateway, Te Maihi.  It’s simple, it works.  Left out of the four front runners, it’s the underdog.

The petition to include it shows support.  However the Prime Minister has said that he wants cross-party support to include it, and the leading opposition party which not endorse that support unless the second referendum, the yes/no question, comes first.  I admire the prime minister’s political sense in how he has played his hand in giving his opposition a Hobson’s choice, even if I don’t approve.  It’s very canny.  He has given his critics the options of backing down or paralysing an option with popular support.  Well played, sir; very underhand of him.

If the fifth flag is left out then it remains a curiosity of what could have been, a rallying flag for dissent.