Put flag debate on ice for now

Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins supports New Zealand having a new flag but fears the current consultation and referendum process is “doomed to fail”.

“I’ve always been up front from the very beginning, I support having a new flag.

“We could have two flags; we have two national anthems, for example. It may be that for a period of time we have two flags,” he told The Leader.

However, from comments he has been receiving a different flag is not a priority for many Kiwis.

“They’ve chosen the wrong time for this debate and the process is fundamentally flawed.”

The country was in the middle of marking World War I’s centenary and people’s “strong feelings” about that time were wrapped up in the flag that our soldiers served under, he said.

“They’re also going ahead with the whole exercise before asking New Zealanders whether there is an appetite for change. The feedback that I’ve got is that I’m in a small [change the flag] minority and there isn’t an appetite for change.

“People don’t want to see tens of millions of dollars spent on this exercise when there are other more important issues.”

Others feel it is a John Key vanity project.

“I think that’s a big element of it.

You can’t divorce the sponsor of it from the sentiment,” Hipkins said.

He likened it to the referendum on compulsory superannuation in 1998, when “there was actually reasonable support for that measure”.

“But in a referendum it was defeated resoundingly, and a large part of that was dissatisfaction with the then National/New Zealand First coalition government.

“John Key has for many years used this particular debate as a way of distracting attention when he is in a bit of a bind.”

Much as he’d like to see a flag more representative of our nationhood, the MP said the debate should be put on ice.

“My pick at the moment is that it’s doomed to fail and is therefore a waste of money. We’d be better to spend that money on more needy things.”

– Upper Hutt Leader

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