New Zealand’s current flag was introduced in 1862, and formally adopted in 1902. It was the work of Albert Hastings Markham, and was straight forward in representing the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Cross constellation of stars in the Southern sky, and the Union Jack, the flag of the European founding colonists. The flag has served us well, but it is often confused with Australia’s flag. And now New Zealand is a multicultural nation, the flag needs a distinctly New Zealand themed replacement.

The New Zealand Government was of the same view when it held a referendum in 2015-2016 to replace the flag. But the voters turned the idea aside when it became obvious it was a legacy project of the unpopular and soon to be retiring Prime Minister, John Key.

The matter returned to my mind in 2021 when Otago Daily Times columnist Jim Sullivan wryly suggested the flag debacle could have been overcome if New Zealand had been called “Kiwiland.” I took his cue and wrote the following letter to the EDITOR of the ODT:

Jim Sullivan’s light-hearted suggestion in his NOTHING TOO SERIOUS column (ODT 7/9/21) that renaming New Zealand “Kiwiland” would solve the fiasco of the flag referendums of 2015-16 does have some merit.

It is widely acknowledged the success of the Canadian flag design is that the maple leaf is instantly recognisable, unique, and a symbol cherished by Canadians. If we were to revisit the flag issue, we might apply the same criteria. The Kiwi is the only New Zealand symbol that meets all three.

Our flag should be simple, distinctive, and be recognisable by a five year old child here, as well as by folk both within and beyond the sporting fraternity overseas. When overseas, I’m inevitably known as the Kiwi in the group; our currency is referred to as the Kiwi Dollar; the Kiwis play league; and sportscasters congratulate winning Kiwis. The Kiwi is displayed by our Military – and it goes on. 

I propose the attached Kiwi flag design for Jim’s consideration.

Allan Portis,

The proposed ”Kiwi” flag depicts the Tasman Sea in the left blue panel, the Pacific Ocean in the right blue panel, and the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Maoris description of the land when they first arrived, in the white panel. The Kiwi represents New Zealand’s natural flora and fauna.

The ODT published the letter using its own heading:


I decided to have some ”KIWI” flags made, and Adams’ Flags in Dunedin had ten of them made for me in Australia. I don’t have a flag pole, but Charlotte and Garth on Portsmouth Drive do, and I took a video of a ”KIWI” flying in the brisk harbour breeze.

The Kiwi is, indeed, a cherished national symbol of New Zealand. And widespread conservation measures are being undertaken to boost their numbers across the country.

This Kiwi hatchling, named “Whakaora” (“to save”), at a sponsored hatchery north of Taupo. It’s one of 200 to be released this year into large predator-free protected sanctuaries around the country.

Hopefully, we will be able to say the Kiwi flag was introduced in 2021, and to be formally adopted in the future – without spending millions of dollars in the process.