Today, two days from Waitangi Day, the Herald starts a serious debate about changing the national flag. The familiar flag with its Union Jack dates from an era when New Zealand became a British dominion. We believe an independent nation deserves something more distinctive.
A majority of New Zealand's most eminent citizens say it's time to change the New Zealand flag.
A Herald survey of 18 of the 22 members of the Order of New Zealand - the country's highest honour - has found 11 of them believe it is time for a new flag. Only five oppose a change at this time. One is unsure and one is unwilling to comment.
The survey comes as debate about the flags of both New Zealand and Australia, which still feature Britain's Union Jack, starts again on both sides of the Tasman.
Here, the Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori sovereignty) flag will fly with the national ensign on the Harbour Bridge, at the Prime Minister's official residence in Wellington and on other official buildings on the 170th anniversary this Saturday of the Treaty of Waitangi, as a gesture of reconciliation between the two Treaty partners.
In Australia, former TV journalist Ray Martin launched a push for a new flag just before Australia Day last month, supported by prominent authors, sportspeople and former politicians.
But opinion polls until now have consistently found most of the public in both countries oppose change.
The last New Zealand poll, by Nielsen for North & South magazine in 2008, found only 25 per cent support for changing the flag, and 62 per cent opposed.
A Galaxy poll for News Ltd newspapers in Australia last month found only 27 per cent for change and 45 per cent against.
Ironically, the Herald survey of Order of NZ members has found that one of the strongest factors driving their support for a new flag here is the fact that few can tell the Australian and NZ flags apart.
"Our flag is too much like Australia's and most people in the world don't know the difference," said former All Black captain Sir Brian Lochore.
He said New Zealand supporters at international sports events already waved what had become the de facto national flag - the silver fern on a black background. "We should take notice of what people do who support us. The people have been giving us a message about the flag they want."
Former Governor-General Dame Catherine Tizard said: "You ask an American what flag you are flying - either flag - and they will say that's the Australian flag. I don't think we should have a mixed-up identity."
Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said even officials sometimes got the two flags confused. "On the commemoration of the landing in Europe at the end of the Second World War, the Australian High Commissioner in London walked down off the podium and picked up the New Zealand flag and proudly carried it off," he said.
For the full report, click HERE