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Category: Flags

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New  Zealand Flag

The New Zealand flag is the symbol of the realm government and people of New Zealand. 

The New Zealand National Flag

Its royal blue background is reminiscent of the blue sea and clear sky surrounding NZ. The stars of the Southern Cross emphasise the country's location in the South Pacific Ocean. 

Trading troubles. The idea of a flag to represent New Zealand was first broached in 1830, when the Hokianga-built trading ship Sir George Murray was seized in Sydney by Customs officials for sailing without a flag or register. Australia, New Zealand's major trading market, was subject to British navigation laws which ruled that every ship must carry an official certificate detailing construction, ownership and nationality of the ship. At that time, New Zealand was not yet a British colony and New Zealand-built ships could not sail under a British flag or register. Without a flag to represent the new nation, trading ships and their valuable cargoes would continue to be seized.

The seizure of the Sir George Murray and her detainment in Neutral Bay occurred whilst two principal Maori chiefs, believed to be Patuone and Taonui, were on board, and reports at the time indicate that the Maori population were 'exceedingly indignant' upon hearing the news of the ship's fate. In New South Wales also, there was sympathy for New Zealand's plight and the weekly Australian called for amending legislation to remove any obstacle to New Zealand's increasing trade with Port Jackson. While a temporary licence was granted in August 1831 allowing the Sir George Murray to return to Sydney for trading, the need for an official flag to mark New Zealand-built ships was clear.

Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (1834-1840) On 20 March 1834, 25 chiefs from the Far North and their followers gathered at Waitangi to choose a flag to represent New Zealand. A number of missionaries, settlers and the commanders of 10 British and 3 American ships were also in attendance at the occasion. Following Busby's address, each chief was called forward in turn to select a flag, while the son of one of the chiefs recorded the votes. 
The preferred design, a flag already used by the Church Missionary Society, received 12 out of the 25 votes, with the other two designs receiving 10 and 3 votes respectively. Busby declared the chosen flag the national flag of New Zealand and had it hoisted on a central flagpole, accompanied by a 21 gun salute from HMS Alligator.

The Union Flag gives recognition to our historical foundations and the fact that New Zealand was once a British colony and dominion.

The Union Jack in New Zealand 18401902 The Union Jack became the official flag of New Zealand in 1840, and was used for all appropriate occasions on shore. At sea, New Zealand was represented by British naval or maritime flags until the Colonial Naval Defence Act became law in 1865. The Union Jack remained New Zealand's flag until the passing of the New Zealand Ensign Act instituted the current flag in 1902. It continued to be used regularly in New Zealand well into the 1950s, instead of, or in tandem with the New Zealand Flag. Today, the Union Jack is most commonly seen in New Zealand when a member of the Royal Family, or other distinguished British guest, is visiting.

The New Zealand Flag may be flown on any day of the year. It is particularly appropriate to fly it on days of national commemoration, such as Anzac Day, and on other important occasions.

Flag with Union Jack in corner and the letters 'NZ' (18651902) Representing New Zealand at sea The roots of New Zealand's present flag lie in the Imperial Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865, which ruled that all ships owned by a colonial government must fly the Blue Ensign with the badge of the colony on it. New Zealand at that time did not have an official badge or emblem, and as such flew the Blue Ensign without a distinguishing badge. In 1866, the Government steamers St. Kilda and Sturt were reprimanded by visiting British ships for flying the Blue Ensign without the colony's badge. This embarrassment prompted the government to devise an emblem for placement on the flag, in compliance with the Act.

As New Zealand's national symbol the New Zealand Flag should be treated in a manner worthy of its high status. 

The Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981, administered by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, defines and protects the Flag. Contained in the Act is the power to prosecute those who misuse it.

Description. The New Zealand Flag features, on a royal blue background, a Union Jack in the first quarter and four five-pointed red stars of the Southern Cross on the fly. The stars have white borders. The New Zealand Flag may be made to any size, but in all cases the length should be twice the width.

Dignity of the flag. The New Zealand Flag is the national symbol of this country and accordingly it should be honoured and treated with respect. To use, display, destroy, or damage the Flag in or within view of a public place with the intention of dishonouring it is an offence, as is the placement of any letter, emblem, or representation on the Flag.

Advertising and Commercial Use. Any person or organisation may use the New Zealand Flag in advertising. A faithful representation should always be achieved with the flag being reproduced in its true form and colours. Slogans or objects appearing in a different dimension to the Flag, within the context of an advertisement, will not be seen as the placement of unauthorised objects on the Flag. Persons or organisations wishing to use the New Zealand Flag in advertisements or for commercial purposes are welcome to discuss their ideas with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Displaying the Flag. Except when flown with royal or vice-regal flags, the New Zealand Flag should always be given the Position of Honour in New Zealand. 

Within New Zealand, the New Zealand Flag takes precedence over all other national flags and house flags. However, international practice forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another in time of peace.

When the New Zealand Flag is flown with the flags of other nations, each flag should be the same size and should fly from a separate flagpole of the same height. A house flag may fly beneath the New Zealand Flag on the same flagpole.

Flying the Flag. The New Zealand Flag may be flown on any day of the year, usually during normal working hours, and in a variety of places. Often, flag flying is observed on a 24 hour basis, especially when buildings are floodlit. Continuous flying, however, shortens the life of a flag, and it may have to be replaced more often.

  • The New Zealand Flag should never be flown in a dilapidated condition.


Days of National Commemoration. Flag flying is particularly encouraged on those days of the year designated days of national commemoration. 

  • These days are:

    • February

      • 6 - Accession of H.M. The Queen and Waitangi Day

    • March

      • 2nd Monday - Commonwealth Day

    • April

      • 21 Birthday - (actual) of H.M. The Queen

      • 25 - Anzac Day*

    • June

      • lst Monday - Official Birthday of H.M. The Queen

      • 2 - Coronation Day

      • 10 -Birthday of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh

    • October

      • 24 - United Nations Day

      • 4th Monday - Labour Day

    • November

      • 14 - Birthday of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales

*Anzac Day (25 April). Anzac Day is New Zealand's national day for commemorating those who have served this country in times of war. The New Zealand Flag should be flown at the top of the flagpole. It is appropriate, however, at places where commemorative services are being held, for the flag to be lowered to half-mast, for the duration of a memorial service, as a sign of respect.

Other Official Occasions

  • The New Zealand Flag should be flown to mark:

    • The opening of Parliament (Wellington only) by The Queen or the Governor-General.

    • The swearing-in ceremony of the Governor-General designate and the state farewell for the outgoing Governor-General (Wellington only.)

    • Visits by the Royal Family and other distinguished people such as a Head of State or Head of Government (only in the city or area being visited).

    • Other special occasions are recognised from time to time, for example, a royal birth, and are subject to special command by the Governor-General or direction of the Prime Minister.

Times of Mourning. Flags are flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning.Diagram of flag 
         at half mast

The flag is half-masted by first raising it to the top of the mast and then immediately lowering it slowly to the half-mast position. The half-mast position will depend on the size of the flag and the length of the flagpole. The flag must be lowered to a position recognisably half-mast to avoid the appearance of a flag which has accidentally fallen away from the top of the flagpole. The flag should always be more than its own depth from the top of the flagpole.

On occasions when the New Zealand Flag is flown at half-mast, it is preferable that other flags should not be flown above it. The Flag should be raised again to the peak before being lowered for the day.

Naval Ships and Government Vessels. Commissioned ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy fly the New Zealand Flag as a jack (that is at the bow) when anchored, secured to a buoy, moored, or tied to a wharf. They also fly the New Zealand White Ensign at the stern. Government vessels fly the New Zealand Flag as an ensign (that is at the stern). 

Merchant Ships and Pleasure Craft. Merchant ships, pleasure boats, and yachts may fly the New Zealand Red Ensign

Other Flags. Seven flags other than the New Zealand Flag are shown for official purposes in New Zealand. The most important of these are The Queen's New Zealand Flag, the Governor-General's Flag, the New Zealand Red Ensign, the New Zealand White Ensign, the Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign, and the New Zealand Civil Air Ensign.

Queen's Personal Flag For New Zealand The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand symbolises the fact that Queen Elizabeth II is The Queen of New Zealand. Adopted in 1962, it is flown only by Her Majesty when in NZ.

The Flag is the shield design of the New Zealand Coat of Arms in the form of an oblong or square. Superimposed in the centre is a dark blue roundel bearing a Roman E surmounted by a Royal Crown within a garland of roses all in gold. The Central device is from The Queen's Personal Flag which is frequently used by Her Majesty in relation to Her position as Head of Commonwealth.

Queen's personal flag
The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand is flown continuously on a building when The Queen is in residence and by a ship conveying Her Majesty in New Zealand waters. If the Queen attends a State or public function, her personal flag is flown while she is present. It is not, however, hoisted at every venue attended by Her Majesty. If flown with the New Zealand Flag, The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand takes the position of honour.

The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand is usually flown above the saluting base at troop inspections or other open air gatherings when Her Majesty is present. It is also broken when the Queen sets foot on board one of Her Majesty's New Zealand ships.

The only time The Queen's Personal Flag for New Zealand is flown in her absence is at parades held on and in honour of Her Majesty's Official Birthday.

The Governor-General's Flag The flag of the Governor-General consists of the Royal Crest in gold, red, white and green on a royal blue ground. 

The design, introduced in 1931, is uniform throughout the Commonwealth. The words New Zealand appear on a gold scroll beneath the crest.

Governors-General flag
The Governor-General's flag is flown on all occasions when the Governor-General is present, and takes precedence over the New Zealand Flag. It is flown continuously over Government House when the Governor-General is in residence, and on vehicles used by the Governor-General for official occasions. Please note that it is not possible to accurately represent the colours of the Governor-General's flag on an image of this size. In these cases, the detailing of the flag is shown only in gold.
The New Zealand Red Ensign New Zealand Government ships must fly the New Zealand Flag. 

Other New Zealand ships, other than Government ships may fly the New Zealand Flag, the New Zealand Red Ensign, or any flag authorised by either the Sovereign or the Governor-General.


The Red Ensign
The New Zealand Red Ensign is based on the Red Ensign usually flown by merchant ships registered in the United Kingdom. The Union Jack appears in the first quarter, and the Southern Cross, represented by four five-pointed white stars, is featured in the fly.

The New Zealand Red Ensign has sometimes been flown incorrectly, both in New Zealand and overseas, in the belief that it is this country's national flag. However, the New Zealand Red Ensign may be flown on land in places or on occasions of Maori significance. The Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981 allows for the continuation of this traditional practice. 

The New Zealand White Ensign Ships and commissioned shore establishments of the Royal New Zealand Navy fly the New Zealand White Ensign. 

This flag has the Union Jack in the first quarter, on a white background. The Southern Cross, represented by four five-pointed red stars, appears in the fly. 

White ensign
In 1968 the New Zealand White Ensign replaced the British White Ensign previously used by New Zealand naval ships. The New Zealand White Ensign is usually flown only during daylight hours, but in the event of war it would be flown continuously.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign The Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign is hoisted daily at Air Force establishments. 

It is also flown on Royal New Zealand Air Force aeroplanes carrying Foreign and Commonwealth Heads of State and Heads of Government, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Chiefs of Staff, Ambassadors, and other distinguished persons. 

RNZAF ensign

The New Zealand Civil Air Ensign

The New Zealand Civil Air Ensign may be flown on any New Zealand aircraft, licensed aerodrome, or place authorised as an aerodrome.

Airlines owning New Zealand aircraft may fly the ensign upon or in proximity to their principal office or place of business.

The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand may also fly the New Zealand Civil Air Ensign on its buildings and aircraft.  

NZ Civil Air Ensign

Proposed new flag for NZ, 2004

  • As in Australia there are some who want a new flag for NZ. A flag that cuts all colonial ties with the UK and history. This is the flag that they propose.

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