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Everyone’s talking about the flag referendum and Round Two begins today (3-24 March). Even students who claim not to care about politics seem to have strong feelings about whether or not to change the flag. Some are upset about the cost of the whole process (about $26 million), especially when they are struggling to survive as students. Others weren’t happy with the choices in Round One and felt like there wasn’t much diversity, or believed that the referendum was intended to distract people from more pressing political concerns like the TPPA.

Newspapers are running notices reminding people about the vote, like the full color one in the Christchurch Mail that was authorised by the Flag Consideration Panel and tried to include some additional information. It said that

Throughout this process, thousands of New Zealanders shared their opinions. The most commonly expressed views are summarised below to help voters consider the options and make an informed decision.

It tried to be unbiased by including four pieces of information about each flag and five views for choosing each one. It leaves voters to decide whether they prefer the black colour, which “is associated with our many achievements internationally” (like sport?), and the silver fern, whose “fronds represent our diverse communities coming together” (like a bicultural nation?), over the Union Jack on the current flag.

The main themes emerging from the Silver Fern camp are: having a unique and independent identity, being more like the other Commonwealth countries that have discarded the Union Jack as part of their flag, and showing that New Zealand is more aware of its bicultural origins and now being a multicultural society. Those who want to keep the current flag argue that they like the stability, connectedness, and historical symbolism it represents. The Star interviewed over a dozen local residents and students for their opinions, and similar themes emerged. Some comments were a little illogical, though, such as saying it should be changed because then “people from other countries will have more respect for something different”.

There is a rally and march planned for Saturday 5 March at noon in Victoria Square in Christchurch for those who want to keep the current flag. By the end of the month it will be shown how active New Zealanders have been regarding this issue, and whether or not this process will end up dividing the country.

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