Why is New Zealand changing its flag

New Zealand urges Australia to change flag

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Wellington / Canberra / Vienna - Actually, they are symbolic of the similarity between the two countries. Once conquered, colonized and then settled by Great Britain, today stable English-speaking democracies in a remote part of the world that never really wanted to give up their ties to Europe and London. And yet: The fact that the flags of Australia and New Zealand are often confused often causes annoyance, especially in the smaller, southeastern country. Only two years ago a referendum for a new national flag failed quite clearly - but New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who is also head of government for the time being, still finds the two state symbols with the Union Jack and parts of the "Southern Cross" too similar. In a radio interview, he has now called on Australia to change its national flag.

Peters represents the Labor politician Jacinda Ardern, who is currently on leave, at the head of government. In the interview, the politician of the populist party New Zealand First mainly referred to the fact that New Zealand was there first. As early as 1902, Wellington set the design used today as the flag of New Zealand, which was not yet independent at the time. Australia has only officially used its flag since 1952, but had a banner in the same design with a red background in use since 1901.

Expensive fun flag referendum

Because of the frequent mix-ups, the then Prime Minister John Key started an extensive campaign two years ago to design a new flag. Initially, a design with a white fern and southern cross was selected from 40 proposals, and later the New Zealanders were to decide on the replacement in a referendum. After a campaign costing 26 million New Zealand dollars (around 15 million euros), which was supported by several ministers, the New Zealanders decided with a majority of around 57 percent to leave everything as it was.

However, observers say that Peters' current dispute with Australia is less related to the flag. In fact, many in the New Zealand government are angry about the strict visa policy of their neighboring country. In the past few months, Australia has revoked residence permits from around 700 New Zealanders, some of whom had lived in Australia since they were born.

Expensive fun New Zealand visit

The background to this is that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched an action against visa abuse, in the course of which it is calling on foreigners who are legally in the country but who have come into conflict with Australian laws to leave the country. In Wellington, however, there are concerns about further tightening: 600,000 New Zealanders, almost a tenth of the population, live in Australia. In many cases they have settled there permanently.

The dispute is spicy insofar as New Zealand is also known for its strict entry rules. The country, like Australia, pursues the goal of controlled immigration. There are strict controls at the country's airports and ports. The Labor New Zealand First government has recently threatened even foreigners who have bought their own home in New Zealand with a review of their status - they want to create more housing for New Zealanders. Tourists have also had to shell out a new entry tax of around 21 euros since June. If you want to visit or drive through national parks, for example, you have to pay additional taxes. (Manuel Escher, July 25, 2018)