Meaning of the Bring Together Flag


Is a Flag Just a Brand?

Some say a flag is just a brand, and serves no purpose but to identify who we are. Well the Bring Together Flag does identify us, by combining together three of our most popular icons:

  • One icon is the four red and white stars of the Southern Cross, which has been seen on our flag since 1869.

  • Another is the Silver Fern, particularly associated with New Zealand sport and businesses. Wherever these two icons have been used in the world they are identified with our country.

  • The third icon is the colours of our stunning natural environment: the blue, white and green. These colours are frequently used by New Zealand businesses big and small, including Air New Zealand and Fonterra. The colours are often used in the logos of local government. The blue-white-green colours may remind one of looking down at the sea, the sand, and farmland. Or looking up at the amazing forests, the white mountain peaks, and the clear blue sky. The colours reinforce our clean green image that is so important for our tourism, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.

A Flag can have Meaning that Inspires

More than just branding, in an age where brands are here today and gone tomorrow, a flag can also be an abiding symbol that unites and inspires.  The Bring Together Flag has been designed to be a symbol that is rich in meanings that will resonate with New Zealanders. Some of these meanings will be more important to you and less important to me and vice versa. The hope is that all New Zealanders will find many aspects of the flag that they can identify with.

Details of Symbolism

Aspect 1. Two Islands

  • New Zealand is a country of two halves:  two main islands surrounded by sea.

  • The Silver Fern is on an angle that matches the South Island, and

  • The fern shape reminds one of a mountain range (the Southern Alps that make up the backbone of the island).

  • The green part of the flag is next to the fern, hinting at Pounamu (greenstone), part of a Maori name for the South Island: Te Wai Pounamu.

  • The Southern Cross is shown on an angle that matches that of the upper North Island, and

  • The red-on-white stars remind one of the volcanic mountains that influence much of the North Island's landscape.

Aspect 2. From Everywhere and from Here

  • Stars are universal symbols, representing people and ideas from all over the world.

  • The Silver Fern is uniquely New Zealand, representing things and people specifically of New Zealand (Aotearoa)

  • There is an echo here of the Treaty of Waitangi, with the coming of people from all over the world to join with the original inhabitants in one nation. We must have all sides fairly represented and sharing in New Zealand's prosperity.

Aspect 3. Peace Fern - Unity with Diversity

  • The Silver Fern symbolizes unity with diversity. We are not all the same but all part of a community, and these communities are joined together into one country - New Zealand. I don't have to do what you do, but I can appreciate that you are part of the great variety of people that make New Zealand what it is.

  • Like a fern, a country or a community is a living thing, and if one part suffers then all parts are diminished.

  • The silver line on the fern represents speech. This is a twist on the proverb 'Speech is silver but silence is golden'. Those who want to keep the gold to themselves keep silent, but to benefit the whole community together we must have free speech - we must be able to talk with each other.

  • Dialogue both ties us together and is the roadway to success, and to peace between the parts of our community

  • The fern, and especially the silver line, has an onward and upward shape like a road representing progress

The peace fern idea applies to any grouping of communities in modern New Zealand, whether referring to people of  different ethnic backgrounds, different religions, or however people define themselves. It is a strong call for New Zealand’s future, that this should be a place where diversity is accepted but we can all work together for the common good.

The Treaty of Waitangi           This is a particular case of the Peace Fern idea

   As well as being a country of two physical islands, we are country whose origin lies in a treaty between two groups of people. This is reflected in the flag.

    The leaves on the right side (on the land, represented by green) are taken to represent a diversity of iwi and hapu. Prior to the treaty, tangata whenua (the people of the land) were not united, and the leaves are shown as separate.

  The leaves on the left (on the sea side, represented by blue) refers to people who came across the sea from different nations and ethnicities. Although there is enormous diversity there, virtually all groups came to New Zealand “under the British flag”, that is, legitimised by the treaty. Thus they are shown joined together.  The British flag is referenced by the colours of the Union Jack, shown in the stars.

    The silver line represents the Treaty itself. It joined Maori with the people from across the sea, and at the same brought Maori from being independent iwi and hapu into being part of one nation.

  The year of the Treaty, 1840, is represented by the points on the fern and stars.  There are 18 leaves on each side of the fern: the first 17 leaves are separated but in the 18th they are joined.  The number 40 is represented by the four five-pointed red stars and the four five-pointed white stars that form their border: 4×5 ×2=40.




Aspect 4. The Stars

  • Stars symbolize the power of goals, hopes and ethnic and cultural heritage to which we reach out. They represent looking outward, upward and forward. We are an outward-looking people driven to compete with the best in the world.
  • The Southern Cross was a favorite early symbol on New Zealand flags. It is unique in the night sky as it always points the way to the South Celestial Pole and so is the easiest way to find the direction South, and then all other directions of the compass.
  • It is traditionally shown straight-up-and-down, although in fact it can be seen on various angles to the horizon, depending on the time of year and time of night. It can even be used to tell the time on any night of the year. The angle on the flag is seen in Autumn evenings.
  • Showing stars honours the brave Pacific and European navigators who used stars and other signs to find their way to these islands.

  • The New Zealand flag traditionally shows only four stars, indicating the four directions of the compass: North, South, East anndWest.  This represents New Zealanders who have come from all over the world (thus including everyone).

  • The Southern Cross also references the influence of Christianity on New Zealand's history, institutions, peoples and cultures.

  • Five-pointed stars are a traditional flag symbol of liberty and reason.

  • The red and white colours echo both Maori flags and the Union Jack.

  • Our red and white stars are unique among the flags of the world. It is a distinctive symbol I think we should keep.


Aspect 5. Keeping in Balance
  • We are a nation that strives to excel in freedom, prosperity and in social justice. This balance is represented by the Stars and the Fern. The Stars represent Ideals whereas the Fern represents People, living in New Zealand.
  • The two are brought together on the flag meaning that we need a balance of idealism with reality, of pressing forward but not leaving people far behind. The stars and fern are shown in a V shape meaning this is how we may measure our success (V for victory) as a nation.
  • In summary, our honour as a nation depends on two things: we will reach out to achieve greatness but never forget the importance of people.

Aspect 6. Blue and Green Background

  • In addition to representing the combination of land and sea (or sky), the green colour symbolises agriculture and forestry and Pounamu (greenstone). 
  • Blue/white/red/grey/green are also the colours of Paua commonly used for distinctive decorations and jewellery.


Next Pages: Should the flag be changed?

Special-purpose flags

Disclaimer: the use of a link to pictures of Paua does not represent any endorsement or otherwise of this flag proposal by the Paua Industry Council This page and all images are © 2008,2014 Barry McDonald, Albany 0632, New Zealand. 



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