The Union Jack on the NZ Flag: What does it still mean to us?
Many of those who wish to retain the Union Jack on the New Zealand Flag are people who have been born in the UK, or have family connections there, and sentimentally wish to retain a symbol of 'home'. Others who support retention include ex-Servicemen and Servicewomen who wish to honour past comrades and military connections.
Conversely those who feel unrepresented by the current flag include many pakeha or 'New Zealand European' native-born New Zealanders whose British ancestors who came to these shores up to seven generations ago. These kiwis no longer have any rights in the UK or personal links there, and question why our flag should be so utterly dominated by the flag of a country that does not recognise them. "Shouldn't our flag represent us".
Other New Zealanders; Maori, Pacific Islanders, Asian, African, other European and so forth, look in vain for any representation of themselves on the flag. They see the flag as totally British-focussed and not neutral. Exclusive representation of one ethnic group on a flag may be regarded as a slight against other ethnic groups.
It is worth considering that at the time of proclamation of the New Zealand Flag in 1902, New Zealanders considered themselves very much British, and ethnically they overwhelmingly were British. Even our nominal independence day (Dominion Day 26 September 1907) received half-hearted acclamation, and later governments resisted moves to greater independence. This is not the case now.
In 1902 the Union Jack was not just the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was the flag of the whole British Empire a vast assemblage of countries, some effectively independent but most being colonies with governors appointed from London. The empire included all of Ireland, the dominions Canada and Australia, the colonies New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, India, Jamaica, British Honduras, British Guyana, and many other lands. These days the Union Flag just doesn't have the same meaning, as it flies over a vastly reduced smattering of islands. The British Empire, as represented on our current flag, has effectively ceased to exist. So why do we still show the Union Jack on our flag when most other members of the Commonwealth have a flag that represents themselves alone?