Strong turnout for flag vote a plus, Maori less inclined though

EDITORIAL

The bid to change the New Zealand flag has come to a predictable end even if the margin was closer than opinion polls suggested, with 56.6 percent voting for no change and 43.2 percent for the Kyle Lockwood alternative design.

Results in both the East Coast and Ikaroa Rawhiti electorates tended to reflect the national trends. The East Coast turnout of 70.6 percent was higher than the national figure of 67.3 and the level of support for the current flag, 57.5 percent, was slightly higher too. In Ikaroa-Rawhiti 48.6 percent voted, reflecting a trend in which the seven Maori seats were among the 10 electorates with the lowest voter turnout. The margin was much higher than in the general seat, with 76.9 percent voting for the status quo.

A Maori member of the flag panel, Malcolm Mulholland, believed the panel engaged adequately with Maori and was at a loss to explain the low turnout.

He said they were told by Maori they did not want the tino rangatiratanga flag or the 1834 independence flag to be part of the process, and looking back he could not see how the panel could have done things differently.

The referenda seem to have been delivered well, although many will continue to believe that the first referendum should have asked people whether they actually wanted a change.

John Key’s political opponents are eager to record this as a personal defeat for him but it is more complicated than that.

Labour leader Andrew Little has said that personally he would like to have a new flag but reopening this debate should be part of a national conversation about the constitution and our relationship with the Crown. Little has also said the issue will probably not be revived now until after the Queen’s reign ends.

The final referendum has been followed by international media including the BBC, CNN and the New York Times, not always in a flattering way.

An upside of the process has been the turnout for the deciding vote — any hope voting in local body elections in October will be similarly high would be in vain.

The bid to change the New Zealand flag has come to a predictable end even if the margin was closer than opinion polls suggested, with 56.6 percent voting for no change and 43.2 percent for the Kyle Lockwood alternative design.

Results in both the East Coast and Ikaroa Rawhiti electorates tended to reflect the national trends. The East Coast turnout of 70.6 percent was higher than the national figure of 67.3 and the level of support for the current flag, 57.5 percent, was slightly higher too. In Ikaroa-Rawhiti 48.6 percent voted, reflecting a trend in which the seven Maori seats were among the 10 electorates with the lowest voter turnout. The margin was much higher than in the general seat, with 76.9 percent voting for the status quo.

A Maori member of the flag panel, Malcolm Mulholland, believed the panel engaged adequately with Maori and was at a loss to explain the low turnout.

He said they were told by Maori they did not want the tino rangatiratanga flag or the 1834 independence flag to be part of the process, and looking back he could not see how the panel could have done things differently.

The referenda seem to have been delivered well, although many will continue to believe that the first referendum should have asked people whether they actually wanted a change.

John Key’s political opponents are eager to record this as a personal defeat for him but it is more complicated than that.

Labour leader Andrew Little has said that personally he would like to have a new flag but reopening this debate should be part of a national conversation about the constitution and our relationship with the Crown. Little has also said the issue will probably not be revived now until after the Queen’s reign ends.

The final referendum has been followed by international media including the BBC, CNN and the New York Times, not always in a flattering way.

An upside of the process has been the turnout for the deciding vote — any hope voting in local body elections in October will be similarly high would be in vain.

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