Up until the 1830’s the growing colony of New Zealand did not have it’s own flag. It was only when New Zealand began trading with neighbouring Australia did this become an issue. In accordance with international sea laws a ship had to have a flag flying to designate it’s country of origin. When the first trade ship arrived in Sydney harbour with Sir George Murray at the helm it was seized along with all it’s goods for having no flag and the crew were all arrested as pirates.
Clearly a flag was needed to prevent any more confusion and in 1834 James Busby came up with three designs for the local Maori chiefs to choose from to bring about unity, denote a collective government and denote an independent nation in what were turbulent times. The Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand was selected.
Following the Treaty of Waitangi (in which James Busby was also involved) and New Zealand becoming a colony of the United Kingdom it was the Union Flag which became the recognised flag of New Zealand despite it being burnt down four times when flown over Russell.
The current flag was adopted in 1902 with a rise in patriotism following New Zealand’s involvement in the Boer War.
Today there has been a call for a new flag in a show of patriotism and a move away from a colonial past. This move has been muted as a distraction from more serious political issues.
So there it is. When asked ‘Do you have a flag?’ New Zealand can proudly claim to have three as all are still recognised and fly proudly over the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi.