Union Jack or Silver Fern?

That is the decision facing voters. A flag with the Union Jack and a stylised southern cross or a flag with a stylised silver fern and southern cross. 

The focus of the debate will inevitably fall on our links to the UK but it is important that the debate doesn't degenerate into a slanging match about Britain. Changing the flag is not about being anti-British. It is a debate about New Zealand's independence. About our place in the world.

Supporters of flag change believe, on principle, that no other country's flag should appear on New Zealand's flag. They believe New Zealand is an independent South Pacific country and that our flag should celebrate New Zealand's unique identity.

Whether the winning flag has enough support remains to be seen but as Kiwis debate the pros and cons of change it is important to keep the standard of debate high. This is not some party political issue. It is a cross party issue and people need to step away from their party allegiances. We also need to remember that political and cultural debates work best when everyone involved avoids personal insults and silly generalisations.

New Zealand's current links with the UK will not be affected by changing the flag. Family and friends will remain, trade will continue, military and diplomatic links will carry on. British art and culture will still be a big influence on ours and we will still have a British Head of State.

Neither will retaining the current flag remove the need for New Zealand to have it's own Head of State. That necessity will remain no matter what the result.