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Answers to common questions

How did the New Zealand Flag come about?

The design of New Zealand's national flag emerged over several years before being officially approved in 1902. Its origins date from 1865 when the British Government instructed that vessels from the colonies should fly the Blue Ensign with the seal or badge of the colony on it.

New Zealand didn’t have a recognised badge at the time, so its vessels flew the Blue Ensign without any markings until reprimanded by the British Government. Mr G Eliott, Secretary of the General Post Office, recommended that the four stars of the Southern Cross be used as New Zealand's badge but this was rejected. Instead the words ‘New Zealand’ were added to the Blue Ensign, and later shortened to ‘NZ’ in red letters with white borders.

In 1869, Governor Sir George Bowen directed that the Southern Cross replace ‘NZ’ on the Blue Ensign. The Southern Cross was represented by four five-pointed red stars with white borders to correspond with the colours of the Union Jack. Still officially a maritime flag, the flag was used on land and gradually became recognised as New Zealand’s national flag. In 1902, the flag officially became the National Flag of New Zealand.

The above YouTube clip provides a history of the New Zealand Flag. This clip was produced by the Flag Consideration Project.

Why do New Zealand and Australia use a similar pattern of stars on their flags?

Both Australia and New Zealand chose the Southern Cross constellation for their flags.  The stars on the Australian Flag are white and have more points than the New Zealand Flag to show their brightness in the sky. 

The fifth smaller star on the Australian Flag can be seen when looking at the Southern Cross and there was some debate in New Zealand as to whether the fifth star should be included on the New Zealand Flag. They decided just to use the four stars that mark the points of the compass. The sixth and largest star on the Australian Flag, below the Union Jack, is the Federation Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia on 1 January 1901.

There is one point for each of the six original states, and one to represent all of Australia's internal and external territories. The colours of the stars on both flags were chosen to complement the colours of the Union Jack shown in the top left-hand corner of both flags.

What do the markings on the New Zealand Flag stand for?

The stars on the Flag represent the Southern Cross constellation, emphasising New Zealand's location in the South Pacific Ocean.  The Union Jack in the top left-hand corner of the Flag recognises New Zealand’s historical foundations as a former British colony and dominion.

What laws govern the New Zealand Flag and what protocols should I follow when flying the Flag?

See Flying the New Zealand Flag.

When should the New Zealand Flag be flown at half-mast?

There are specific times when the New Zealand Flag is flown at half-mast.  The Prime Minister and the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage can also direct that the Flag be flown at half-mast on Government buildings to mark the death of an important figure. It is optional for schools, local government, organisations and individuals to fly the Flag at half-mast on such occasions.

When the New Zealand Flag is flown at half-mast, other flags shouldn’t be flown above it. The Flag should be raised again to the peak before being lowered for the day.

Half-masting the New Zealand Flag

What is the correct process for folding the New Zealand flag?

The following details showing how to fold the New Zealand flag are taken from the New Zealand Flag booklet produced by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Page 1 - Folding and storing the Flag (PDF)

Page 2 - Folding and storing the Flag (PDF)

Can I use the New Zealand Flag on my website or in advertising?

Any person or organisation may use the New Zealand Flag in advertising.  You must reproduce the Flag in its true form and colours.  Letters or designs shouldn’t be added to the Flag, unless they appear in a different dimension and are clearly separate from the Flag's design.  You can discuss your ideas with the Ministry if you want to use the New Zealand Flag in advertisements or for commercial purposes.

Where can I get a New Zealand Flag?

New Zealand flag manufacturers, include the following suppliers:  

The Ministry does not hold any supplies of the New Zealand Flag.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) offers a flag hire service. Subject to availability, DIA hires the flags of most countries of the world for indoor or outdoor events such as conferences, functions, and parades in New Zealand.

Flag hire service

How should I dispose of a flag in poor condition?

The New Zealand Flag should never be flown in a dilapidated condition. You should dispose of an old flag by burning it discreetly in some type of incinerator, not by taking it to a rubbish dump. It’s important the flag is not destroyed in public view. Some flag-making companies offer facilities for disposing of flags.

Updated on 11th May 2023