New Zealand is beginning the process of consulting on changing our flag. It’s a controversial process, and the first part of the process asks which of the new flag proposals the nation prefers, before even considering whether we want the thing changed at all! Most left-leaning people are against the proposal, because they see it as a waste of time and money, and a distraction from serious political issues.
A waste of money, and oh, what a waste. $26 million to go through a process that is driven from a political figure considering his legacy. He’s wanting to be remembered not for his poor handling of the Christchurch rebuild, or his shady Sky City deal, or his failure to deliver the long-promised budget surplus, or even for the revelations of Dirty Politics or his habit of pulling girl’s hair, but for something important and symbolic like changing our flag and moving away from our colonial roots (perhaps). It’s a lot of money for what can uncharitably be called a political vanity project.
What could $26 million buy? Well, it could buy 3250 insulin pumps and supplies for them for a year. It could fund KidsCan, the biggest charity for children in poverty in NZ, for almost four years. It could keep the National Library curriculum topic support service available to school children for more than 66 years. It would keep the Wellington Rape Crisis Drop-in Centre open for almost 366 years. It could fund Lifeline for five and a half years.
This isn’t small change, and there are places it could go that would make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people. Burning it on a flag referendum just feels so wasteful. It’s been allocated now, though, and there’s just nothing that anyone can do about it. All those things go begging, because of a vanity project. It’s galling.