5 February 2014
A sunny day in Wellington and the line-up of floats for the annual parade marking the start of the madcap Wellington Sevens event is a great reminder of all that is good in our country, and a welcome relief to many of the daily pressures we face.
So too is the opportunity to debate the design of our national flag, to make sure it more accurately reflects the spirit and “vibe” of modern New Zealand. It is not the superficial distraction some dismiss it as, but a chance to think afresh about the New Zealand face of the future. It is an occasion we should relish as bold and confident people.
Another part of that consideration ought to be our stubborn adherence to relics of our colonial past. The Queen’s Birthday holiday is an obvious example. At a time when we healthily debate the issues around our National Day what possible relevance is the commemoration of the birthday, months after the actual event, of a distant hereditary sovereign we seldom see, and who has no impact on our daily lives?
I am no killjoy seeking to deprive people of a welcome mid-winter long weekend, but I seriously doubt its continued relevance to current and future generations of New Zealanders.
All of which brings me back to the theme of positive nationhood with which I began. We should welcome the flag debate and the wider constitutional discussion it will lead to, with its hoped for outcome of the New Zealand Republic, as positive occasions for our country to shape its destiny. And then the meaningless Queen’s Birthday weekend could be put out of its misery and replaced with a weekend that celebrates the New Zealand of the future, in all its richness and diversity.
As the Wellington Sevens events shows each year, nothing beats a celebration, even at the coldest time of year, to light up the national mood and lift public spirits.