Story: Flags

Page 3. Other flags

All images & media in this story

Royal and vice-regal flags

Queen Elizabeth II had a personal flag for New Zealand, which was adopted in 1962. It was the shield design of the New Zealand coat of arms with the addition of a roundel (a curved decoration) containing the letter ‘E’ and a crown. This flag was flown when the Queen was in New Zealand, including at sea in New Zealand waters, and took precedence over the New Zealand flag.

Unwanted change

Lord Bledisloe, governor-general of New Zealand from 1930 to 1935, did not like the new vice-regal flag that was designed in 1931. He continued to fly the old flag until his departure from office, and when the new flags arrived he stored them. In 1937 he said, ‘As far as I am aware, that bundle of flags still lies un-regretted in the cellars at Government House in Wellington.’1 They had in fact been retrieved by his successor, Viscount Galway.

The first governor’s or vice-regal flag was instituted in 1869. An altered version was used from 1874 until 1935. A new vice-regal flag for use by all British dominions was designed in 1931 and used in New Zealand from 1937. The third and current vice-regal flag was unveiled in 2008, and depicts the shield of the New Zealand coat of arms surmounted by a royal crown.

Ship and aircraft flags

There are four official flags or ensigns used on New Zealand ships and aircraft:

  • the New Zealand Red Ensign, which is flown on non-government ships, and was adopted in 1903
  • the New Zealand White Ensign, flown on ships and commissioned shore establishments of the New Zealand Royal Navy, adopted in 1968
  • the Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign, flown at air force establishments and on air force planes carrying heads of state and governments, the prime minister, cabinet ministers, chiefs of staff, ambassadors and other distinguished people. It was adopted in 1939
  • the New Zealand Civil Air Ensign, flown on New Zealand aircraft and aerodromes and Civil Aviation Authority buildings and aircraft, adopted in 1938.

These ensigns all contain the Union Jack in the first quarter. The only flag that does not include the Southern Cross is the Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign.

Well-travelled flag

In February 2011 a flag with the Hamilton city logo on it flew into space aboard the NASA shuttle Discovery. Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Ree Varcoe had been friends with shuttle pilot Eric Boe at school, and gave him the flag. Six of the crew members visited Hamilton in May and returned the flag, which was hoisted on Hamilton City Council’s flagstaff in a special ceremony.

Other flags

The New Zealand Police, Fire Service and Customs have their own flags. New Zealand naval vessels authorised to board and inspect vessels for fisheries purposes fly the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission flag. Some local authorities – such as the Upper Hutt, Porirua and Nelson city councils – also have flags.

  1. Evening Post, 22 July 1937, p. 10. Back
How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Flags - Other flags', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 June 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 20 Apr 2016