Young Kiwis and Canadians have long enjoyed some magical passport status with their flags stitched to their packs when travelling overseas.
I have even heard that American travellers use the maple leaf to disguise their origins - vs the Yankee Go Home effect of the stars and stripes. It's not that they aren't patriotic, its more a matter of pragmatic backpacker realpolotik.
The prime minister has intimated a referendum about the future design of the New Zealand flag. The relevance of the inclusion of the Union Jack to New Zealand's national identity is questioned by many. Mr Key's preference, which he made clear from 2010 is for a silver fern on a black ground.
There are other flags that have been proposed including a widely accepted Maori motif that is in current use and other solutions to the problem of colonial symbolism representing bygone traditions and connections with the United Kingdom and ignoring New Zealand's contemporary socio-cultural composition and our aspirations for a distinctive identity (separate from Australia).
The fern idea is a bold statement but it has its detractors (there are no shortage of voices eager to be heard - which is hardly surprising, given all kiwis are stakeholders in the outcome). It asks the question of a flag's purpose in the modern era. It isn't an identifier for the battlefield - a place for troops to rally around. It doesn't represent a lineage or geneology, like a medeival heraldic standard - in fact in a digital era it barely serves any purpose. The 'ping' released by a ship or aircraft will identify it more exacltly than a piece of cloth.
The obvious answer is that the issue at stake is one of national branding. That topic in itself is fraught with its own issues as the change from Telecom to Spark made clear. Expensive and risky. Equally clear is that the new supra-states are the corporate brands of McDonalds and Coca-Cola whose simple, iconic brand identities are recognised the world over.
It is tempting to look at Canada and Switzerland's flags and argue that they are powerful, contemporary brand identities and to want something akin to their trademark simplicity. I agree with the argument - but I have qualms about a black flag. In our culture black is the colour symbolising death. It is the negative colour (if it is a colour at all). The suggestion that, because it is the colour adopted by many national sporting teams, it already applies may be valid to some extent, but there is (hopefully) more to New Zealand than sporting prowess.
The referendum about the flag seems to have hit a bump in the road. It may not be the done-deal that New Zealand adopts the black flag with silver fern. Because another black flag has stolen the march.
I for one won't be saluting the prospect of a national flag that reminds the world of ISIS, the islamic terrorist group. And I think when kiwi soldiers are deployed in Iraq and Syria they would need extra body armour if they were marching behind a black and white banner.
Things are never as black and white as they seem, are they?