NZ White Ensign

Recently there has been a lot of comment on social media as to the whys and wherefores on who is able to fly the New Zealand White Ensign.   There are those who are of the opinion that because they served in the navy they can fly it at home and that is sufficient justification.  There are others who believe that there are no rules surrounding the New Zealand White Ensign and they will display it/fly it in any manner they deem appropriate and at the other end of the spectrum are those who know the regulations and rules surrounding the NZWE and sadly dismiss them and flout the rules imposed under Government.

For those of you that are interested the New Zealand White Ensign was instituted under Government legislation known as the New Zealand White Ensign Regulations of 1968  These regulations clearly state that this ensign may be worn by ships of New Zealand Naval Forces and flown on Naval Establishments in accordance with Naval Instructions. There is nothing in these rules which allow ‘Joe Public’ to fly this flag.

These Naval Instructions include:

Dignity of the New Zealand National Flag/New Zealand White Ensign
1. The NZ Flag is the national symbol of this country and accordingly it should be honoured and treated with respect. To use, display, destroy, or damage the flag in or within view of a public place with the intention of dishonouring it is an offence, as is the placement of any letter, emblem, or representation on the flag. The NZ Flag may be displayed by any citizen and hence in any mess, club, office or home etc but only in certain specified fashions whereas, other national emblems such as the NZWE, RNZAF Ensign etc, may only be displayed with specific approval and only in strictly controlled circumstances.
2. The NZ Flag and NZWE should only be displayed in a manner befitting their importance as the National emblem or the ensign of the RNZN. They should never be displayed in the following ways:
a. as a covering of a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony;
b. as a table or seat cover; unless the NZ Flag is used to cover a table and ashes onboard one of HMNZ Ships, prior to committal;
c. as a masking for boxes, barriers or intervening space between floor and ground level on a dais or platform; or
d. allowed to fall onto or lie upon the ground.
3. Instructions for parading the NZWE are contained in NZBR 23 Article 9102.
4. The CN has given approval to allow the NZWE to be used as a pall for a casket at funerals. The upper canton should be draped over the left shoulder of the deceased. The NZWE is to be removed before the casket is lowered into the grave or at a crematorium immediately after the committal.

Request from Ex-Service and Civilian Organisations
Ex Service organisations may parade the NZWE in a procession, fly it at outdoor functions of a service nature or on other ceremonial occasions with the approval of the CN. HQNZDF (NAVY) will direct the approved timings and correct manner of flying the NZWE.

So the long and the short of it is that unless you have specific authority from the Chief of Navy then you are not authorised to fly the NZWE.   If you wish to fly the NZWE then please have the decency to request permission of the Chief of Navy in the first instance.

Here is an example of how the NZWE is currently being used as posted on social media.


and another from a makeshift flagpole


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9 Responses to NZ White Ensign

  1. Jim D says:

    Once John Key has his way and maybe changes the flag, then we can fly the current NZWE anyway….

  2. Nick Carter says:

    Hi Frank, I seem to recall RADM Carr gave permission for the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron RNZYS to fly the NZ White Ensign. The NZ Blue Ensign may also be flown on a private vessel, if the master and/or a certain %age of the officers are ex RNZN.

  3. DJ Robertson says:

    RADM LG Carr, CNS when NZWE was installed gave Warrant for Flag Officers of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron to wear the NZWE. It remains on force.

  4. David Jasper says:

    I should add; this honour was given to mark the centennial of the RNZYS and LG Carr had a real battle with the Naval Board to get it. The rules are that the Commodore, Vice Commodore and Rear Commodore have the right to apply for a Warrant to fly the NZWE ensign on their OWN vessel for their term of office. Typically you progress up the chain.

  5. Bill Bartlett says:

    I agree with wot Frank has said. As a former Senior Bunting on staff of CNS (now CN) you kept an eye on “flag ceremonial” and the regulations thereto which included those applicable to the White Ensign. Yes. The authority for all matters ” NZWE” was and still is the CNS (Chief of Navy). Nobody else. That is why all relevant instructions was contained in the Navy Instructions NZBR 23 only. Maybe it is time however, that regulations surrounding its display other than onboard ship should be made available to the general public in some other reference material. Food for thought!
    I wonder if the RNZAF have any problems with theirs!

  6. Neill Dorset says:

    Peoples respect for our national flag, including the NZWE , is somewhat lacking in my view and this is seen on a daily basis when you look at the state of some of the flags being flown from mastheads everywhere. They are put up, forgotten about until they are in tatters and I would say that most members of the public would not even be aware that there is a flag etiquette. This is happening not just in NZ but also over here in Aust where I ( in my previous occupation)have been involved in arguments with politicians who wanted to fly flags in certain ways that were NOT in accordance with the rules, regs and traditions/etiquette – did they care – Not on your life – once politics/politicians get involved commonsense or rules go completely out the window.
    Those photos you have shown Frank, would be the tip of the iceberg but best of luck in getting peoples attitudes to change.

  7. Alan Peck says:

    I would have thought that having served in the RNZN would encourage respect for the White Ensign, rather than some nebulous claim to be able to fly it at will. The photos clearly show a lack of respect.

    • John Bullock says:

      Ditto Alan .. I recall a couple years back, I was in LAX on ANZAC Day. I was invited by the NZ Consulate to the service with the band provided by the LAPD. This service is held each year at the U.S. National Cemetery in LAX. The arrangements are shared/hosted by the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish Consulates. I requested thru RNO Christchurch if I could parade a RNZN Ensign and Staff. It became all too difficult by Wellington to allow me to do that, only if I paid for the freight which was to be an “arm and a leg”, so I gave the idea away. It was a moving experience, and was glad I attended anyway.

  8. john Greaves says:

    This is slightly off the subject, but I’ve been having a bit of an an argument at my local RSA concerning the order of flags displayed below the eternal flame and the Ode. Those of us who are ex-pussers say the White Ensign should be displayed first ( from left to right) as the senior service followed by the Blue Ensign (NZ flag)representing the Army, then the Air Force Ensign. However one club official keeps changing the order by putting the B.E first, then the W.E. and A.F.E. Her argument is that all parades, especially ANZAC DAY, are led by the Blue Ensign. I pointed out that it is not about marching (whether she’s right or wrong) but about the flags being displayed as per seniority of the services. I’ve noted that other RSA’s display flags with Navy, Army and Air Force in that order, however she won’t back down. I would really appreciate an official answer on this once and for all. I wrote to the government’s Head of Protocol on this but never heard back. Any former senior military officer of any branch of the Defence Force is welcome to comment on this. My thanks to you in advance,

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