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New Zealand Yachting Flags

Last modified: 2015-04-18 by ian macdonald
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The Blue Ensign

[ Yacht Blue Ensign ] image by Jose C. Alegria, 31 December 2000

In August 2000 a new flag was authorised for restricted use in New Zealand and overseas. The flag is the New Zealand Blue Ensign. In 1902, the British Admiralty issued a warrant granting members of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron the right to fly a British Blue Ensign on their vessels. Uniquely, today the Flag Officers of the RNZYS may apply for warrants to wear the New Zealand White Ensign (Naval Ensign) on their own yachts. A similar right had been conferred on the Port Nicholson Yacht Club of Wellington, which in 1921 subsequently became the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, and in 1938 for the Royal Akarana Yacht Club of Auckland but with a Blue Ensign defaced with the Club's badge of a naval crown above a Polynesian voyaging canoe. The principal term of the respective warrants required members' vessels to be registered as British ships. This became impossible in New Zealand after the Shipping and Seamen Act 1952 was enacted which established an independent ship registration system in New Zealand from Britain, however all three yacht clubs continued to use the British Blue Ensign. The constitutional aspects of the practice of the British Admiralty of issuing warrants authorising New Zealanders to fly British Blue Ensigns on their vessels was never considered and was at best questionable after New Zealand became an independent sovereign state.
The right, to the extent that any still existed, was finally lost when the Ships Registration Act 1992 came into force which provided in Section 58 that all vessels in New Zealand, (other than New Zealand Government ships which must fly the New Zealand Flag), were required to fly the New Zealand Flag or the Marine Ensign of New Zealand (New Zealand Red Ensign) other than vessels of the armed forces. This clearly and unequivocally made the flying of the British Blue Ensign in New Zealand unlawful.

After some lobbying, it was agreed that the tradition should continue and Parliament passed the Ships Registration Amendment Act 1999 inserting a new section 58A into the Act which permits New Zealand vessels, as another alternative, to fly a flag authorised by the Sovereign or the Governor General. Subsequently, considerable discussion and correspondence were entered into as to the appropriate form of a flag to replace the British Blue Ensign which the Queen would authorise those New Zealand yacht clubs which previously flew the British Blue Ensign under Admiralty warrant. Ultimately, the form of the flag was settled in the form depicted, which was based on a similar flag worn by vessels in the late nineteenth century of the Auckland Sailing Club, the precursor of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland. The new flag is officially the New Zealand Blue Ensign, and its use by Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Royal Akarana Yacht Club authorised by Royal Licence from the Queen. While it is open for the Queen or the Government to authorise the Ensign to be used for other purposes, its use is currently restricted to Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Royal Akarana Yacht Club and their members.
Both Clubs have promulgated their own rules regulating the use of the New Zealand Blue Ensign by their members which are consistent with the traditional rules for the use of the British Blue Ensign, traditional flag etiquette, and New Zealand legal requirements. Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, for reasons best known to itself, elected not to receive a Royal Licence for the new New Zealand Blue Ensign, however the option for it in the future remains open.

Extract from article in The New Zealand Law Journal by Hamish Ross submitted by Bernard Robertson, Editor of The NZLJ, 28 December 2000

I presume that the new New Zealand Blue Ensign [above], will be flown by the RNZYS, while the Royal Akarana will add the club badge as shown on their web page. The new ensign is derived from the ensign of the Auckland Sailing Club which became the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1902. That ensign as shown in Lloyds Yacht Register of 1893 is [below].
David Prothero, 29 December 2000

image submitted by David Prothero, 29 December 2000

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

[ Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron ] image by Jose C. Alegria, 12 February 2000

New Zealand´s defending Club [for the Louis Vuitton Cup] is the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Auckland, New Zealand. Established in [1859]. In 1902, the Club was granted both the title "Royal" and the right to use the blue Ensign. I don´t know if the use of the blue ensign is still allowed. Their burgee is blue, with a white cross of St. George, and 4 white five-pointed stars in the canton, and a Royal St. Edward´s crown at the arms' intersection.
Jose C. Alegria, 12 February 2000

The R.N.Z.Y.S., which when first formed was known as the Auckland Y.C., still uses the undefaced Blue Ensign.
In 1976 its Flag Officers (only) were authorized to use the White Ensign of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
David Prothero, 13 February 2000

A sketch in the The Dumpy book of ships and the sea [sam57] shows this burgee with the four stars in the upper quadrant aranged differently [each top star to the left of the one below].
James Dignan, 12 February 2008

Royal Akarana Y.C.

[ Royal Akarana Y.C. ]image by Jose C. Alegria, 31 December 2000

Here is the burgee of the Royal Akarana Y.C. , red on the upper hoist and lower fly, blue on the upper fly and lower hoist, with a white cross of St. George and a golden Naval Crown at the crosscenter.
Jose C. Alegria, 31 December 2000

Royal Akarana Y.C. Blue Ensign

[ Royal Akarana Y.C. Blue Ensign ] image by Sara Roberts, Jose C. Alegria and Sam Lockton, 14 November, 2002

A press report - vague and somewhat inconsistent as press reports usually are - from the hoisting of the New Zealand Blue Ensign at the Royal Akrana Yacht Club, suggests that the badges of the yacht clubs are found on the new yacht ensign. The Blue Ensign of the Royal Akrana Yacht Club is described like this: "The New Zealand Blue Ensign has a dark blue background and a St George cross. The New Zealand flag is in the top left corner and the Pahi Tere (voyaging canoe) in the bottom right." (Times, 25 October 2000). Furthermore, the news report says that "The flag is surmounted by the naval crown." Perhaps this refers to the flag pole at club HQ, or it could be that the reporter wanted to say that the yacht club badge is surmounted by a naval crown (much more likely). Anyway, the press report might indicate that the image of the New Zealand Blue Ensign that we we supplied with the other day is the basic pattern of the ensign, but that it could be that the two yacht clubs enjoying the right to fly the ensign add their respective club badges in the lower fly to produce the ensigns actually used.
Jan Oskar Engene, 29 December 2000

Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club

[ Royal Port Nicholson Y.C. burgee]image by Clay Moss, 28 February 2015
based on image in 1923 Album des Pavillions Nationaux located by David Prothero, 10 February 2015

Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, New Zealand.
Established 1883 in Wellington as Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
1896. Plain Blue Ensign. Burgee quartered black and red.
1921. Granted title ‘royal’.
Burgee: white cross on burgee quartered first black, second blue, third red, fourth blue; crown in canton, blue plain anchor, inclined towards hoist, in centre of white cross.

The image is from the 1928 Flaggenbuch. In the 1923 Album des Pavillions Nationaux the burgee has the white cross and anchor, but no crown, and the fly quarters are black. This may be an error, or perhaps the white cross and anchor were added at some time before the title ‘royal’ was granted and a crown put in the canton?
1999. Probably changed to New Zealand Yacht Ensign, but still in Navy List 2009.
David Prothero, 10 February 2015

Port Nicholson was the original (and still official, I think) name for Wellington Harbour, at the southern tip of the North Island. The term still lives on in the names of several companies and organisations, and its Maori corruption ("Poneke", a Maorification of "Port Nicky") as the name of several sports teams and other groups.
James Dignan, 1 March 2015