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Otago region (New Zealand)

Ō Tākou

Last modified: 2020-03-01 by ian macdonald
Keywords: otago | saltire (yellow) | rugby | bicolour |
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[ Flag of Otago ] image by James Dignan, 28 Dec 2004

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Presentation of Otago Region/Province

Otago is the second largest province of the South Island, both in population and area. Its capital is Dunedin, and its other major towns are Oamaru and Queenstown (Queenstown is sometimes regarded as part of another province, Southland, for some administrative purposes). It is roughly triangular in shape, with a long East coast stretching from the Waitaki river to the southernmost point of the mainland (Slope Point), and running inland along the Waitaki river in the north, and from Slope point up to the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
James Dignan, 26 August 1997

Description of the flag

Here are the details of the flag that was chosen by contest for Otago, NZ recently. The flag was designed by Gregor Macaulay - this is his explanation of the flag's meaning.

The new Otago flag combines the customary colours of Otago in a simple yet distinctive design which refers to the area's history and geography and other existing symbols.

In heraldic terminology it may be described as Per fess dancetty Azure and Or, two mullets of eight points in pale Counterchanged.

The colours used are blue and gold, long used by Otago representative sports teams.

The flag is divided, blue over gold, by a zigzag, alluding to our blue skies and tussock-clad hills. The dividing line also echoes both the fess dancetty - a zigzag band - which appears in the Dunedin City Council's arms and the design of the Otago Regional Council's logo.

The two eight-pointed stars were suggested by those which appeared in the arms on the Otago Provincial Council's seal (a version of which is used nowadays by the Otago Rugby Football Union). Similar stars appear in the coats of arms of Otago Boys' High School, the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland, and the Otago District Law Society.

The stars, gold on a blue background, and blue on a gold background, also suggest the sun in the sky and the lakes amongst the hills of Central Otago.

James Dignan, 28 December 2004

From my knowledge and from extensive enquiries I can confirm that there is no official Otago Provincial flag. Otago is very much into rugby and provides intense support for both the Otago Highlanders, Super 12 team, and the Otago NPC Tea. The hype associated with this has led to the development of a Blue and Gold quartered flag. This is not an officially sanctioned flag but is one that is used extensively.

The use of blue and gold as provincial colours can be traced back to 1871. They are the colours adopted by the Dunedin Rugby Football Club and are the colours described in the club's constitution of 1871. The original blue was the dark blue used in the flag of Scotland but this has changed over time to the current royal blue.
Bill Sykes, Archivist, 18 September 2001

Construction Sheet

[Construction sheet for official Otago flag] image by James Dignan, 28 Dec 2004

Quartered flag

Otagoís sports flag #3 image by António Martins, 22 March 1999

I noticed recently that the Dunedin municipal chambers has taken to flying the quartered Otago flag (ratio 1:2, blue in 1st and 4th quarters, yellow in 2nd and 3rd) alongside the national flag and Dunedin city flag. Although this doesnít mean it has official status, it does give some indication of its popularity as a flag!
James Dignan, 4 October 1999

Since last October, when Otago won the national provincial rugby championship, a lot of local businesses have taken to flying flags in the Otago colours. Most of them use a flag patterned the Ukrainian flag (but with a blue and gold similar to those on the Rumanian flag), but the local newspaper offices have consistently flown a huge flag that is quartered in the same two colours, with the blue at honour point.
James Dignan, 21 March 1999

The quartered flag is most often seen 1:2.
James Dignan, 9 May 1999

Golden saltire

Unofficial Otago flag image by António Martins, 14 December 1998

There are no standardised designs for provincial flags, but I have heard of one suggestion for an Otago flag ó a gold saltire on blue. This design is already used as part of the arms of several Otago places and corporations and in the arms of Otago University, and represents the fact that the province was founded by settlers from Scotland, and gained its first wealth from the gold rush of 1861.
James Dignan, 12 September 1996

The proposal faded out. I havenít seen a saltire flag around for quite a while now. The predominant one seems to be the Ukrainian-like bicolour, but the quartered flag is slowly becoming more popular.
James Dignan, 9 May 1999

Otago sporting province

Otagoís sports flag image by James Dignan, 26 August 1997

In Otago, a flag very similar to the Ukrainian one, but with the gold above the blue, is most common in the national rugby union competition (The National Provincial Championship), waved by fans at the grounds.
James Dignan, 12 September 1996

Otagoís sports flag is a fairly standard horizontal gold over blue, usually in a format that is closer to square than the normal 1:2 or 2:3 (this image made in 3:4).
James Dignan, 26 August 1999

I have seen the blue over gold (or gold over blue) Otago flags in anything from about 3:4 through to 1:2, although the longer ones seem to be the most common.
James Dignan, 5 April 1999

Otagoís sports flag #2 image by António Martins, 22 March 1999

I have seen the Otago one in 1:2, but itís more commonly seen shorter than that.
James Dignan, 9 May 1999

Otago Rugby Union

Otago Rugby Union image by James Dignan, 21 September 2010

The flag of the Otago Rugby Union appears to be the union's official flag -I've certainly seen it flying above Carisbrook (the ORU home ground) when games have been in progress.

The flag shows a stylised letter "O", as worn by players as the team's badge, and is in the region (and team)'s colours of blue and gold. note that the blue used is slightly darker than the blue used on other flags representing the region.
James Dignan, 21 September 2010

University of Otago

image by James Dignan, 27 October 2000

Otago University has recently adopted a flag based on the colours of the province and the university's shield.
James Dignan, 27 October 2000