Opinion

What Prize Sovereignty?

No, I don’t mean what price sovereignty and no, I am not going to bang on about the UK surrendering its currency and joining the Euro. I’ve just come back from a trip to New Zealand and I was struck by the level of care and attention that has gone into the creation of its new passport, which speaks volumes to me about Kiwi’s level of national pride.

Are you filled with a sense of pride when you whip out your passport at customs control? My British passport is dull, generic, uninspiring and says nothing about my country…unless, of course, you think of the UK as dull, generic and uninspiring, that is. Enter the New Zealand passport, resplendent in black with an embossed silver fern on the front and back cover.

It is highly distinctive. As the NZ internal affairs minister Rick Barker says: “We have a passport that’s strikingly New Zealand, is unmistakable and if ever left in a pool of all the other passports in the world, you’d pick it up instantly.”


The new look passport also boasts 50 separate security features, some of which are enshrined in the beautiful tipped in imagery in the visa pages. The pages feature artwork based on the theme of navigation and travel depicting a journey from north to south New Zealand, mirroring the journey that many of the early immigrants to the country took. In addition, the artwork features navigation tools used in New Zealand through the ages, which progress from the earliest at the start of the book to the present day at the end.


I think it is a beauty. It feels as if New Zealanders are proud of their national visual identity, whereas we Brits have surrendered our visual sovereignty for a pink piece of eurofudge. But not all the Kiwis I know agree. In fact, there has been quite a heated debate on various websites, with a predictable chorus of “I wish I could keep the old one”.

One of my designers dismissed it as too cartoonish for him to be proud to pull out at customs. He was also less than impressed with the application of the ubiquitous silver fern, however, even he had to admit that the artwork inside the covers was both aesthetically pleasing and practical.

One of my mates all but jumped for joy when he saw his replacement passport. The fact that it engenders strong feelings speaks volumes.

By Martin Grimer, Executive Creative Director at Blue Marlin