The national, and natural, colours of New Zealand

New Zealand may be famous for being ‘green’, but it’s certainly not a one-colour-country.

Our most vivid natural colours fly by us daily. Think of our native birds and you’re unlikely to see more vibrancy in the air anywhere in the world. At ground level the tones are earthier and more subtle. The brown of the kiwi is designed to blend in with its surroundings, particularly at night when birds are at their most active.

Our native trees are various shades of green and brown. But when the pohutukawa comes into bloom, the richness of the red against the turquoise sea is quite simply breathtaking.

Trees and flowers that have been introduced to the landscape bring intensive and dramatic hues to our natural colour palette – from the fresh green of a spring-time oak through to the reds, golds, yellows and browns of autumn leaves tumbling to the ground.

At a national level New Zealand has a number of official colours that are well recognised.

The New Zealand Flag is predominantly blue, a representation of the sky and the oceans that surround us. The Southern Cross element is a rich red and the Union Jack in the upper left corner is the ‘blend’ of colours representing the countries of the United Kingdom.

Traditional Maori colours – black, silver/white and red – are also regarded as national colours. Black and silver, especially, are the colours of choice for New Zealand’s national sporting teams and codes.

Up until 1975 the mono chromatic black/silver/white made up the national palette. Then red ochre, a colour of deep spiritual significance for Maori, joined the list as the dominant colour in the Queens’ Service Order medal. 

Though there are a limited number of recognised national colours, the fact that New Zealand is so multi-national means colours from other lands are now ours. The special days, festivals and celebratory moments from each and every group are now part of this land. The Chinese Lantern and Indian Diwali festivals are themselves celebrations of life, light and culture.

Colour is an essential part of who we are and what we stand for. Colours blend and combine in much the same way that cultures do. COLORSTEEL® has developed a palette that reflects every aspect of life in New Zealand. 

COLORSTEEL®’s Alistair Fleming says nature has been a source of inspiration, in a variety of ways.

“When COLORSTEEL® was introduced in the early 1980’s the colour selection and naming started with the nature and physical environment theme. This produced names such as Karaka, Lichen, Sandstone Grey, Scoria, Ironsand and Lignite. Subsequent additions have related to either the prevailing established names – including Rivergum and Gull Grey – or were launched with new names such as our Architectural series featuring FlaxPod®.”

“The colours of the physical environment are continuing to influence our choice of colours and the naming of these colours. The whites and greys of the sky, the blues of water, and the red earth-like colours. This theme has been in place for over 20 years and continues to influence our selection.”

“It is also essential that our colours are fresh, modern and adaptable. We continually review our range to ensure it meets market and consumer needs. As a brand we’re proud of our past but always have an eye on the future.” 

“We want to make it as simple as possible to incorporate a distinctly local hue into your designs. So now, we're handing you the palette to express the inherent structural and natural beauty of New Zealand in your special corner of the world.”

COLORSTEEL® Tip

The outside colours of your house should complement the surrounding landscape. We can help with advice, tools and any number of resources to help you pick colours that work for you and your environment.   

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