WELLINGTON: New Zealanders could be a step closer to getting a new flag after the first phase of a two-part referendum wrapped up on Friday but many people are not in the mood for change.
The current flag features Britain’s Union Jack in the corner and four red stars in a Southern Cross formation, indicating New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific.
Those seeking change say the flag is too closely tied to New Zealand’s history as a British colony and looks far too much like Australia’s flag.
But people opposed to change say wars have been fought and New Zealanders have died under the current flag.
“I think it’s an absolute waste of tax-payers money and I can’t see any benefit to it,” said Wellington resident Sue Parrott.
“I have no problem with the current flag, it’s part of our heritage.”
Prime Minister John Key announced a referendum this year to settle the question and called for designs.
More than 10,000 entries, including flags bearing the native kiwi bird and sheep, were whittled down to a short-list of five and the vote on Friday is aimed at settling on the favorite.
It will then face off against New Zealand’s existing flag in the second phase of the referendum in March.
Preliminary results show a flag featuring a white fern on a black and blue background with four red stars is likely to win Friday’s ballot. The result is expected on Tuesday.
A 3 News/Reid Research poll in November showed that 65 percent of people want to keep the flag as is, and only 28 percent want to change it.
“I did vote, but I don’t agree that we need to change the current flag,” said primary school teacher Emily Osborn, who said she had chosen a flag featuring a black and white koru, or unfurling fern frond. “I didn’t pick it because I liked it. I chose it because I thought it would be the one that wouldn’t stand a chance against our current flag,” she said.
Voter turnout was about 1.5 million people – or 48 percent of registered voters, the Electoral Commission said.