New Zealand votes to retain current flag
Preliminary results indicate that New Zealanders have voted to keep their existing flag after a national referendum. The results showed that 56.6% voted to retain the current flag, while 43.1% opted for the new design, after over 2.1 million citizens voted. A final result taking into account late ballots and a full tally of votes will be announced on 30 March.
The national flag of New Zealand features a 'Union Jack' and the Southern Cross stars on a blue background. The debate about changing the flag has a history of several decades and various flag designs had been proposed but there was no general agreement. Even in the past, there were several arguments with varying intensities about whether the flag must be changed or not.
The New Zealand flag had been changed twice. In 1834, the first flag was chosen by the Maoris; then, in 1840, the 'Union Jack' became the official flag; and later in 1902, the current flag was adopted.
The current flag is similar to the Australian flag which leads to confusion. The representation of 'Union Jack' doesn't signify the current independent, sovereign status of New Zealand, instead suggests that New Zealand is a colony of the UK. The current flag solely represents the British heritage, and doesn't represent but ignores the natives of New Zealand like the Māori and other ethnic groups.
The financial investment to be made to change the flag is huge and isn't relevant. Since 1902, the flag has been a part of New Zealand's history, and people are attached to it. The 'Union Jack' represents New Zealand's strong ties with the UK and that it was once a part of the UK. Southern Cross stars show its location in South Pacific.
In January 2014, John Key campaigned during the 2014 general polls to have a vote on the change of flag. He had declared that a referendum would be held within 3 years if his party was re-elected.
After re-election, John Key announced that the decision must be made by all eligible New Zealand citizens and not just by gaining majority in parliament. In the first-stage, the panel would finalize some flag-designs in September, and in November, the citizens would vote for one from the finalized flags. In March 2016, citizens would choose one from the old flag and the chosen alternative.
The Flag Consideration Panel had finalized five designs and people would choose one from those designs through a postal referendum that had continued till mid-December. Out of the five finalized designs, four of the flags were similar which featured the 'silver-fern', the unofficial New Zealand emblem. The fifth one featured a 'red peak', which had red, blue and black triangles with a white chevron.
Ahead of the second-stage of the alternative flag referendum, a poll was conducted to know the opinion of the citizens. It was revealed in the poll that two-thirds chose the current official flag and didn't want a change.
Citizens would have the chance to vote either for the current 'New Zealand Blue Ensign' flag or the chosen alternative 'silver-fern with Southern Cross stars on blue-and-black background till 24 March. The vote is being conducted by post and about 3 million ballot papers are already distributed to the 4.5 million population. PM John Key called it a 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity to change the flag.