December 15, 2015 / 8:04 AM / 3 years ago

New Zealand announces final contender for flag vote

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - It’s official. A new flag, featuring a fern on a blue and back background, will face off against New Zealand’s current flag next March.

Factory workers Garth Price (R) and Andrew Smith (L) hang new designs of the national flag of New Zealand at a factory in Auckland, New Zealand, November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Rafael Ben-Ari

    The existing flag features the United Kingdom’s Union Jack in the corner and four red stars in a Southern Cross formation, indicating New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific.

    Earlier this year Prime Minister John Key announced a referendum and called for designs. More than 10,000, including flags bearing the native kiwi bird and sheep, were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of five.

    New Zealanders ranked the five in order of preference in the first phase of the referendum and the white fern on a black and blue background with four red starts came out on top. The official result confirmed preliminary results published last Friday.

    Voter turnout was around 1.5 million people - or 49 percent of registered voters.

    Many people, however, weren’t happy with the NZ$26 million ($17.65 million) process.

    “I think it’s an absolute waste of taxpayers’ 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.”     

    Some, however, were keen for change.

“Anything without a Union Jack on would be good,” said Gary Tennant. “The ties to Britain are long gone and it doesn’t reflect New Zealand as it is today.”

Reporting by Rebecca Howard; Editing by Ed Davies

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