Cabinet wouldn't have felt comfortable overruling the Flag Consideration Panel's shortlisted flags and their decision "is what it is", Prime Minister John Key says.
The independent panel has been criticised since the final four alternative New Zealand flags were announced last week and there has been a seemingly meteoric rise on social media of an unofficial fifth alternative 'Red Peak'.
Mr Key has ruled out both changing the law to allow a fifth flag in the first of two referenda and swapping one of the existing four for Red Peak.
"If I was to do that, then there'd probably be a group that would say 'well, I want another version or another flag', in the end the panel considered all of those shortlisted 40 and it came back with its own recommendations. It is what it is, really," he said at his post-Cabinet news conference yesterday.
He defended the process the panel went through to come up with the four flags saying it was probably a more open, interactive and clear process than that of many other countries which have changed their flags.
Two of the alternatives are from the same designer, Kyle Lockwood, and differ only in their colour, one is a silver fern on a black and white background and the fourth is a black and white koru.
"We've gone through a really open process. The Flag Consideration Panel basically in the end selected four and they came to us.
"Yes, the Government could have overruled them or Cabinet could have overruled those, we didn't really feel terribly comfortable doing that," Mr Key said.
ACT Party leader David Seymour says people are underwhelmed by the choices on offer, but it is easy for Mr Key to include Red Peak.
He says the legislation allows him to do it "by a stroke of a pen" by order and council.