The Prime Minister has been accused of playing politics with the 'Red Peak' flag, seemingly leaving the door open to it being included in the upcoming referendum if other parties agree, but Labour's support is conditional.
An online petition to include the alternative design into the referendum for a new national flag is pushing 50,000 signatures and it seems John Key's position might be changing.
At his post-Cabinet news conference this afternoon, Mr Key said if every political party was genuine and wanted to include the flag into the shortlist – either as a replacement or an additional option – he said it could be an option.
The public has found the four chosen flags by the independent Flag Consideration Panel underwhelming and support on social media and in newspapers around the country has been strong for the Red Peak.
Mr Key accused political parties of playing politics with the process, saying all except New Zealand First had supported the idea of a flag change.
It would take a law change to include the Red Peak into the referendum, he said.
"If I go back to Parliament [to change the process] you can be sure as little green apples [political parties will] be out there trying to play games yet again.
"And if I drop one out, well, on what basis do I drop one out? Because then there'll be a group that say 'one was accepted by the committee and you've overruled that'," Mr Key said.
Earlier in the news conference when asked if he would consider changing the law to include Red Peak Mr Key said it was "not my intention" to change the options.
"You'd be asking me to jump in front of a process."
He said it was disappointing support for the flag wasn't there before the shortlist was announced.
"It's a bit of a shame they didn't make such a strong case beforehand, maybe that would have influence the judges."
But shortly after, he didn't rule out the possibility of change, particularly if Labour got on board.
"If they're going to actually honour their policy and say we now support a free vote, we're going to participate, we're going to be fully engaged and going to stop all this mindless bagging on political grounds and have a proper debate, we'll see how it goes."
But Labour leader Andrew Little says Mr Key is the one playing politics.
"Labour would support Red Peak being included – either as a replacement or an extra option – as long as there’s a yes/no vote in the first referendum.
"John Key can change this now if he likes, he doesn't need Labour or a law change. He’s just playing politics to distract from the utter shambles the flag referendum has become," he said.
He previously said he wouldn't vote in the first referendum, but would potentially change his mind if Red Peak was included.
NZ First leader Winston Peters has also accused Mr Key of playing politics with the flag from the start.
"He now realises his mission to establish a cheap legacy is falling apart. It did so from the beginning when he realised his first option was akin to the Islamic State flag," Mr Peters says.
The party has been against the flag change from the start, saying it was a waste of time and money.
ACT Party leader David Seymour has flown his flag for Red Peak, using social media to advocate for it to be included and urging people to sign the petition.