The preliminary flag referendum results released by the Electoral Commission show a high voter turnout and big win for the current flag, but the challenger design also had a strong showing.
The incumbent flag received 56.6 percent, or 1.2 million of the 2.12 million valid votes. The Kyle Lockwood design garnered 915,008 votes -- 43.2 percent of the total.
Seven electorates were strongly in favour of keeping the flag: Māngere, Te Tai Hauāuru, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Tokerau all registered support of more than 70 percent for the original design. Voter support for the blue and black silver fern flag only made it over 50 percent in six electorates: Tāmaki, Selwyn, Bay of Plenty, East Coast Bays, Ilam and Clutha-Southland.
The Electoral Commission says voter turnout was 67.3 percent of the total number of people enrolled to vote. That makes it the second-most popular postal referendum since the referendum on whether to introduce a compulsory retirement savings scheme.
Voter turnout for the first referendum, which decided the design to go up against the current flag, was just 48.8 percent.
There were 4554 invalid votes in the flag referendum -- just 0.21 percent of the total votes received.
The Electoral Commission says the official results from the referendum will be announced on March 30.