A lobby group that supports changing the flag is pleased that not one of 40 chosen designs shows the Union Jack.
More than 10,000 designs were submitted and the Flag Consideration Panel has narrowed that down to 40.
There will be further checks and verifications before the list is cut down to four.
"The top 40 designs offer a glimpse of what could be - a flag that unites all New Zealanders and represents us to the world," said Change the Flag NZ's campaign chair Lewis Holden.
"Not a single design features the Union Jack - that's a clear message that the Flag Consideration Panel thinks we are mature enough to have a flag designed by a New Zealander."
Panel chairman John Burrows says the most popular design was flags featuring the silver fern.
"It's the [design] most talked about, so we did want to give a bit of a choice there so if you look at the 40 there's quite a few with the fern on, as there are with the koru, as there are with the Southern Cross.… we wanted to give a choice of ferns," Mr Burrows said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.
The panel says it selected designs it felt best represented the range of suggestions it received.
"We have some very clear advice that this has to really represent New Zealand clearly, it must be unmistakably from New Zealand and the symbols that you see on the flag there now are the ones that we though most represent this country."
Revealing the top 40 was a chance to let people in on the selection process, said Mr Burrows.
"We wanted to show the public where we were at because they've been so helpful with their suggestions, putting in so many designs – so we thought it was a bit unfair to close the door right now.
"We also wanted to show people that there is a real choice out there."
There are 30 designers represented in the list of 40.
Both Kyle Lockwood and Sven Baker have five designs in the list.
Artist Otis Frizzell, the son of Dick Frizzell, has two designs in the top 40.
People will get to rank the final four designs in the first referendum, which will be held later this year.
Where to from here for a new New Zealand flag?