By 3 News online staff
The independent Flag Consideration Panel has copped criticism from Labour after it was revealed they received just four hours of design advice a month before the flags were announced.
The need to "cobble together" the advisory group, of which two were designers – one a creative director at Nike – showed what a mistake it was not to have a designer on the panel, Labour's arts, culture and heritage spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says.
"This is just further evidence of this shambolic and costly exercise. It meant the panel then had to try and fill that gap by pulling together an advisory group."
Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show the groups met on July 29, where the advisory group discussed which designs might be problematic, which ones would be strong and recommended the panel "revisit the range of designs with a view to include more geometric/reductive designs in the longlist".
Ms Ardern says it won't be known how much the panel took that advice on board, except that the feedback was "taken into consideration".
Arts, Culture, and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry has been open about her preference for the flag, saying that she liked the existing flag but was open for a change.
"For me the silver fern will always represent our country as it does on the gravestones of our fallen in cemeteries around the world," she wrote on her Facebook page.
"Retaining the four stars of the Southern Cross is for me an important link to our current flag. Initially I’d favoured the black edged fern flag, but after having the flags displayed in my office it seems to me the red flag stands out more."
Meanwhile, official documents also show flag panel member and a MediaWorks director Julie Christie declared a conflict of interest which were noted as "minor" by the panel.
Ms Christie is an advisory board member on NZ Trade and Enterprise organisation New Zealand Story which approves the use of the Fern Mark image on the black and white flag in the shortlist, The New Zealand Herald reports.
She declared two conflicts of interest at a meeting on July 30 – as part of NZ Story and a member of the commercial committee of the New Zealand Rugby Union. It was the same day the NZ Story board approved the use of the Fern Mark on a new flag.
A spokeswoman for the panel said Ms Christie "excluded herself from any discussions in relation to designs that included those particular ferns".
Any conflict was appropriately managed, she said.