Prime Minister John Key has ruled out adding the popular 'Red Peak' flag to the upcoming referendum, saying the decision has been made and that's that.
More than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for Red Peak to be included, either as a fifth option or replacing one of the two virtually identical Kyle Lockwood designs.
In only three days nearly $10,000 has been raised on crowdfunding site Pledge Me to make physical copies of the Aaron Dustin design, which was in the 40-strong longlist, but failed to make the shortlist.
Instead, the Flag Consideration Panel chose a black-and-white koru mockingly dubbed the 'hypnoflag' by Twitter users, a stylised fern which bears a striking resemblance to a number of copyrighted designs, including the logo for Government department NZTE and a range of low-cost toilet paper, and two identical layouts featuring both a fern and the Southern Cross, which differ only in their colour palette.
Despite the negative reaction to the four designs, Mr Key says he won't be changing them.
"There was a well set-out process. The committee decided the four, sent them to Cabinet. Cabinet had the right to overrule them but chose not to, accepted their recommendations," he said on the Paul Henry programme.
"To accept any other flag – the All Black one with the silver fern, any other one – we would have to change the law, and we're not going back to Parliament to change the law."
That may not be the case, however. Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler tweeted that adding it as a fifth option would require a law change, but if Red Peak replaced one of the existing options – keeping the number at four – it would only require a "new order in council".
But he doesn't expect it to happen, comparing it to "screwing the scrum".
Mr Key says it wouldn't be fair to supporters of other flags that didn't make the cut, like the silver fern on a black background, for example.
"There'd be a group for that as well," he told TVNZ's Breakfast.
Labour leader Andrew Little has said he won't be voting to choose which alternative flag will go up against the existing one in the second part of the referendum next year, but would reconsider if Red Peak was an option.
The $26 million, two-question referendum has been pitched as the last chance Kiwis will have to change the flag until we become a republic. The first vote takes place in November and December, and in April 2016 the winner will go head-to-head with the existing flag.