NZ flag views have shifted - Key

John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)
John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)

The final four contenders for the alternative New Zealand flags will be released today, with the Prime Minister saying people's views on it, including his own, will have shifted from their original position.

Cabinet was given an advance look at the four alternatives at their meeting yesterday, which they approved.

John Key wouldn't discuss what those designs looked like at his post-Cabinet press conference yesterday, but said there was a good mix.

"I think there's two or three which could potentially be a new New Zealand flag, and I think it'll be for New Zealanders to decide."

People he'd spoken to had begun to change their minds on where they stand on the debate, and even his own desire for a black flag with a silver fern has been "refined" over time.

The four flags have been whittled down from a longlist of 40, which had itself been chosen from more than 10,000 design submissions.

Lewis Holden, chairman of Change the Flag NZ, says he can't wait to see which designs make the shortlist.

"It's pretty exciting. It's the first time in New Zealand's history we've ever actually been able to vote on a national symbol," he told RadioLIVE.

"I'm pretty sure we'll see uniquely New Zealand symbols, things that we can actually project to the wold that will actually represent us distinctively – which we don't think our current flag does."

Opponents of the flag change debate and referendum have criticised the $26 million cost, with many saying there are better things to spend taxpayers' money on.

Mr Key said he understood their argument, but if the new New Zealand flag which "better reflected the nation and we were more easily identified, there's huge economic benefits and other benefits for New Zealand".

While Mr Key was a "strong proponent" of change, he said he is only one vote of a potential 2.5 million who will have their say in the referendums.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has also backed changing the flag, saying he'd be "more than happy" with a design similar to the silver fern.

"I think it's great there's a debate about it. The All Blacks – the silver fern is what it means to be Kiwi and wearing a black jersey, so I'm obviously biased in that regard.

"You play for your men beside you, the people in your team and the people in New Zealand. Whatever stands for that – that's how I view it."

The silver fern has been talked of New Zealand's answer to Canada's maple leaf, which has adorned their flag since the 1960s.

"There's lots of flag designs that have taken a long time to grow on people," says Mr Holden. "The one that we always talk about at the moment is the Canadian maple leaf. That's one that is now almost universally adored by Canadians."

The first referendum, held later this year, will ask Kiwis which alternative flag is the best. The second will be runoff between the favoured alternative and the current flag.

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