NZ soon to find out fate of flag

  • 24/03/2016
(Simon Wong)
(Simon Wong)

By Sarah Robson

New Zealanders are about to find out if they'll be flying a new flag.

Voting in the second binding referendum on the flag closes at 7pm on Thursday and it's expected a preliminary result will be known by about 8.30pm.

But polling indicates Kiwis are likely to choose to keep the current flag, Union Jack and all, over Kyle Lockwood's black and blue silver fern design.

More than 1.9 million people have already sent in their ballot papers, but Prime Minister John Key expects that number to top 2 million by the time voting closes.

"When some people said this isn't an issue that either captivates the minds of New Zealanders or they're not interested, then actually I think the numbers have proven that to be incorrect," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"People have been very engaged and they've gone out and voted in extremely high numbers."

But Mr Key, who has put his support behind the silver fern design, said it's hard to tell if it'll be a close result.

SEE MORE: Flag vote: How did it come to this? 

He emphasised that New Zealand is the only country in the world that's ever asked its citizens directly whether they want to change their flag.

Mr Key kicked off the discussion about New Zealand's flag back in March 2014, when he announced National's intention to hold a referendum if it was re-elected.

Then-Labour leader David Cunliffe pledged to do the same if his party ended up in power.

Last year, more than 10,000 public flag design submissions were whittled down to a long-list of 40 by the 12-member flag consideration panel.

That became a short-list of four, but public pressure resulted in a fifth alternative flag - Red Peak - being added as one of the options in the first referendum held late last year.

Mr Lockwood's black and blue silver fern design came out on top in that vote, which meant it would go head-to-head with the current flag in this second referendum.

The Electoral Commission is advising anyone who hasn't yet returned their voting papers to get them into a Post Shop postbox.

The official result will be announced on March 30.