NZers decide to keep flag

NZers decide to keep flag

New Zealanders have officially spoken and they've said yeah, nah to a new flag.

Preliminary results from the historic second referendum have been released and it shows a majority were against change.

The counted ballots show 1,200,003 votes were cast to keep the current flag, compared to 915,008 for the Kyle Lockwood-designed blue and silver fern design.

Final results are expected on March 30, but it is unlikely to change the outcome.

The Electoral Commission says a total of 2,124,507 voting forms were received, a turnout of 67.3 percent of voters, making it one of the most successful postal referendums in the country's history.

Despite apparent hostility towards the process and the referendums, there were only 4554 invalid votes cast.

Voting in the second referendum by far exceeded the first vote which picked the official alternative flag with only 48.78 percent of the voting public returning their ballot.

While Kiwis will continue their lives as normal from tomorrow knowing nothing has changed on the flag front, there will likely be more political fallout around the $26 million cost of the referendums.

Just minutes after the results, the Green Party called the referendums a "major failure" for John Key, "who politicised the process" and cost the country the opportunity for real change.

But Deputy Prime Minister Bill English tonight stood by the process, calling it "robust" and democratic, which opened up a conversation about who New Zealanders are on the world stage.

At a press conference at Auckland's International Airport tonight, Mr Key spoke of his slight upset but remained positive.

"Obviously I'm naturally a little bit disappointed that the flag didn't change tonight, but I think there's a huge amount New Zealand can be very proud of," he says.

He was talking about the record turnout -- he says once all the votes are counted, nearly a million Kiwis would have voted for the Lockwood design.

There were differing views in RSAs across the nation.

A group of around 100 gathered at the Papanui RSA, and they were pleased with the result. Many of them had spent more than a decade in the Army, Air Force, or Navy.

"I've served under that flag four times overseas," says Stu Rankin. "I'm very, very proud of that flag."

Meanwhile at the Birkenhead RSA, patron Allan Eriksen thought the country had missed an opportunity.

"No I'm not at all happy, I thought it was a great chance to change our image. I think it's a sad day," he said.