A series of designs are up for consideration to become a new national flag for New Zealand, after a government-appointed committee picked them from 10,292 ideas submitted in July by members of the public.
The current flag – which features Britain’s Union Flag in its corner and a formation of four red stars denoting the Southern Cross constellation – was adopted in 1902.
But many New Zealanders consider it outdated and too similar to Australia’s ensign. Its use of the UK flag is also opposed by some who consider the country should move on from its colonial past.
However, there are plenty of New Zealanders who want to keep their current flag. Many combat veterans fought under the flag and feel a special bond to it. Others simply do not see any need for a change, or see the process – estimated to cost $17m – as too expensive.
By law, the flag can be changed by a simple majority of parliament. However, the government has said decisions on the flag should be made by all New Zealanders eligible to vote.
The Flag Consideration Panel will choose four final flag designs by mid-September before a national November referendum.
But even then, changing the flag is by no means a certainty. After a favourite alternative flag is chosen, it will be pitted head-to-head with the current flag in a second referendum, to be held next March.
The New Zealand flag has been changed twice. In 1834 the first flag – now known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand – was chosen by Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.
Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Union Flag became New Zealand’s official flag while the current ensign was officially adopted in 1902.