New Zealand Votes to Keep Its Flag as Voters in New Zealand Rejected a Proposal for a New Flag there by New Zealand Votes to Keep Its Flag as Voters in New Zealand rejected a proposal for a new flag in favor of sticking with the current design.
No Fern in New Zealand: Kiwis Stand by Their Flag, In a historic referendum, the people of New Zealand voted against replacing the country’s flag with a new design.
According to preliminary results announced on March 24, 2016, 57% of New Zealanders opted for the current design over a four-colored flag that incorporated the silver fern, a familiar national symbol.
The vote was the culmination of a decades-long debate. Critics of the current flag, in official use since 1902, have pointed to its similarity to the flags of other countries, most obviously Australia. Indeed, the flags of both New Zealand and Australia are based on a flag known as the British Blue Ensign(a field of blue with the Union Jackin the corner) and include stars representing the Southern Crossconstellation; the resemblance has often caused confusion for the rest of the world. Some people also objected to the continued use of the British Blue Ensign, which derives from New Zealand’s history as a British colony, as inappropriate for an independent and multicultural New Zealand.
In 2014 Prime Minister John Key—who supported changing the flag—called for a two-stage binding referendum to settle the issue. The public was invited to submit designs for a new flag, which were reviewed by a committee and ultimately narrowed down to five options.
In the first stage of the referendum, held in late 2015, voters chose the “Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue)” flag, devised by architectural designer Kyle Lockwood, as the potential alternative to the existing flag. While it maintained the Southern Cross motif, Lockwood’s flag also prominently featured the frond of a silver fern, a plant native to New Zealand. The fern was intended to symbolize New Zealand’s ongoing growth, with the multiple leaflets representing the country’s diverse communities.
In the end, however, the new design failed to gain enough support from the public. Some voters felt it was important to maintain tradition, while others simply found the alternative uninspiring. In response to the result, Key encouraged all New Zealanders to stand by the current flag: “use it, embrace it and, more importantly, be proud of it.”
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