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Preliminary results in New Zealand’s referendum have shown that people want to keep their existing flag.

The national referendum asked whether the flag which includes the Union Jack should be replaced by a design called Silver Fern, which won an earlier ballot.

According to the preliminary results, 56.6% voted for no change, while 43.1% opted for the new design. Just over 2.1 million votes were cast.

Prime Minister John Key had advocated the new flag but called on New Zealanders to “embrace” the people’s decision.

John Key was speaking after the preliminary result was announced following the close of the postal vote at 19:00 local time.

A final result taking into account late ballots will be announced on March 30.New Zealand flag referendum results

John Key said he was disappointed but would support the current flag.

Despite criticism of the cost of the vote and the process, the prime minister argued that it had at least generated discussion.

“You can’t shy away from a debate or a discussion about nationhood,” John Key told reporters.

The existing design features the British Union Jack, a legacy of New Zealand’s days as a British colony and the reason many wanted to change it.

The proposed new design combines four red stars representing the Southern Cross constellation – also seen in the current flag – with a silver fern on a blue background with black infill in the corner – both motifs associated with New Zealand and its famous rugby team.

The Silver Fern was chosen in the first referendum in December 2015 from a shortlist of five candidates.

One of the most vocal groups opposing the flag change was the military veteran group the Returned and Services Association.

The exercise has been mired in controversy from the start.

Many objected to the 12-member panel overseeing the process not including a designer, and the long list whittled down from thousands of entries was said to lack imagination.

Many also described the process as unnecessarily expensive, with the bulk of the NZ$26 million ($17 million) cost going towards conducting postal voting.


Silver Fern – the black, white and blue silver fern design – won New Zealand’s referendum to become a possible new flag, after the final votes were counted, the election commission confirmed.

A second referendum will be held in March to decide whether to adopt the new flag or keep the current one.

The design was named as a preliminary winner on December 11, but this final tally factors in late and overseas votes.

A similar design in red and blue came in a close second.

Both flags were designed by architect Kyle Lockwood. About 1.5 million votes were cast in the referendum, with a voter turnout of 49%, said New Zealand’s election commission.

Photo New Zealand Government

Photo New Zealand Government

Still in third place is Red Peak, a design that was popular on social media and was added to the ballot following an online lobbying campaign.

The winning design, known officially as Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue), happens to be PM John Key’s pick, and he had earlier expressed delight that it had won in the preliminary tally.

New Zealanders were asked to choose which of five designs they preferred.

The referendum has divided opinion in New Zealand over its cost and timing.

The entire exercise is expected to cost around NZ$27 million ($18 million).

Many also took issue with the final five flags on the ballot, saying they were largely uninspiring.

The decision to choose a new flag has been backed by PM John Key, who has said the current one is too similar to Australia’s and that it is time to remove the Union Jack from the current flag.