Wellington, Oct 15:
The New Zealand government is planning to conduct a vote to choose a new national flag by the end of next year, Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday.
In the first referendum, New Zealanders would vote on the best alternative flag from three or four options, chosen by a committee after a public submission process.
In the second referendum, the public would vote whether to change to the winning alternative design or to keep the current flag.
The second vote is likely to be held in April 2016. The prime minister’s office had written to all parties to advise it of the process to select a new flag.
Returned Services Association (RSA) has opposed a flag change on the ground that soldiers fought and died under the current flag.
RSA head Don McIver told Key that the current flag “deserved to be called more than a relic”.
Key initially supported a silver fern on a black background, but said his preferences were changing.
His change of preference was not because of the black design’s similarity with the flag of the Islamic State (IS).
Key still wanted a silver fern, because it was an internationally-recognised symbol of New Zealand’s identity, but he did not believe New Zealanders would want a black flag.