New Zealand adds fifth design for flag referendum
New Zealanders now have a fifth option to choose from when deciding whether to change their flag after a popular campaign for a geometric design called Red Peak prompted politicians to amend the rules to add it to the original four finalists.
New Zealand's parliament voted overwhelmingly to add Red Peak to a November referendum, after about 50,000 people signed an online petition urging that the design be considered. The vote came after a few weeks of political posturing and manoeuvring on the issue.
A government-appointed panel had earlier narrowed down more than 10,000 designs submitted by the public to four finalists.
But many people felt those designs did not offer enough choice, with three of them featuring silver ferns.
The flag that wins in November will be pitted head-to-head against the current flag in a second nationwide vote next March.
The Pacific nation of 4.5 million people is considering changing its flag because many consider it outdated and too similar to Australia's flag. It features Britain's Union Jack in the top left corner, signalling a colonial past that some are eager to put behind them.
However, there are plenty of New Zealanders who want to keep their current flag. Many veterans fought under it and feel a special bond to it. Others do not like the new designs, or view the process as an expensive stunt initiated by prime minister John Key to distract from more pressing issues.
The two flag votes will cost taxpayers about 26 million New Zealand dollars (£10.7 million).
Mr Key told reporters the government had tried to be pragmatic by adding Red Peak after people had expressed their feelings about it, albeit after the four finalists had already been chosen.
"I think it took a while for people to really engage in the process," Mr Key said.