This combination of images made on Sept. 24, 2015, from an image released Aug. 11, 2015, by the New Zealand Flag Consideration Project shows five designs which are finalists being considered as the new flag for New Zealand in Wellington, New Zealand. (New Zealand Flag Consideration Project via AP/Nick Perry)
New Zealand’s potential new flag features ferns
December 17, 2015
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New Zealanders know what their potential new national flag may look like. But they're not quite set on the color.
In a postal ballot, New Zealanders chose from among five designs. Both of their favorites feature the country's iconic silver fern next to the stars that make up the Southern Cross constellation. The only difference is, one flag is black and the other is red.
Preliminary results showed the black option narrowly leading the red in a race that's too close to call. Not all votes have been counted.
Whichever flag wins will be pitted head-to-head against the current flag. That second vote will be held in March.
The winning design has similarities to the current flag. It retains the four red stars representing the Southern Cross. But it ditches the British Union Jack in favor of the fern. The fern has become a national symbol and is worn by many sports teams. That includes the beloved All Blacks rugby team.
New Zealanders were choosing among five options for an alternative flag. Two were designed by Kyle Lockwood with the color in the top left corner black in one design. It is red in the other.
Figures from the Electoral Commission indicated it had received 1.53 million votes by Dec. 11. That represented 48 percent of eligible voters in the country of 4.6 million people.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said in a statement the results showed there was a strong public interest in the process.
"New Zealanders can now turn their attention to deciding whether to keep the current flag. Or replace it," he said.
But opposition leader Andrew Little said many people had protested the referendum. They cast votes that were ineligible to be counted. About 10 percent of all votes were ineligible.
Initially there were only four alternative flag options slated for the ballot. But a popular campaign for a geometric design called "Red Peak" prompted lawmakers to amend the rules to add it to the finalists. Red Peak ended up finishing a distant third behind the Lockwood designs.
Many in New Zealand consider the current flag to be outdated. Other critics believe it is too similar to Australia's flag. The Union Jack, or Union Flag, harks back to a colonial past that many New Zealanders are eager to put behind them. New Zealand sometimes comes under the shadow of Australia, its larger neighbor. Having flags that are almost identical only compounds that problem.
However, there are plenty of New Zealanders who want to keep their current flag. Many veterans fought under the flag. They feel a special bond to it. Others simply don't see any need for a change. Or they view the process as an expensive stunt initiated by Prime Minister John Key to distract from more pressing issues.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do New Zealanders want a new flag?
Write your answers in the comments section below