New Zealand begins final vote on whether to change its flag
WELLINGTON – The Associated Press
A banner advertises the March flag referendum in Wellington on February 16, 2016. AFP PhotoNew Zealanders have begun a final vote on whether to change their flag from a design which features the British Union Jack to one which features a native silver fern.
A postal ballot began March 3 and will extend over the next three weeks, with preliminary results to be announced March 24.
Organizers say deciding the issue by popular vote represents a world first, and that other countries have changed flags by revolution, decree or legislation.
About three million ballot papers are being distributed in the South Pacific nation of 4.5 million people for the vote, conducted only by post, which closes on March 24.
The result will be binding and John Burrows, the head of a panel overseeing the referendum, said New Zealanders would have to live with their choice far into the future.
“Whatever the decision, this flag will fly for generations to come,” he said.
Opinion polls indicate that New Zealand will opt to stick with its current flag, although proponents of the new design say they have momentum and that more and more people are embracing a change.
Those favoring change say the current flag is too similar to Australia’s and references an outdated colonial past.
New Zealanders chose a silver fern on a black-and-blue background titled “Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue),” as their preferred flag design, officials had said Dec. 11, 2015.
The design had beat four other contenders in a nation-wide referendum.