In Brief

New Zealand may ditch Union Flag in 'silver fern' referendum

John Key, New Zealand's PM, promises to hold a referendum on whether to adopt a new flag within three years

NEW ZEALAND is to vote on whether to change its national flag, which currently features the Union Flag alongside a depiction of the Southern Cross.

John Key, the country's prime minister, said the current flag "symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed", and promised a referendum on whether to abandon it within the next three years.

"I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through our flag," he said in Wellington.

The New Zealand Herald reported that MPs would now decide on how the referendum would be run, and "an independent steering group would ensure that the public was consulted and was able to contribute design ideas".

Although no definitive new design has yet been proposed, Key has previously said that he would prefer a silver fern leaf on a black background, similar to the motif used by the All Blacks rugby side and other New Zealand sports teams.

The Guardian says that the prime minister's announcement is likely to receive cross-party support.

"Early indications from the main opposition leaders, who have criticised the prime minister's past flirtations with a change in the flag as an attempt to distract attention from issues such as inequality, are that they will support the process outlined," the paper reported

Even so, Key may not get the result he is hoping for in any future referendum. A poll carried out for a New Zealand TV station last month found that only 28 per cent of people who expressed an opinion wanted a new flag.

And today, a much less scientific poll running on the New Zealand Herald's website shows 45 per cent in favour of keeping the existing flag, 35 per cent in favour of a change and 20 per cent saying their answer would depend on what the new flag looked like.

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