New Zealand vote on new flag designs begins

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Wellington (dpa) – New Zealanders began receiving their voting papers on Friday in the first part of a two-stage postal referendum on whether to change the nation’s flag.

Voters are being asked to rank a short list of five designs in order of preference before the most popular design faces a run off in March against the country’s existing flag which features the British Union Jack and the four stars of the southern cross on a navy blue background.

The shortlisted designs were increased from four to five after public criticism that the alternatives, inspired by the country’s native silver fern, were too similar. The fifth flag alternative is a geometric red peak design based on a traditional Maori weaving pattern.

Voting in the first stage of the referendum closes on December 11.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English urged New Zealanders to take the chance to vote in the referendum.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Very few governments around the world have ever asked their citizens for their views on the design of their national flags.

“I’d encourage everyone who is eligible to vote to have their say and choose the flag they feel best represents New Zealand’s proud, pioneering past and its exciting ambitious future.”

The Electoral Commission aims to announce the official result of the first stage of the referendum on December 15.

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