The winner of New Zealand's flag referendum has been announced, with the Kiwis to head to the polls again next year to make a final choice on their flag's future.
New Zealand's decision on whether to change their flag from a design often confused with Australia's flag to one that was more unique has been much publicised. Potential designs were sought during a public consultation period, with five finalists named. A public vote would determine the favourite of those five designs, with the winner then being pitted against the existing flag in a second referendum to decide which flag -- the old or the new -- would be New Zealand's national emblem for the future.
On Friday, the preliminary result of more than 1.3 million votes was announced, with the design of a silver fern on a black and blue background (above) narrowly winning over a similar design on a blue and red background.
The eventual winner actually only got the second-most amount of votes in the initial voting stage, with the eventual second-place flag getting the most primary votes; but after preferences were allocated, the blue and black design won by a hair, with 50.53 per cent of the vote.
After preferences, the referendum was decided by only 13,865 votes (see full voting results here).
In announcing the result, the New Zealand government said voter turnout was only 48 per cent.
Both the final two flags were designed by Kyle Lockwood. He gave a description of the winning design as thus:
The silver fern: A New Zealand icon for over 160 years, worn proudly by many generations. The fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future. The bright blue represents our clear atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, over which all New Zealanders, or their ancestors, crossed to get here. The Southern Cross represents our geographic location in the antipodes. It has been used as a navigational aid for centuries and it helped guide early settlers to our islands.
The government has stressed this is a preliminary result, with the official announcement of results to come on Tuesday. The winning flag from this referendum will then compete against the existing flag in a second referendum in March.
"The second referendum on the New Zealand flag will be held between 3-24 March 2016. Voters will be asked to choose between the most preferred flag design selected in this referendum and the current flag. The flag that receives the most votes will be the official flag of New Zealand," the government said.