UK & World News

  • 29 January 2014, 12:35

New Zealand Could Drop Union Jack From Flag

The Union Jack could disappear from New Zealand's flag after the country's prime minister mooted the possibility of a referendum on changing its design.

Prime minister John Key told reporters a black flag with a silver fern might be more appropriate.

"The silver fern is something that applies to our greatest sporting teams and so many other things we do," he said.

"It has international recognition and sometimes our flag gets confused with Australia's."

A referendum on changing the flag could be held at the same time as this year's general election, but Mr Key says it is not a priority.

"It's something that may be worthy of consideration, we would have to discuss it with senior ministers to decide whether it's an issue we want to progress," he said.

"It's not on my agenda now, it's not a number one issue, but it's certainly a decision we have to make as to whether or not to progress it."

New Zealand's flag is the British Blue Ensign with the Union Jack in the top-left corner, along with the four stars of the Southern Cross.

Mr Key thinks a referendum should present a simple choice of two alternatives, otherwise it would be confusing.

While many are open to the idea, the proposal has been criticised by some as being inappropriate and insensitive, especially to those who fought and died under the flag.

Traditionalists argue it is right to maintain a symbol of the historically-strong relationship with the UK.

John Banks, leader of New Zealand's Act party said: "No. Men fought under that flag and sacrificed their lives in many war campaigns.

"I'm a bit old-fashioned, I don't want the name of the country changed, or the flag, or God Save the Queen."

Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, said it should be sorted out and that a "long conversation" with New Zealanders would be needed.

"I don't think we could do it in eight months," he said.

"The debate should last at least two-and-a-half years and then put to a referendum."

The New Zealand flag debate has come up numerous times in recent years.

In July 2013, a poll by TV3's The Vote programme found 39% of respondents would keep the flag while 61% would change it.

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