A New Zealand flag referendum for voting has begun in the second stage. The public will have until March 24 to send in a postal ballot on whether to change their national flag by choosing to keep the current or by selecting the alternative one called Silver Fern, according to Yahoo News.
The exercise in New Zealand has been controversial with many criticizing the hefty price tag and shortlisted designs. PM John Key says the current one looks too similar to Australia’s and it is time to remove the Union Flag emblem.
The alternative New Zealand flag referendum design, Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue), was designed by architect Kyle Lockwood. The prime minister, who backs the alternative design, said earlier this week it was the country’s last chance for change.
It won the first New Zealand flag referendum in December, where voters could choose which of five designs they would want if the flag were to change. About 1.5 million votes were cast in that referendum.
This time, they are deciding whether they want to abandon the current flag - which was adopted in 1902 and bears the British Union Flag - in favor of Silver Fern. Key has argued for a more distinctive look for New Zealand’s flag, and has said it is also time to drop the Union Jack.
“If they don’t vote for change now, they’ll never get another chance until we become a republic,” he said in a Radio New Zealand interview on Monday, adding that he did not think that would happen within his lifetime given the current popularity of the British royal family.
The New Zealand flag referendum for the Silver Fern was chosen by a committee from a large pool of entries submitted by the public, including designs featuring a kiwi shooting lasers out of its eyes and hand-drawn sheep.
But they were criticized by many as being uninspiring or safe. Many took issue as well with the $18 million cost of the exercise, saying it was expensive and unnecessary.