Nevertheless, it might well be the most fun.
For the past month, New Zealand’s voters have been asked to choose from among five options (narrowed down from a larger finalist field of 40 designs) in a postal-based referendum that began on November 20 and ended on December 11. Less than 50% of eligible voters took part in the voting.
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The winner, by a very narrow margin, was a one of three designs to feature the silver fern, a symbol that, increasingly since the end of the 19th century, has become associated with New Zealand — on its coins and its coat of arms, on the logo of its national football team. The silver fern, cyathea dealbata, is a species endemic to New Zealand.
The ubiquity of the silver fern in three of the original four finalists drew so much criticism from anti-fern proponents that the flag panel actually added a fifth design, a stylized ‘red peak’ to the list of choices (though like the other two designs, it polled far behind in single digits).
The winning design (with a black and blue background) defeated a similar design (with a red and blue background) that was, in fact, designed by the same artist, Kyle Lockwood:
When the other three options were eliminated, the black/blue variant took 50.58% of the vote to 49.42% for the alternative design.
Voters will endure yet another round of voting between March 3 and March 24 to choose between the new ‘silver fern’ finalist and the current flag, a blue flag that features the four-star ‘Southern Cross’ constellation with the British ‘Union Jack’ in the upper-left quadrant:
For years, New Zealanders have complained that the flag, alternatively, perpetuates its status as a former colony, fails to recognize the indigenous Maori community and, above all, too closely resembles Australia’s flag:
Critics of the flag debate chide prime minister John Key for the expense involved with the referendum and what they find to be the unnecessary complexity of the process.