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New Zealand votes to keep current flag

Published on March 24th, 2016

New Zealand Herald
Auckland, New Zealand (March 24, 2016) – New Zealand’s flag will not change, a referendum has decided. The existing national flag won 56.6 per cent of the vote, compared to 43.2 per cent for the silver fern flag. The total number of votes received was 2,124,507 – a turnout of 67.3 per cent. Of those, just 0.23 per cent were informal votes and 0.21 per cent were invalid votes. Prime Minister John Key says he is disappointed with the flag result and that the National Government will not revisit the issue under his leadership.

Mr Key, speaking to reporters at Auckland Airport this evening, said that he respected New Zealand’s choice of flag. He took some positives from the result, pointing out that nearly 1 million people will have voted for change by the time the final results came in. Mr Key also defended the process, saying it was lengthy and considered.

Asked whether the referendum process had been worth $26 million given it led to no change, he said it had sparked an “enormous”, healthy debate across the country. “You can’t shy away from a debate or a discussion about nationhood,” he said. Just because the referendum did not produce the outcome he wanted “doesn’t mean it wasn’t a worthwhile process”.

“We as a country had a nationwide discussion about our flag, about nationhood, about what we stand for,” Mr Key said. “And I think that’s been an important discussion we not only should have had, but must always have. I don’t think we should shy away from … contentious issues just because they are by nature contentious.” Mr Key said he would now be supporting the current flag.

“What this process has shown over the last three or four months is that we as a country can get out and fly our flag. We can use it, and we can show the world how proud we are of New Zealand. So my only request to New Zealanders now would be to rally behind the flag that’s been chosen by the majority of New Zealanders. To go out and use it, to wave it, to be proud of it, and to celebrate the fact that we’ve got an amazing country.” Mr. Key said.

The result is provisional. A final tally will be announced on Wednesday. When the final result is confirmed, it will bring to a close a two-year process which culminated in the first-ever public vote by a country on its national flag. Prime Minister John Key, an outspoken advocate for change, launched the flag referendum in a speech at Victoria University in March 2014.

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