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Thursday, 24 March 2016 - 12:57
New Zealand Flag Referendum Set To Reveal Result
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New Zealanders are waiting to hear whether they will have a new flag, as a referendum on whether to replace their existing one draws to a close.

The existing design features the British Union Flag, a legacy of New Zealand's days as a British colony and the reason many want to change it.

But opinion polls suggest New Zealanders have voted against change.

Close to two million people have cast a ballot, a turnout of 61%, says New Zealand media.

The proposed new design is called Silver Fern. It combines four red stars representing the Southern Cross constellation, found in the current flag, with a silver fern and black in the corner - both motifs also associated with New Zealand and its famous rugby team.

It was chosen in the first stage of the referendum last December from a shortlist of five candidates, itself chosen by a panel from a longer list of 40. The long list was criticized for lacking imagination, featuring many striking similar designs just in different colors.

Prime Minister John Key is in favour of the change, describing it as a once-in-a-generation chance to update the national symbol.

"It's fundamentally about taking the Union Jack off and putting the silver fern on," he has said.

The possible new design was created by Kyle Lockwood, a New Zealander living in Australia.

Despite winning the support of former All Black rugby captain Richie McCaw, who said the existing flag was too similar to Australia's, the proposed design has been criticized as uninspiring by some.

Actor Sam Neill said: "This ugly beach towel is no alternative. It's hideous."

A final result taking into account late ballots will be announced on coming Wednesday.

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