Kiwis get chance to vote for new flag
New Zealanders will vote twice over the next two years on whether to change their flag, the government has said.
Next year, voters will choose their favourite alternative flag from several options, and in 2016 they will vote on whether it should be adopted.
Some in New Zealand consider the current flag to be an unwanted relic from a colonial past and too similar to Australia's. Others, including many combat veterans, feel a deep attachment to it.
The current flag features the Southern Cross constellation with Britain's union flag in the top left corner.
Prime minister John Key favours a change and promised to hold a vote if he was re-elected for a third term in September.
"Our flag is the most important symbol of our national identity and I believe this is the time for New Zealanders to consider changing it to one that better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation," he said.
When Mr Key first raised the idea of a flag vote in March, he said he favoured changing the design to a silver fern set against a black background, an image that is popular among New Zealand's sports teams including the national rugby squad, the All Blacks.
The government said several alternatives will be chosen for next year's vote by a panel of "respected New Zealanders" who will be nominated by a group of lawmakers from all political parties.