New Zealand has voted to keep their old flag in a national referendum that pitted the colonial relic against a fern-and-star design widely panned for looking like a beach towel.
The current flag came in with 56.6 percent of the vote to the new alternative's 43.2 percent, a much slimmer majority than polling suggested. The postal ballot achieved a high turnout of 67.3 percent, with 2,124,507 people casting votes.
The flag change process, which lasted nearly a year and cost $26 million, had many controversial and downright entertaining moments. The submission of a kiwi shooting lasers from its eyes didn't make the short list, but parliament passed a special bill to allow the Red Peak design onto the ballot after a people-led campaign that echoed loudly from the Twitterverse. The discovery of some guy who had collected 300 of his mates' voting forms and voted for the new flag didn't appear to have an impact on the overall result
Ultimately, the flag change was seen as a legacy project for Prime Minister John Key, the new flag's biggest champion. At a post-result press conference he admitted to being "disappointed." "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," said Key.
News broke Thursday evening that we'd be keeping the old model, so VICE took to the streets of Auckland to get some reactions.
Selina, 23, conference coordinator
VICE: Hey Selina, how do you feel about the flag news?
Selina: Good. I think it's better it stays the same. I think that people develop an identity with the national flag and it's weird to randomly start wanting to change it. I voted for the original.
Has it affected your opinion of John Key?
It's not changed my opinion but I think it's better with this outcome. It saved more money than what would have been spent.
Jack, 28, bouncer
How do you feel about the flag news?
I'm sick of people thinking that we're similar to the Australian flag. I was for getting rid of that, what do you call that little square?
The Union Jack.
Yeah, the Union Jack. I wanted something that represents us as New Zealanders. Just having the fern on it. When you look at that new flag, it's New Zealand.
Would you have preferred a different design?
I was more going towards the same design but with the red background, instead of the black.
Has it changed your idea of John Key?
Did John Key come up with the idea to change the flag? That could be the first thing that I get together with John Key on. Everything else, I'm not a big fan.
Eddie, 19, musician
Hi Eddie, how do you feel about the flag news?
I don't know what I expected. I think I expected it to change. I prefer the old one. I think it's kind of a wasted gesture to change it when we're still part of the Commonwealth. And the new one was ugly.
If there were a different design, would you have been willing to change?
Has this new flag thing changed how you see John Key?
I don't support it as a legacy project for him. It's what all CEOs want to do. They want to leave a mark. I don't think it's the biggest issue in the world.
Alma, 25, bar assistant
Hi Alma, how do you feel about the news the flag?
I'm happy with that. I think it should stay the same. We had people fight for that flag.
Did you vote for it?
I haven't got it in the mail yet.
Would you have voted for change if there were a different option?
That Maori flag. Tino Rangatiratanga.
How has this affected your opinion of John Key?
I've always felt the same way about him. I don't really know the guy but I think he could do some better things. There are starving children out there.
Billie, 28, musician/art student
What do you think about the flag news?
I think it's fucking bullshit because we should have kept the flag. It's a gigantic waste of time.
We've got the same flag.
What! Yay! I think it's good. It really doesn't matter because the people we have in power are spending the budget wrong.
What did you vote for?
The old flag.
Has it affected your opinion of John Key?
It's stayed more or less the same with the cover-up policies. What's a great way to distract people who aren't up with the play with the policies that are being put forward? Hey, let's talk about this flag. Rather than the TPPA. Or the pull of all this funding from Rape Crisis. Or the rights as a New Zealander that you have to free counselling sessions. That ain't in the media. The flag is something simple and easy that we can all talk about.
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