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Odds Are New Zealand’s New Flag Will Feature a Fern

New Zealanders began voting Friday for which flag will compete with the Union Jack in 2016.

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On Sept. 1, New Zealand released the four finalists for its new flag -- all of which in some way incorporated the country’s native silver fern, which appears in traditional Maori tales.

But when New Zealanders began voting for the potential flag replacement Friday, there was a fifth contender that was added to the mix. Voters now have just under a month to send in their preference for a new flag, which will then go up against the traditional Union Jack look alike in another vote next year.

Prime Minister John Key is eager to go with one of the newer options: He’s complained that New Zealand's flag is too similar to Australia's Union Jack -- so much so that he’s even been accidentally seated under the Australian emblem at public events.

On Sept. 1, New Zealand released the four finalists for its new flag — all of which in some way incorporated the country’s native silver fern, which appears in traditional Maori tales.

But when New Zealanders began voting for the potential flag replacement Friday, there was a fifth contender that was added to the mix. Voters now have just under a month to send in their preference for a new flag, which will then go up against the traditional Union Jack look alike in another vote next year.

Prime Minister John Key is eager to go with one of the newer options: He’s complained that New Zealand’s flag is too similar to Australia’s Union Jack — so much so that he’s even been accidentally seated under the Australian emblem at public events.

At least 10,292 flag designs had initially been submitted to a panel overseeing the redesign, which later narrowed the list down to 40, and then to the final four. But Kiwis complained that once it was all said and done, the designs were simply too much alike to take to a nationwide vote.

A social media campaign denouncing the similarities prompted the New Zealand parliament to quickly a pass a bill that added a fifth choice, called the Red Peak, this fall.

The five options are featured below. Although the Koru flag does not as obviously incorporate the fern as three of the others, its designer described it as a combination of a fern-frond, wave, cloud, and ram’s horn. The black and white silver fern is intended to represent yin and yang, whereas the two other fern options — designed by the same artist — feature a constellation known as the Southern Cross, which is thought to have guided early settlers to New Zealand. The Red Peak is meant to symbolize Rangi and Papa, a traditional Maori story about the origins of the world.

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Photo Credit: Government of New Zealand

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