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New Zealand’s Flag Referendum Will Pit Silver Fern Against British Empire

New Zealand has chosen a finalist to go up against the traditional flag in a nationwide vote in March.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 12:  Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue), by Kyle Lockwood, flies on top of the Wellington Town Hall on October 12, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. The Flag Consideration Panel has narrowed down to the five flags which will then go to referendum later this year.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 12: Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue), by Kyle Lockwood, flies on top of the Wellington Town Hall on October 12, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. The Flag Consideration Panel has narrowed down to the five flags which will then go to referendum later this year. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

If New Zealand votes to replace their traditional flag in a nationwide referendum in March, the new one will likely be black, white, and blue, and embellished with a silver fern and the Southern Cross constellation — the four-star pattern that appears on New Zealand’s current flag as well.   

Over the past few weeks, voters were given the chance to mail in their top choices out of five contenders to go up against the traditional flag in next year’s vote. The preliminary winner was announced Friday, though the final results will reportedly be announced Tuesday, after votes that came in late or from overseas have also been tallied.

Prime Minister John Key has repeatedly complained the old flag looks far too much like Australia’s and even claims he has been accidentally seated beneath Australia’s flag at public events. Both of the two rivals have flags that feature the British Union Jack, which Key has called outdated.

The winning flag and the runner-up were designed by Kyle Lockwood, whose two designs were among more than 10,000 submitted in the initial competition. A panel commissioned with overseeing the flag redesign chose a list of finalists in August, then narrowed it down to four in September.

A fifth finalist was added to the mix after a social media campaign complained that the four contenders looked too similar. That design ranked third in the vote results revealed Friday.

Lockwood’s winning design was inspired by the role the silver fern plays in traditional Maori tales. And according to New Zealand lore, the four stars that make up the Southern Cross constellation helped guide early settlers to the island.

Photo credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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