New Zealanders are to get a chance to vote on a new flag for their country, which could replace its existing graphic featuring the Union Jack. After reviewing over 10,000 design submissions from the public, the country’s Flag Consideration Panel has announced a list of 40 proposals. Four of these will be put to a public vote to determine whether a new flag will be instated.

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In May this year, the 12-strong panel challenged New Zealanders to suggest their own designs to replace the country’s existing flag, which was originally created in 1869 and officially adopted in 1902.

Previously the country had flown the United Tribes flag, which was chosen in 1834 to facilitate trade, as well as unify Maori chiefs.

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The decision to challenge New Zealand’s existing flag has been led by prime minister John Key, who has commented that the current design “symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.” Key has also commented on the obvious similarities between the Australian and New Zealand flags.

The new designs were submitted in response to a countrywide public engagement programme, which saw the panel launch a road show, visit malls, libraries and markets. Resource kits were given to members of the public and schools to encourage participation.

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New Zealanders were asked to consider and share their thoughts on the qualities that distinguished the country, and how its culture and values could best be portrayed in a new flag design.

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After receiving a total of 10,292 designs, all of which were revised by the panel, the longlist of 40 designs will be reduced to four potentials. The public will be given the opportunity to vote on a single finalist later this year. The proposed new design will then be pitted against the existing flag in March 2016, when the public will decide whether to adopt the new flag or keep the existing one.

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