Battle Heats Up Over New Zealand's Flag

new zealand flag
Factory worker Dion Williams looks at new design ideas for the national flag of New Zealand laid out on a table at a factory in Auckland, New Zealand, November 24. New Zealanders could be a step closer to getting a new flag after the first phase of a two-part referendum wrapped up on Friday, but many people are not in the mood for change. The current flag features Britain's Union Jack in the corner and four red stars in a Southern Cross formation, indicating New Zealand's location in the South Pacific. Prime Minister John Key announced a referendum this year to settle the question and called for designs. More than 10,000 entries, including flags bearing the native kiwi bird and sheep, were whittled down to a short-list of five and the vote on Friday is aimed at settling on the favorite. Rafael Ben-Ari/Reuters

New Zealand's search for a new flag heated up this week, as 1.5 million voters turned out to show their preference for the future symbol of the island nation.

As The Guardian explains, the New Zealand government started a search for a new flag this past summer. More than 10,000 flag designs were submitted, including many silly ones, and a panel set about narrowing down the options to put to a vote. Initially, the government panel planned to offer four options to voters, but a fifth was added due to "public pressure," the newspaper says.

The designs included two by Kyle Lockwood, both named Silver Fern; one came in red, white and blue and the other was in black, white and blue:

Silver Fern Flag (Blue) by Kyle Lockwood

— Flagpost (@flagpostnz) August 31, 2015

Silver Fern Flag by Kyle Lockwood

— Flagpost (@flagpostnz) August 31, 2015

Koru, by Andrew Fyfe, features a swirl of sorts in black and white:

Silver Fern, by Alofi Kanter, not to be confused with Lockwood's fern, is also black and white:

Silver Fern Black and White by Alofi Kanter

— Flagpost (@flagpostnz) August 31, 2015

Red Peak, by Aaron Dustin, is black, blue, white and red:

Though voting has technically concluded this week, mailed-in votes will be counted until December 15 if postmarked by Friday. As a result, the final results of the election won't be available until after that.

According to the Guardian reporter Elle Hunt, of the votes counted thus far, the black, white and blue Silver Fern received 50.53 percent, compared to 49.47 percent for the red variation. However, these results are still preliminary, and the voting won't be over on the 15th: From there, the winner will face off against the current New Zealand flag:

So this is the choice. Incumbent vs challenger. Whether you like it or not, the people have spoken #NZflag

— Kamahl Santamaria (@KamahlAJE) December 11, 2015

"The Prime Minister has always been a fan of the Lockwood designs. It's important to note that this is just a preliminary result, with a small chance the preferred flag could change between now and the final result on Tuesday," a spokeswoman for John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, told the New Zealand Herland. "Once we have the final result, New Zealanders will have a clear choice whether to change our flag or keep our existing one."