New Zealand has voted to keep its traditional flag in a snub to the prime minister, John Key. Preliminary results announced at 8.30pm local time on Thursday showed that 1,200,003 (56.6%) of voters wanted to keep the Union flag-centred emblem. Only 915,008 (43.2%) opted for the proposed new design by Kyle Lockwood featuring a silver fern. The results of the referendum, which is estimated to have cost NZ$26m (£12m), are expected be confirmed next Wednesday. The long-serving and popular Key had strongly supported the flag change but it was not enough to win a majority, with many suspicious of him trying to use the issue to build a legacy. However, he said after the results were announced that New Zealanders should embrace the current flag and “more importantly, be proud of it”.
Deputy prime minister Bill English said there had been a “robust democratic process” that allowed New Zealander “to discuss who we are and how we want to be represented on the world stage”.
“I acknowledge there will be those who are disappointed with the outcome, but the majority of New Zealanders have spoken and we should all embrace that decision.
“This process has engaged Kiwis in their homes, in their schools and in their workplaces, here in New Zealand, and right around the world – it is something we’ve all had a point of view on.”