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Prime Minister John Key's favoured design for a fresh flag is being compared to that used by brutal Islamic State militants.
Key, who is pushing for a referendum on a new flag next year, is known to favour a silver fern on a black background.
But Tom Burton, head of the Flags Society of Australia, said the design resembles the black and white banner of the Islamic State.
"A black flag doesn't have good acceptance right now," he said.
Key responded via a spokeswoman, saying "in terms of design for a new flag, again it will be for the people of New Zealand to have input into and decide".
"It's very early days in the process but any design issues will likely be taken into account by the steering group once it is established."
Retired broadcaster Murray Deaker is a strong supporter of the silver fern. He laughed at the suggestion it might be mistaken for the IS colours. "That is the usual Aussie wind-up. They know that a black flag would be even more powerful. [The silver fern] is recognised worldwide as the symbol of our country, as something we have all taken huge pride in," Deaker said.
The flag furore gained new momentum yesterday as The Times newspaper in the UK reported on what it called a growing movement against the Union Jack in the Pacific, citing Key's labelling of it as a relic and Fiji's new prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, saying he wants a new flag to reflect a sense of national renewal.
Harold Scruby, who heads lobby group Ausflag, said Australia should also get on board. "We will have a very red face [if NZ changes]. It will make Australians look at their flag with a different perspective."
Islands that retain the Union Jack - Niue, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands - will also change, he said.
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- Sunday Star Times