Backlash overtakes the flag referendum website
The New Zealand flag referendum website has been inundated with messages against a change of flag.
The official Flag Consideration Panel sent out an image on Wednesday showing what it said were the "most frequent themes that reflect our national identity" based on feedback they had received.
The larger words in the image - history, freedom and heritage - were said to be among the most frequently-used terms in feedback on the panel's website.
But the words were often not used in messages that were supportive of the referendum.
'History' was used in this message from Laura: "I stand for leaving the flag as it is. It is a fundamental part of our country's history. Changing it is a disgraceful waste of public money."
The word 'freedom' was included in Brenna's message: "I stand for leaving the flag as is. It is a large part of our past. It symbolises everything New Zealand has accomplished up until now, it holds so many memories for our soldiers that fought for our freedom. We should be proud to be part of the Commonwealth. Why change something that is not broken."
"I stand for leaving our flag alone. What a waste of time and money trying to destroy our heritage!" wrote Alec Anderson.
Flag Consideration Panel chair, Professor John Burrows, said the campaign was generating passionate responses from many New Zealanders.
"There is no presumption in favour of change in this process and the panel is independent of government," he said.
"Our mandate is clear; it is to work within a set budget to lead the nationwide discussion on the future of our flag, and to shortlist four proposed alternative designs for the public to rank in the referendum later this year.
"It is great to see those that are getting involved in genuine discussion about the flag and what makes New Zealand special."
In March 2016, the public will vote to decide whether a new design will in fact replace the current flag.