John Key: NZ flag referendum 'last chance for change' until republic discussion

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, left and Hutt mayor Ray Wallace with their flag of choice ahead of the coming flag referendum.
ROSS GIBLIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, left and Hutt mayor Ray Wallace with their flag of choice ahead of the coming flag referendum.

The current referendum on New Zealand's flag will be the last opportunity Kiwis have to make a change unless the country becomes a republic, Prime Minister John Key says.

Voting on the second stage of the flag referendum opens on Thursday, with the current New Zealand flag boasting a healthy lead in most recent polls.

A One News Colmar Brunton poll released last week showed that while 63 per cent want to keep the current flag, only 26 per cent - barely more than a quarter - favour the alternative Kyle Lockwood Silver Fern design.

Prime Minister John Key says National's internal polling is more positive about the possibility of a change of flag.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister John Key says National's internal polling is more positive about the possibility of a change of flag.

Labour voters were strongly against a change, with 76 per cent planning to vote for the current flag.

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Key told Radio NZ that National's internal polling was more positive than public polls, showing "less than half" would definitely vote for the current flag, with that number dropping as people "firm up which way they're going".

"The polling we see, the numbers of people who are decided and say, 'I definitely will vote for the current flag' is falling, and so what you see in the public polls at the moment is all of the undecideds, all of the possible 'Go with the existing flag' [voters] being geared up to the no vote."

While it was still "very early days" for the final vote, It was possible that there would be a strong vote against changing the flag, but the referendum would still have been worthwhile.

"The purpose here isn't for me to get a flag I want - I'm simply one vote out of the millions of people who may vote.

"The whole purpose of this was to give New Zealanders the chance to decide which flag they think represents them best going forward."

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Critics of the Government should not vote against changing the flag solely to spite them, Key said.

"If Labour and Green voters decide they're going to vote for the current New Zealand flag, solely on the basis they're giving the Government a black eye and hurting me personally, then they're completely and utterly failing, because we poll a lot, we poll in electorates, we poll across the country, and what I can tell you is our numbers have virtually never been stronger and my personal numbers are very strong."

If Kiwis did not vote in favour of change now, they would not get another opportunity until New Zealand became a republic, which Key believed would not happen during his lifetime.

"If [the flag] doesn't change, it will just become folklore that it becomes politicised and therefore it's really impossible to get there, because to win and get the change of flag, you need people to vote on what they believe, not on party political lines."

People who voted against changing the flag to damage Key's popularity would " wake up in a few months' time and realise what a terrible mistake they've made, because it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to me", he said.

 

 - Stuff

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