Flag not priority for citizens

ANNA PEARSON AND VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014

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Cantabrians say the Government should focus on things other than the design of the country's flag.

A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll has found that only 38.6 per cent do not want a change to the current blue ensign incorporating the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.

However, only a slim majority, 41.6 per cent, wanted a change. The remaining 19.8 per cent were either apathetic or did not know.

The Press yesterday asked people on the streets of Christchurch for their views and found most believed there were causes more worthy of national attention.

Riccarton student Lee Jin, 24, said:

"I would just like it to stay the same."

Addington statistician Sonia Polak, 21:

"Imagine how complicated [changing it] would be. You would just confuse the whole world."

Menzo Barrish , 28, drain surveyor:

"I would rather get Novopay replaced than the New Zealand flag."

Priscilla McDaniel, 42, homeless woman:

"It has been the same flag forever. [The Government] should spend some money on building some houses in Christchurch. A flag is not going to keep all the homeless warm."

Ellie Dugdale, 11, of Loburn:

"It should be the silver fern ... [that is] quite Kiwi."

KIWIS COOL ON FERN FOR NZ FLAG

Fewer than two in five Kiwis want to retain the current flag, despite its defenders arguing it is the standard our troops fought and died for.

A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll has found that only 38.6 per cent do not want a change to the blue ensign incorporating the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.

But with almost 19 per cent "not bothered either way", the call for a change, put on the table for debate by Prime Minister John Key this month, is hardly overwhelming either.

The survey found that just under 18 per cent wanted the flag replaced with the silver fern - Key's personal favourite - while another 23.7 per cent want a change to something other than the silver fern.

Key said the result was a strong starting point, with a narrow majority even before a campaign had begun. "My instinct would be that more coverage would more strongly make the case for change. I take a lot of heart from the poll."

Most political leaders have supported a debate about the flag and Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae also said it was time to look at choosing a fresh flag.

The Cabinet is expected to decide soon on whether to go ahead with a referendum on the flag - a possible two-step process that would gauge the mood for change and then pick a favourite in a run-off.

"Whether we push the go button and how it works are the things we are talking about," Key said.

Surprisingly, the poll shows the strongest support for the current flag from those aged under 30 (47.2 per cent). The mood for a change was highest in the 45-64 age bracket.

The RSA has been among the most vigorous defenders of the status quo. When a change was suggested, its president, Don McIver, said a large majority of his members would not want change. "It has a significant emotional hold on our membership."

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But as the debate about the flag rumbles on, driven in part by a call for a flag that is distinctly different from Australia's ensign, voters are clearly against a common currency with Australia. In the survey of 1018 respondents from February 8-10, 50.1 per cent were opposed, with 41.5 per cent in favour and 8.4 per cent undecided.

- The Press

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