Flag-change backers welcome poll trend

Kyle Lockwood with his winning design, which will go head to head with the present flag in the March poll. Photo/ Mark Mitchell
Kyle Lockwood with his winning design, which will go head to head with the present flag in the March poll. Photo/ Mark Mitchell

Auckland business leaders rubbed shoulders with Cabinet ministers at a flag-change fundraiser that looked to build the sector's support for a new national banner.

About $10,000 was raised from the 40 or 50 who gathered at the event in Auckland's Parnell late last month, where Kyle Lockwood's silver fern flag and bottles of whisky signed by Prime Minister John Key were auctioned off to the highest bidders.

Briscoe Group chairwoman Dame Rosanne Meo and McConnell Group boss David McConnell were among those in attendance, as was Key, ACC Minister Nikki Kaye and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

A new poll, however, shows the flag change campaign still needs all the help it can get - with 48 per cent of those surveyed saying they will definitely vote to keep the existing ensign.

In contrast, 24 per cent of those who took part in the 1000-person poll were sure they would vote to change the flag.

Some 8 per cent of respondents said they would probably vote to keep the flag, while 12 per cent believed they would probably vote for change. About 9 per cent were either unsure or refused to take part in the poll, which was conducted by Curia Market Research, run by National Party pollster David Farrar.

Change the NZ Flag chairman Lewis Holden said the poll results - with 56 per cent in the keep-the-current-flag camp versus 36 per cent pushing for change - showed support for the new banner was increasing and support for the current one was softening.

He compared Curia's numbers with a 3 News Reid Research poll from last September which said 69 per cent of New Zealanders would vote to keep the current flag and that 25 per cent wanted change.

A separate poll by Reid Research this month said 61 per cent of respondents didn't want to change the flag, while 30 per cent did.

Although upbeat about the trend, Holden acknowledged it would be a challenge to get the majority of voters on the side of change, given the referendum begins on March 3.

"We're coming from behind but Kiwis love an underdog," Holden said.

Although nearly half of those in the poll said they definitely would vote to keep the current flag, Holden believed people would mostly make up their minds in the fortnight before the referendum.

We're coming from behind but Kiwis love an underdog.
Lewis Holden, NZ Flag chairman

A big push to convince New Zealanders to vote for change would start this week, he said, with an online and social media campaign to drive support.

The campaign will look to address some of the main objections people have to changing the flag, including that it disrespects war veterans or that now is not the right time to do so.

"There's block of undecideds and they're the one who're probably going to decide this referendum," Holden said. "Remember, too, this is a postal vote so a lot of it will come down to how much we can get our supporters out to vote."

Curia's poll suggests men are more in favour of changing the flag than women. About 40 per cent of men in the poll said they would either definitely or probably vote for change, compared with 32 per cent of women.

There was less of a divergence of views across the generation gap.

Around 56 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 40 and the same proportion of those older than 61 say they are likely to vote to keep the flag.

The proportion from each age group who want to change the flag was also level at 36 per cent.

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett has spoken about his support for the flag change.

"As a parent, I'm mindful that my children and children's children will identify with symbols that are closer to home as opposed to a country 12,000 miles away," he said.

"The Union Jack was appropriate for the past, but now we're ready for a design that's fit for the future.

"Our trade commissioners, diplomats and business leaders overseas know the power of a unique New Zealand identity, which is embodied in the new flag. The economic benefits are significant."

- NZ Herald

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