Kiwis support keeping flag and Queen

By Derek Cheng

Most New Zealanders want to keep the national flag with its Union Jack and retain the Queen as head of state - but three out of four have no idea who the next Governor-General should be.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 people, conducted before Christmas, shows that 72 per cent of respondents support keeping the current flag with its Union Jack and the four stars of the Southern Cross.

Twenty-two per cent said they wanted a new one, while 6 per cent did not know or refused to answer.

The mood for change is significantly higher among men (28 per cent) than women (16 per cent).

The results are in stark contrast to a Herald-Digipoll survey in February last year, when 52 per cent said it was time for a new flag design. A majority of those in favour of change wanted a design based on the silver fern.

At the time, businessman Lloyd Morrison, a strong advocate of changing the flag, said publicity about the issue usually meant a greater mood for change. The February poll took place as the Herald ran articles to stir debate about changing it.

The latest poll also asked people if they wanted New Zealand to become a republic when Queen Elizabeth dies.

More than a third opted for a republic, but a majority - 55 per cent - still wanted the Queen as New Zealand's head of state.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, who describes himself as a soft monarchist, has floated the idea of changing to a republic when the Queen dies.

But while most people support the status quo, few have an idea about who should be the next Governor-General, the Queen's official representative.

Almost three out of four did not know or refused to answer.

Former prime minister Helen Clark topped the list with 6 per cent support, ahead of former television host Paul Henry on 3 per cent and former Commonwealth Secretary-General and deputy prime minister Sir Don McKinnon on 2 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key is expected to name the next Governor-General soon, as incumbent Sir Anand Satyanand's five-year term will end in August.

In a recent interview with the Herald, Mr Key said he was keeping his cards close to his chest, but he had suggested one name to a senior minister, who replied that the person was "untrustworthy and obnoxious".

Some names suggested in recent months by prominent New Zealanders include Sir Don, former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Mr Key has said that changing the flag or becoming a republic are not issues on his agenda, though he drew a silver fern flag last year when asked to draw his "new New Zealand flag".

The doodle was auctioned for more than $10,000, which went to Cure Kids.

The poll took place between December 3 and December 19 and has a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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