The Government has announced the panel charged with selecting a shortlist of new flag designs, including reality television guru Julie Christie, businessman Rod Drury, former Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and sporting legends Beatrice Faumina and Sir Brian Lochore.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English announced the Flag Consideration Panel today, which will be chaired by John Burrows, the former deputy chancellor of the University of Canterbury. Writer Kate de Goldi is the deputy chair.

Others include Nicky Bell, the chief executive of ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi; former Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin, youth councillor Stephen Jones, academic Malcolm Mulholland and Maori studies academic Hana O'Regan.

Mr English said the group was chosen from names nominated by a cross-party group of MPs. "Each member has committed to undertake the flag consideration process carefully, respectfully and with no presumption in favour of change."

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The process is expected to cost $25.7 million, of which $17.3 million is for the two referenda and the remainder for public consulation.

It will meet in early March and seek public opinion from May to June. Members of the public would be invited to send it ideas for a design for a new flag and the panel will shortlist designs to be put to the public in a referendum later this year.

He said that referendum would be done on a preferential voting system so voters could rank the designs in order of preference.

The most popular would go up agains the current New Zealand flag in a second referendum next year. A bill to legislate for those referenda would be introduced to Parliament soon.

"This process will given New Zealanders the rare privilege of having a say on one of the most important symbols of our nation."

The cross-party panel has MPs from all parties bar NZ First which declined to take part because it objected to the process.