Two thirds of people want to keep the current flag according to a poll taken just before the first flag referendum voting papers arrived in letterboxes across the country.

In the latest 3News Reid Research Poll, 65 per cent said they wanted to keep the current flag, while 28 per cent wanted to change - similar figures to two months ago indicating the shortlisted flags have done little to budge opinion.

The poll was taken from November 9 - 17, ending just before voting papers for people to rank their preferred alternative designs started arriving in letterboxes last Friday.

Although Prime Minister John Key has campaigned for a change of flag, more than half of National voters wanted to keep the current flag as well as three quarters of Labour voters.

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It comes as Mr Key was accused of being "tasteless" by Labour leader Andrew Little for linking an image used to mark Jonah Lomu's death to the flag issue.

Mr Key was speaking on the Paul Henry breakfast show about the Irish Examiner's front page featuring a white fern on a black background with one frond falling to the ground - an image which went around the world in the days after the rugby legend's death.

Front page tribute to Jonah Lomu in the Irish Examiner. Photo / Irish Examiner
Front page tribute to Jonah Lomu in the Irish Examiner. Photo / Irish Examiner

It was a beautiful image and showed the silver fern was seen as a symbol of New Zealand internationally, while the current flag was not, Mr Key said.

Mr Key's preference of the shortlisted designs is Kyle Lockwood's black, white and blue design.

The 3News Reid Research poll of 1000 eligible voters had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 per cent.

The five choices for a new New Zealand flag:

Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) by Kyle Lockwood. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) by Kyle Lockwood. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) by Kyle Lockwood. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) by Kyle Lockwood. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Fern (Black and White) by Alofi Kanter. Photo / Getty Images
Silver Fern (Black and White) by Alofi Kanter. Photo / Getty Images
Koru by Andrew Fyfe. Photo / Getty Images
Koru by Andrew Fyfe. Photo / Getty Images
Red Peak by Aaron Dustin. Photo / Getty Images
Red Peak by Aaron Dustin. Photo / Getty Images