Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Getting all a-flutter before flag countdown

New Zealanders will next month vote to keep the existing flag or adopt the proposed silver fern design.
Hundreds of New Zealanders are flying the existing and alternative flags side by side ahead of the referendum. Photo / Facebook
Hundreds of New Zealanders are flying the existing and alternative flags side by side ahead of the referendum. Photo / Facebook

More than 350 people, groups and organisations have received the alternative silver fern flag to fly alongside the current national flag ahead of a referendum which will decide between the two.

The two flags have been flying side by side over a number of recognisable structures, including the Auckland Harbour Bridge, ahead of the March postal vote.

The rivals have also been spotted flying in a campsite on Great Barrier Island, on boats in the Marlborough Sounds and Kawau Island, and at beautiful beach locations such as Wainui Beach and Gisborne's Tokomaru Bay, the Flag Consideration Project said.

New Zealand Post's CourierPost, Pace and Rural Delivery drivers have also been given car flags to fly from their vehicles.

More than 350 sets of the two flags - the silver fern design and the current flag - had been sent to communities across the country, a spokeswoman said, with "very positive feedback from the public who have appreciated seeing the flags in real-life situations".

The positivity comes after a number of well-known faces came out in support of changing the flag, with rugby star Dan Carter lending his celebrity to the campaign.

In videos produced by campaign group Change the NZ Flag, Carter urges the public to "join me and vote for change".

The promotional videos also feature Silver Fern Maria Tutaia, New Zealander of the Year finalist Rob Fenwick, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker, playwright Roger Hall, prominent lawyer Mai Chen and actor Oscar Kightley.

Flags flying in Whangaroa. Photo / Facebook
Flags flying in Whangaroa. Photo / Facebook

Campaign chairman Lewis Holden poured cold water on speculation stars were being paid for their endorsements, saying: "Everyone who appeared in our videos did so voluntarily. No one was paid to appear.

"I suspect the reason this has become a conspiracy is because of how well received the video has been."

Mr Holden hinted there would be further promotional videos with prominent New Zealanders to come, but would not disclose when they would be released or whom they would feature.

Voting papers will be sent out from March 3, with voting open on the final binding referendum until March 24. Voters will be asked to choose between the current flag and the alternative design. The flag that gets the most votes will be the official flag of New Zealand.

A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said she could not "make any guesses" what the turnout was likely to be. But 3,148,569 people - or 92.21 per cent of all eligible voters - were enrolled to vote as of January 31.

It was important for New Zealanders to check and update their details if necessary, or enrol now if they had not already, she said. Voters have until March 2 to sign up.

• Visit: Elections.org.nz or call 0800 367656 to enrol.

Flags flying in a Massey garden. Photo / Facebook
Flags flying in a Massey garden. Photo / Facebook

Important dates

Wednesday, March 2
Last chance to enrol to vote.

Thursday, March 3
Voting period begins. Voting papers start being delivered.

Friday, March 11
All voting papers sent to enrolled electors by this date.

Voters who have not received their voting papers can request replacement voting papers at 0800 367656 or at www.elections.org.nz

Monday, March 21
Last guaranteed posting date to ensure your voting papers will reach the Returning Officer in time.

Thursday, March 24
Voting closes at 7pm. Preliminary results to be announced at 8.30pm.

Wednesday, March 30
Official result announced at 5pm.

- NZ Herald

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