Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

The beginner's guide to New Zealand's flag dilemmas

The referendum on the flag has put some people into all kinds of dilemma.

In general, people fall into four camps: Those who just want the Union Jack gone, those who want to keep the current flag, those who want change but can't stand the flag on offer and those who think the other flag is an improvement but think we might be able to do better.

There is likely also a group who don't give two hoots about what flag we have. They cannot be helped.

Here's a guide to some of the dilemmas the undecideds face and suggestions to get out of the pickle.

• I want change but the new flag looks like a beach towel.

Think of it in terms of tourism. New Zealand is proud of its beaches and what better way to advertise than flying a beach towel around the world?

• I want change but the new flag looks like a tea towel.

Think of our historic links to Mother England, which introduced tea to New Zealand, and of our modern trading links with India and China, where much of the tea comes from. Ongoing improvements to dishwashers mean the tea towel will become redundant, so the flag won't resemble one.

• I want change but if I vote to keep the current flag we might get a design I like more in a few years.

It is true another vote is likely to happen sooner if we keep the current flag than if change happens now. However, it is difficult to calculate how long people in this camp will have to wait before another chance comes up.

The most precise timeframes given are both pegged to people's longevity. Prime Minister John Key has estimated it will not happen in his lifetime and Andrew Little's timeframes are either when the Queen dies or in 15 to 20 years' time.

Key is 54 and the Queen is 89 but has longevity in her genes. The Queen Mother lasted until she was 101.

It is also unlikely New Zealand will move toward republicanism the moment her reign ends - that would not be polite.

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The other danger is you might get a flag you loathe even more once this timeframe is up.

Technically there is no reason why we cannot change now and change again later when we become a republic. Many countries changed their flags after a change in constitutional arrangements. Many have also refined their flags over time such as changing the proportions, taking elements out or adding them in.

• I want change but I'm peeved we had to spend $26 million on it so I'm not going to vote for it.

Newsflash. There is no refund if the flag doesn't change. In fact, not only does that mean the $26 million was spent for nothing, but it will have to be spent all over again when the next politician decides it's time to change the flag. If the money is the reason for indecision, cast it aside as an issue.

• I want to use my ballot paper to send a message to John Key and vote against his wishes.

Don't waste the ink. The only person who will see it is the Electoral Commission official who counts your vote. That is highly unlikely to be Prime Minister John Key.

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If you want change but think it will hurt Key not to vote for it, you're cutting your own nose off to spite your face. Forget about him.

• I don't mind the design but everyone seems to hate it.

The alternative flag got almost as many votes (559,500) as the Labour Party did (604,500) in 2014, and on a much lower turnout.

Between them the two similar Lockwood flags got 1.1 million votes - slightly more than National got in the last election. So it can't be that unpopular. Do you see Labour claiming they're unpopular or too ugly to vote for?

• I don't want change but I'm peeved at Labour's political point-scoring.

You're voting for a flag, not a Government. Vote on the words up to change.

• I want change but I'm peeved at Prime Minister John Key for running it as his pet project.

Again vote on the first three words.

- NZ Herald

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