Singer-songwriter Lizzie Marvelly was among the 56.6 per cent who voted for the status quo, compelled by her distaste for the alternative, and her attachment to the current flag.

New Zealanders have voted to retain the existing flag, according to results out tonight.

That attachment was the result of having sung the national anthem in front of the existing flag so many times. But she was not against a future change - if people really wanted it.

"It was really great to have the conversation and people started to really think about who we are as a nation. In the future hopefully we will be able to have these conversations about our flag, but when the people really call for it."

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She also understood the flag was problematic for some, including Maori.

"Going forward it would be really great to see some korero around the tino rangatiratanga flag ... I would like to see the tino rangatiratanga and the New Zealand flag flying side by side."

Former rower and Green Party candidate Rob Hamill says tonight's flag result is a "hollow victory".

Mr Hamill voted in favour of the existing flag but not because he did not want change. He did not like the alternative.

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"It's a hollow victory because most people I think would probably prefer to have a new flag ... we're a proud nation, we have our own identity on the world stage and we want to celebrate that but that [alternative] flag ... it just doesn't represent that."

He believed the country would again consider adopting a new flag within the next 10 years.

Former Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, who voted for change, said he was disappointed.

"I do think it is time we put a symbol on the flagpole that speaks more of the country we are, rather than where we've come from. But it's fine, that's democracy."

Prime Minister John Key says he is disappointed with the flag result and that the National Government will not revisit the issue under his leadership.

The relative closeness of the result showed the country was moving towards change, although he worried it could be a long time before another opportunity came to change the flag.

"It was a bold initiative and worth doing. It's taken the temperature of the country."

Broadcaster Gary McCormick wanted change. He was disappointed, but not depressed.

"I think the method wasn't well done ... but I think there will be a change. Another five years and we'll have another go.

"We can't hold onto this Pommie flag forever."

Comedian Guy Williams tweeted: "We didn't win we just chose a slightly less terrible flag."

Kim Dotcom taunted his rival, Prime Minister John Key - a proponent for change - with a short message supporting the results.

World champion cyclist Alison Shanks voted for change and was "really disappointed" by the result.

"As an athlete and a New Zealander travelling around the world, you see what really represents New Zealand, and what the world sees us as, and it really is that silver fern. I think now was a really good time to create that identity one step further and have it on our flag ... I think it's an opportunity lost.

"Maybe we're a country where there's not enough courage to leap forward and make that change."

Lewis Holden is hosting a Change the Flag results party at The Oakroom bar in central Auckland.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger was another high-profile Kiwi who voted for a new flag.

He was disappointed, but the "relatively close" result showed the debate was not over.

"The fact that 43 per cent of New Zealanders voted for change says very simply that there is widespread appetite again to look at our flag.

I think that will continue and I think it will grow.

"The only question is when [the debate] will restart. I would believe perhaps it will be sooner rather than later."

Former broadcaster Bill Ralston wanted a new flag.

Now he'll never see it, he said.

"Next time we change the flag I'll be dead."

His feelings hadn't and wouldn't change.

"Get rid of the Union Jack and let's get a Silver Fern up there. That was my idea but people have voted and that's what we're stuck with."