If the kids of Mount Maunganui Primary School are anything to go by, New Zealand will soon have a new flag - but the vote will be close.

The school's pupils yesterday voted in favour of the alternative silver fern design.

Of 445 votes cast, 244 pupils, or 54.8 per cent, supported replacing the current flag with the blue and black Kyle Lockwood-designed ensign.

The remaining 201 children wanted to keep the existing red, white and blue design.

In the war, like World War II and stuff, all the warriors, all the army people, all died. Their graveyards are engraved with the silver fern, not the Union Jack.

Mount Primary held the mock referendum using ballot papers supplied by the Electoral Commission under the free Kids' Voting programme.

The Kids' Voting ballot asks the question, "What is your choice for the New Zealand flag?" and gets children to tick boxes next to one of two pictures of the alternative flag and the current flag.

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend caught up with a group of six pupils from the school the day before the vote. Contrary to the close result yesterday, all supported a change to the flag.

"I like the new flag better because I like how the black and white represents our teams, like the Silver Ferns and the All Blacks," said 10-year-old Lacey Cassidy-Astill.

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"The old flag was too similar to Australia and England," the Year 6 student said.

Olivia Davidson, also 10, said for her the choice was easy.

"I didn't really have to think about it too much because it represented New Zealand more."

Olivia, also Year 6, said there was another good reason for choosing the silver fern design.

"In the war, like World War II and stuff, all the warriors, all the army people, all died. Their graveyards are engraved with the silver fern, not the Union Jack. So it's not like it's being rude. Some people are saying it's a bit rude to those people that fought with that flag but they're actually buried with the silver fern."

Like the other girls, Teia-Marie Colmer-Pijfers and Mackenzie Harris, both 9, liked the inclusion of the Southern Cross in the alternative design. "I like how they kept the stars," Mackenzie said.

Brothers Reuben and Jesse Kingston-Smith Black singled out New Zealand's sporting heroes as well represented by the flag.

"The All Blacks," said Reuben, adding, "And they're a very good team."

Said 6-year-old Jesse: "It represents the Black Caps as well."

Reuben was also drawn to the combination of blue and black in the alternative design.

"It's kind of like the ocean and lots of people come here to come to the beach and that's why I like it."

In the build-up to the mock referendum, Mount Primary deputy principal Hadleigh Benson said the subject of the flag had prompted plenty of discussion among pupils and they were eager to cast their votes.

"It's a once-in-a-multigeneration event which will be neat for these kids to participate in."

He said teachers, himself included, were keeping quiet about which flag they liked, but he suspected a correlation between kids' choices and the flag their parents liked.

However, the six young people bristled at this suggestion. "It's all our choice," said one of the girls.

"My dad's choosing the new flag but my mum is choosing the old one," added Mackenzie, whose dad Damien Harris is the school's principal.

The older generation also sounded less decisive than their kids.

"My mum doesn't like the new flag but she doesn't like the old flag either," said another of the girls.