Key Points:

Prime Minister Helen Clark may have rekindled interest in the debate about changing the national flag.

She said it could be debated as a separate issue from whether the country should become a republic, and suggested that if the public did want to "New Zealand-ise our flag" the Union Jack could be taken out of the corner, leaving it as a "rather attractive Southern Cross."

Her suggestions caused a flutter on the Herald website yesterday.

Some readers argued the Union Jack represented New Zealand's past and should be retained, while others said a new flag would better represent New Zealand now and in the future.

"Our flag does not fill me with pride and has no real meaning for most. It is far too similar to the Australian flag," reader PJ Sparks said.

Graham Russell wrote: "One thing that many people seem to have forgotten is that we have inherited the British political and justice systems. The Union flag represents this and I believe is something that is under valued."

In 2005, NZFlag.com tried to collect 270,000 signatures to force a referendum on changing the flag, proposing a stylised silver fern in white on a black background. Despite the campaign attracting several high-profile supporters, the petition was abandoned when it became clear they would not reach the target.

On Tuesday, Helen Clark referred to that unsuccessful bid, and said the debate could be continued without it becoming a wrangle on republicanism.

"I think people could debate the flag the way Canada did all those years ago when it transitioned to the maple leaf without it calling into question the basic constitutional status. Canada, of course, still recognises the Queen as its head of state as well."

Canada's flag was previously the British red ensign with the Canadian shield superimposed. Several flag design competitions were held, and the current flag was adopted in 1964.