The heavily-criticised Confederate flag emblem of the Rotorua Stockcar Club has been dropped.

The club put a statement on Facebook after members' deliberations at their annual general meeting tonight.

Black Lives Matter advocates criticised the use of the flag last month in the first weeks of international protests following the death under police restraint of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The statement said: "For 35 years, the Rotorua Rebels Superstock, Rascals Stockcar teams and their supporters have flown the 'Confederate Flag' to represent the Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc.

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For 35 years, the Rotorua Rebels Superstock, Rascals Stockcar teams and their supporters have flown the ‘Confederate...

Posted by Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc. on Saturday, 25 July 2020

"The flag was used to acknowledge the battles that come with teams racing. Although the club have [sic] only ever used the flag to recognise the courageous efforts of their drivers, recent events in America have reignited the original meaning to the flag.

"Therefore, the club have [sic] decided it is time for a change and are [sic] in the process of designing a new flag that will continue to reflect the pride and honour that past and present teams and supporters will use to help show their support for the Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc.

"An announcement will be made in due course, once the new flag has been finalised."

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Black Lives Matter Auckland solidarity spokeswoman Shalane Williams said the club's continued use of the flag was "a metaphoric slap in the face for the black community" and Black Creatives Aotearoa founder Dione Joseph deemed it "deeply disturbing".

The club said in an earlier statement on Facebook that members would decide whether to "rebrand" at their annual general meeting on July 26 and that the flag was "innocently introduced" in 1985 but became "embroiled in a controversy".

The Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc has become embroiled in a controversy over the use of what we call our Rebel Flag. This...

Posted by Rotorua Stockcar Club Inc. on Saturday, 13 June 2020

Last month, Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he didn't think the club should change the flag because locals had "much more important things" to think about, such as job losses.

But Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey hoped "they [club members] arrive at a yes for change".

An online petition against the flag collected more than 1000 signatures.

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But on Friday club secretary and spokeswoman Sonja Hickey told NZME the petition would not be considered as part of the flag deliberations at the AGM and media were not allowed to attend.

Petition organiser and Wellington communications professional Ben Aulakh told NZME on Friday "this symbol of enslavement of black people and the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy has no place in New Zealand".

Last month in the US, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (Nascar) banned the Confederate flag, which had been a regular sight at US and Canadian stock car events for more than 70 years, from its races and properties.