Prime Minister John Key says he will consider changing the national flag at this year's election if there is a public appetite for it.

Mr Key said this morning that he would consult with senior ministers about a new flag, and would not rule out a referendum on the issue as part of the general election.

He believed a change was unlikely but he wanted to test the waters to see if the public wanted a change.

"I'd like to see a change. But one of the problems is that firstly it's not the single ... biggest issue that we as a country face. And secondly, even with those who want to change there's not universal support for what we should change to."


He added: "We'll have a discussion with our senior ministers, and say 'Is there any appetite to progress that?'. And if the answer's no then we'll park it up."

Mr Key said that if ministers agreed, Government would choose the design of the flag and ask the public to vote yes or no.

He believed that the public was divided 50/50 over whether the flag should be changed.

"If you'd asked the question before the Rugby World Cup, it might've been more 60/40 in favour."

The Prime Minister's personal preference was for a silver fern on a black background, but he said it would be very difficult to get a consensus on a new design.

Mr Key had earlier said that he hoped Waitangi Day this year would be a day of celebration instead of being marred by protests.

He wished New Zealand's national day was similar to Australia Day, with shows of patriotism such as flag-waving.