The Red Peak flag, which has seen growing public support to be added to the shortlisted flag designs for the upcoming referendum, will not be an option for voters to select, the Prime Minister says.

The flag, by Aaron Dustin has seen a groundswell of support on social media, including a change.org petition with close to 21,000 signatures to have it included in the shortlist.

The petition calls for Red Peak to be added as a fifth option to the current shortlisted four designs.

And Act Party leader David Seymour has said if that is not realistic, then there is nothing stopping John Key from making Red Peak one of the four.

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"They needn't change the law, in fact they could do it today with the stroke of a pen by Order in Council," Mr Seymour said.

"The best chance of making this whole process worthwhile is to substitute one of the two nearly identical fern/cross designs out and substitute Red Peak in."

Mr Seymour wrote on his Facebook page that even people that support change were underwhelmed by the final four choices.

"Red Peak has gotten more positive buzz over one weekend than pretty much the whole flag change process to date.

"It's clever, it's original, it's simple yet distinctive, and it tells a story that is about New Zealand."

But Prime Minister John Key this morning said that would not happen.

"This is the problem with the Red Peak or anything else, there will always be a range of views about whether to change and a range of views on what to go to, and that's what makes the process immensely difficult," he told TV3's Paul Henry this morning.

Asked if he could guarantee it would not be an option on the ballot paper in November, Mr Key said: "I can, because this is the issue, there was a well set out process, the committee decided the four, sent them to Cabinet, Cabinet had the right to overrule them but chose not to, they accepted the recommendations.

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"To accept any other flag - the All Blacks one with the silver fern, any other one - we would have to change the law, and we're not going back to Parliament to change the law."

Mr Key denied it was a "diabolical problem" to the flag referendum, and the PM's hopes to change the flag.

Decoding the Red Peak Flag

Source: Rick Davidson (app users tap here)

Yesterday a spokesman for Flag Minister Bill English said there would be no changes to the shortlist.

"A lengthy process was followed, the panel has made its recommendations and the referendum is proceeding."

Red Peak may also not be as popular among the wider public as on social media. It features an abstract design, whereas the silver fern was by far the most popular symbol for a new flag in the most recent Herald Digipoll survey.

Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) - by Kyle Lockwood
Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) - by Kyle Lockwood
Koru - by Andrew Fyfe
Koru - by Andrew Fyfe
Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) - by Kyle Lockwood
Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) - by Kyle Lockwood
Silver Fern (Black & White) - by Alofi Kanter
Silver Fern (Black & White) - by Alofi Kanter

More than half of those polled (55 per cent) said the silver fern should feature, either on its own or alongside another symbol. Most of those - 30 per cent - said the alternative flag should feature the Southern Cross and silver fern, as in the two Kyle Lockwood designs. A further 15 per cent chose the silver fern on its own.

The Governor General has already signed the Order in Council formalising the official four flags selected by the Flag Consideration Panel and signed off by Cabinet.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said it was technically possible for Cabinet to revoke that and pass a new Order in Council to swap Red Peak for another shortlisted design, but a law change would be needed to add a fifth option. There may also be practical difficulties if the Electoral Commission had already started printing referendum papers.

The decision on whether the flag changes could come down to whether people like the alternative. That showed while 23 per cent supported change in principle, a further 24 per cent said it would depend what the proposed new flag was. Fifty three per cent were opposed to change in principle.

Meanwhile, one of the country's best known artists has spoken out in support of Red Peak.

Dick Frizell told Newstalk ZB he is a fan of the geometric flag's simplicity, which can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

A "long shot"

The Nelson man who kicked off the campaign has admitted getting the flag design added to the shortlist was a "really long shot", but more choices needed to be available to voters.

"It's almost been pre-determined that it's going to be a fern with stars," venture capitalist Rowan Simpson told Radio New Zealand this morning.

Simpson said he did not set out to start a movement, but was so underwhelmed by the new designs he had to do something.

The Red Peak flag was a "considered and elegant" design that deserved to make the shortlist, he said.

"The important thing is the story that people attach to these things, and this design has a really great story underlining it, and lots of people have latched onto that in the past few days."

The flag represents the 'first to the light', Dustin has said, and "attempts to communicate the uniqueness of New Zealand's land, light and position".

It incorporates New Zealand's mountainous geography, the fact New Zealand is one of the first countries to see the dawn, and the Maori myth of Ranguinui and Paptuanuku.