The silver fern flag has been removed from the Auckland Harbour Bridge after its defeat in the referendum last night.

New Zealand's current flag won 285,000 more votes than the alternative design in the referendum - a smaller margin of victory than expected.

After the Black, White and Blue Silver Fern flag was picked as the finalist for a new national flag in December, the Government took the rare step of permitting it to be flown on the Harbour Bridge.

Defeated PM defends $26m flag vote as critics round on him
'Wasteful vanity project' - How world's media reacted to flag vote
Andrew Little: PM's pet project has cost NZ $26m


This honour was usually limited to the national flag, the Tino Rangitiratanga flag, the Australian flag and the Merchant Navy flag.

Another 250 silver fern flags have been distributed around the country - to council buildings, airports, ports - and these were expected to be pulled down over the next week.

The flag's creator, Melbourne-based New Zealander Kyle Lockwood, does not want to comment until the final result is released.

He said earlier this week that he would remain optimistic of victory right until the last minute. If his flag lost, he said it could be turned into a beach towel.