One of the most vocal opponents of a flag change, the Returned and Services Association, says it is delighted but not surprised at the referendum result.
RSA national president BJ Clark said this evening that the decision to keep the existing national flag was "an inspiring, strong show of democracy in action".
"New Zealand service personnel sign up for a number of reasons, but one of the foremost of these is to safeguard the continuing of our way of life," Mr Clark said.
"It's heartening so many Kiwis have exercised their right to have their say, and keep the flag. The people have spoken."
He said it was now time for the country to focus on more important issues.
As the result came in at the Change the Flag party in Auckland, a journalist said: "the old flag stays".
"For now," Lewis Holden said.
This was met with choruses of "for a little bit" from the crowd of about 15 people.
Standing in front of two flags with the Kyle Lockwood design, Mr Holden said obviously the result was not the one they were after but felt "ecstatic" more than a million Kiwis voted for change.
"Maybe not now, but in the future ... It's really heartening."
After knowing the result, Mr Holden said the black and blue design was not his first preference but supported the idea of having a new flag to represent New Zealand.
While not successful, the debate for change would continue. Mr Holden said he imagined the Red Peak backers would continue the cause and Mr Lockwood would still promote his designs.
The next time the option for change comes around again, Mr Holden would like to see an electronic vote and the debate opened up about whether a flag designer should be included on the panel.
In a statement, Mr Holden said there was still a significant proportion who supported an alternative flag.
"The people have spoken and we accept the majority view. We're also mindful of the close to one million people who voted for change," he said.
Mr Holden thanked those who helped in the campaign.
"The polls showed we were the underdogs, but more than two dozen high profile New Zealanders joined our campaign to explain why having a new flag makes sense economically, culturally and internationally.
"Those arguments are still valid and I think there's a lot of people who would support change in the future, including many people who didn't vote in this referendum."
Mr Holden said he welcomed the spirited debate during the flag campaign, and the fruitful discussion on national identity.
Earlier RSA members gathering to watch tonight's flag referendum results.
They were hoping Kiwis wouldn't vote for change.
But the lead campaigner for a new ensign says he is "cautiously optimistic" for a change.
At the Onehunga RSA in Auckland, president Colin Mitchell said he'd voted to keep the current flag.
"The armed forces aren't known by the silver fern," he said.
"For sports, it's fine, but it doesn't mean anything to me. [The referendum] has cost a lot of money. I don't know why it couldn't have been done alongside the election."
Mr Mitchell said he'd only support a flag change if New Zealand became a republic and a new flag had a kiwi on it.
"Overseas the armed forces are known as Kiwis. There's kiwis on the vehicles, planes and uniforms; there's nothing to do with silver ferns."
Long-time Onehunga RSA member Janice Bullen said she'd voted to keep the current flag because it had a lot of meaning.
"The flag's been around a long time. My dad fought in World War II. He came back but a lot of soldiers didn't. They were buried under the flag."
Ms Bullen didn't like the new flag.
"I don't like the design or the colour, and I don't like how much the referendum has cost.
"There's a lot better things the money could have been spent on. Why fix something that's not broken?"
Earlier, the lead campaigner for a change of flag says he is "cautiously optimistic" ahead of tonight's referendum announcement.
Lewis Holden is hosting a Change the Flag results party at The Oakroom bar in central Auckland.
By 6pm, half an hour after kick-off, only four people had showed up and Mr Holden was still hoping for a better turn out.
And during a televised Mediaworks live cross to the event, one of the two Kyle Lockwood flags fell down and Mr Holden put his face in his palm.
However, polling suggested postal voting favoured a flag change so he was hoping that would ring true.
Either way, the silver fern flags he owned - one signed by Mr Lockwood - would be collectors' items.
"Or I'll sell them on Trade Me."
Change supporter Georgina Greville said she voted for a new flag because she thought it was time for New Zealand to be its own nation.
"And I like the logo of the silver fern for New Zealand and I don't have a problem with a flag being a logo because that's what it is."
Mrs Greville voted for the blue and red design in the first referendum but said she's grown to really like the black and blue version.