Admit it, the ballot paper is still sitting on the sideboard while you wonder what to do. If you are one of the majority, according to opinion polls, you still see no reason to change the flag; or you do want change, but none of the five offered alternatives excite you. If you are strongly committed to the flag we have had for a century, you probably resent its absence from the choices offered in this first stage of the referendum and you may suspect a manipulative plot is under way.

If enough people like you can be persuaded to vote at this stage, it could create some momentum for change. Already the five chosen proposals pictured on the ballot paper and flying from some flagpoles have become a more lively topic of conversation. Regardless of whether you want a change, people are interested in which one you would choose. And admit it, you are making a choice. It is hard not to. One or two of those designs are clearly better than the others.

In fact, there were probably only two options in the contest until the late entry of "Red Peak". The clamour on social media for the addition of Red Peak to the alternatives on offer seems to have done wonders for the turnout to this referendum, even if questions around process remain. It is hard to know how popular Red Peak really is. It attracted a great deal of interest because it is so different. It looks like no other national flag in the world. It would certainly stand out in international company but possibly in an odd way.

Red Peak has probably guaranteed a higher voter turnout not just because so many may support it but because so many will want to defeat it. However uninspiring some of the designs may be, they do at least feature recognisable national icons. Red Peak may have ensured that one of the others will win - and win with a more respectable voter turnout than might otherwise have occurred.


And once we have voted, some may feel more loyalty to the winner when it comes to the second stage of the referendum. Indeed, its design might not matter much in the end. Voters for each of them might coalesce behind the winner in the run-off against the existing flag. So it matters which design wins this stage of the referendum. It may be that opponents of change give the case for change more credibility by participating at this stage, but to ignore the ballot paper increases the risk of ending up with a flag we really dislike.

The referendum invites you to rank all the five options in your order of preference, but you do not have to do so. If there is only one you like, or two you find tolerable, it may be advisable not to rank the others. You could be adding to the tally for a design you do not like if the numbers are close and the outcome is decided by lower preferences.

New Zealanders have never previously been invited to choose their national flag, and the chance might not come again in a lifetime. When the Commonwealth leaders gathered at the weekend, very few flags outside their conference venue featured the Union Jack. It is only a matter of time before we remove it from ours. We might not be excited by the alternatives but we need one.

Please vote.

Debate on this article is now closed.