Prime Minister John Key's decision to hold a referendum on changing New Zealand's flag has been praised by a high-profile local Maori political figure but the decision has not pleased all, with some Rotorua leaders failing to see any need for change.

John Key announced yesterday there would not be a referendum at this year's election, instead one would be held during his next parliamentary term, if he were to be re-elected.

Maori rights lawyer Annette Sykes said she supported John Key's choice of timing for the referendum.

"It's not often that I agree with John Key, but on this issue I do," she said.


"A matter as significant as this, a discussion about the symbol of national unity, should be kept separate from elections."

Ms Sykes said she believed a significant amount of time needed to be allocated to the talks around the flag, so all New Zealanders' voices could be heard. She said New Zealand's flag should be unique, show the growing connection the country had with the Pacific and symbolise national unity, among other things.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said a flag change was probably not the most pressing issue currently so it was appropriate it would be considered in the fullness of time and over the next electoral period.

"It will be important that if there is to be a discussion on the New Zealand flag that all political parties are involved and that every New Zealander can have a say," he said.

"Feedback I've had locally is split fairly evenly between those who wish to retain the current flag and those who would like a change. This will be an important opportunity for the public to consider nationhood, what it means to be a New Zealander and New Zealand's place in the world.

He said he expected plenty of debate around the issue.

Te Arawa kaumatua Jim Gray said he failed to see the point of the referendum. "I just don't see how a flag change would serve any real purpose. What's it going to prove? And, to put it bluntly, the change is not going to satisfy everyone."

He said it would be too difficult for New Zealanders to agree on a flag design that would convey the multicultural face of the country.


If he voted in the referendum, he would vote to keep the flag as it is, he said,

"We should leave it how it is, there's no reason to make a big huff about it. I've yet to be convinced of the benefit to our country."

Rotorua RSA president John Treanor said he did not want to comment on the issue on behalf of the RSA and said he, personally, had no strong opinion.