The government of New Zealand today published a list of 40 possible designs for its new national flag, ahead of a national referendum slated for later this year. The designs were selected by an independent panel from a list of nearly 10,300 online submissions that included a kiwi bird with laser eyes, a stick figure riding a bicycle, and an ice cream cone.
The designs selected today aren't nearly as daring. Many include national symbols like the silver fern, the Southern Cross constellation, and the koru — a fern leaf motif common in Maori tradition. Notably, none of the submissions include the British Union Jack that features prominently in its current flag.
"A flag should carry sufficient dignity to be appropriate for all situations in which New Zealanders might be represented," the 12-member "flag consideration panel" said in an open letter published Monday. "It should speak to all Kiwis. Our hope is that New Zealanders will see themselves reflected in these flags’ symbols, color and stories."
New Zealand's current flag
The campaign to choose a new flag was launched late last year, with Prime Minister John Key saying it was time for New Zealand to discard its current design in favor of one "that better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation." The initiative has faced backlash over its costs, which are estimated at $17 million, and recent polls suggest that the majority of New Zealanders are in favor of keeping their current flag.
The panel will choose four finalists by mid-September, and voters will rank them in a referendum later this year. A second referendum will be held in March 2016, when voters will decide between their current flag and the alternative design. The panel will also conduct an extensive review of the 40 finalists released today, including "robust intellectual property checks."