The alternative design created by architect Kyle Lockwood is the popular silver fern leaf with a blue and black background with four red stars in the formation of the Southern Cross, according to a media report.

The current New Zealand flag is blue and has a "Union Jack" in its upper left corner which combines the crosses of the patron saints of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister John Key, a longtime advocate for a new flag which will leave the country's colonial past behind, said the vote offers a unique opportunity that New Zealanders will regret if they do not take advantage of it.

"If they don't vote for change now, they'll never get another chance until we become a republic," said Key.


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