New Zealanders asked to join flag debate

New Zealand is one step closer to choosing or ditching a new flag and Kiwis have been invited this morning to design their own banner.

The formal flag change process starts today and the Government's Flag Consideration Project has announced a series of roadshows and hui this morning.

This would be the first time in history the public had a chance to have a say in the future of the national flag, the projects's panel chairman Emeritus Professor John Burrows said.

The first hui will happen on Saturday, May 16 in Christchurch and everybody was invited.

"Anyone can attend a community workshop, hold their own discussion or share their thoughts online," Prof Burrows said.

"Resource tools, including a community kit and schools resource kit, are available.

For example, schools can run their own flag discussions and referendums to mirror the formal process as part of their own learning exercise," he added.

Members of the public could also design the flag themselves and upload their design to www.flag.govt.nz from now until July 16.

Prof Burrows said Kiwis could also share their thoughts on what they believed the flag should stand for at the website www.standfor.co.nz.

"These contributions, as well as those from community meetings, will provide us valuable insights and form the criteria for the Panel to consider designs knowing what is most important to everyone," he said.

Prof Burrows said anyone taking part could choose to have their name etched on a commemorative national flag pole monument, Te Pou Herenga Tangata (the post that binds the people together) at Te Papa.

The Government planned to hold two postal referendums to decide the flag's future.

The first was expected to happen between November 20 and December 11. Then, voters would shortlist one of four flag alternatives. Next March, voters would have a choice between the current New Zealand flag or the preferred alternative voters selected in the first referendum.

In a recent poll, only one in four Kiwis said they wanted to change the flag.

Support for a flag change plummeted in the latest Herald-Digipoll from 40 per cent a year ago to 25 per cent.

The latest poll, of 750 eligible voters, was taken from April 17 to 26, when there extensive media coverage of Anzac Day commemorations and the RSA slammed the timing of the referendum in the centenary year of the Gallipoli landing.

* For more information on the national flag debate, visit www.standfor.co.nz

* To upload your own flag design, visit www.flag.govt.nz

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