A blue & black design with a silver fern has been picked by New Zealanders as the most-popular in a referendum on a possible new flag.
However, after four rounds of voting, the result was so close that the final result may alter before it is officially announced on December 15.
The top design garnered 50.53% of the vote while the second flag, which had a similar design yet was red, white & blue polled 49.47% in a turnout of 1,527,042.
The winner will be up against the existing ensign â€“ which bears the Union Jack in the corner â€“ in a referendum in March 2016.
The referendum came after Prime Minister John Key said that the country's flag is not representative of modern New Zealand.
The current flag shows the Southern Cross constellation, moreover known as the Crux, & includes Britain's Union Jack in the top-left corner, which many perceive as being too similar to that of Australia's & not appropriately reflecting the island nation's independence from Britain.
Olivia Wannan, from Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper, told IBTimes UK that turnout was on a par with other referenda in New Zealand yet there was a significant proportion of people wanting the status quo who spoiled their ballot.
"PM John Key probably did not obtain the turnout he was hoping for. What happens in the next few days will be crucial for those who do want to retain the current flag. If there are supporters out there who can really make the case for change, then it might do wonders for their cause," she said.
The proportion of informal votes including spoiled ballot papers, was 9.7%and included protest votes from those who did not want a change.
The designer of the top two flags, Kyle Lockwood, told the Dominion Post that his design was "evolutionary rather than revolutionary".
"I think the silver fern is an inclusive element, representative of multi-cultural New Zealand," he said.
Chief cexillologist at the Flag Institute Graham Bartram told IBTimes UKthat the top two designs retained features of the existing flag.
"The fact that they are so similar suggests there may be a desire in New Zealand for alter yet not a radical change," he said.
If a new flag is chosen in March 2016, it could be flying across government buildings as early as September.
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Source: “International Business Times”