Call for delay to flag poll

NEW Zealand’s war veterans will ask Prime Minister John Key to delay a referendum on changing the nation’s flag until after next year’s ANZAC centenary commemorations.

Mr Key said he wanted a vote on the flag next year, a move which New Zealand’s Returned Services Association (RSA) believed was unnecessary and insensitive.

The speed at which Mr Key wanted to move came as a shock to the association.

“If there’s a mandate to have a referendum, then that’s democracy,” RSA vice-president BJ Clarke said.

“But given the significance of 2015, 100 years since our troops went to Gallipoli, then we have names such as Flanders and the Somme and Passchendaele which has all become part of our history … it would be very unfortunate to have a referendum in that year of remembrance.”

Just two days after his National Party was re-elected with an outright majority, Mr Key put the flag change referendum high on the political agenda.

“I want to get on with it. I want to complete the whole process next year,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Live.

“Obviously I am a big supporter of change, I think there are a lot of very strong arguments for change.”

Critics claim the existing flag is too easily confused with those of other former British colonies, including Australia, while Mr Key said the current flag — featuring the Union Jack and Southern Cross — symbolised a colonial and post-colonial era whose time had passed.