New Zealanders could be a step closer to getting a new flag after the first phase of a two-part referendum wrapped up on Friday but many people are not in the mood for change, reported Reuters.

The present flag features Britain’s Union Jack in the corner and four red stars in a Southern Cross formation, indicating New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific.

Those wanting change say the flag is too closely tied to New Zealand’s history as a British colony and looks far too much like Australia’s flag.

A government panel selected five designs in September from over 10,000 entries to find a possible replacement for their current flag. Voters mailed in ballots between November 20 and December 11 to choose a finalist among them. The winning result: a black-and-blue design that prominently features the silver fern, a national symbol.

Kyle Lockwood, an architectural technologist from New Zealand who now lives in Australia, submitted both the winning design and its runner-up. His second version, which uses a red-and-blue motif, took the first lead during the vote count. But as other designs were eliminated and their votes went to second- and third-place preferences, the black-and-blue design leapt ahead to a razor-thin victory with 50.53 percent of the vote.

Lockwood told the New Zealand Herald that he hoped his winning design would be an inclusive one.

“I was thinking about a design that would include all New Zealanders. And I feel like the fern with its multiple points represents multiple cultures coming together and growing upward into the future.

It’s been an emblem of ours since 1888. It’s part of our heritage. And this fern was also used by Maori as a marker at night, to light up pathways.”

Prime Minister John Key is thrilled with the outcome, telling the Paul Henry programme it has something for everyone, according 3News.

“I think it’s got a bit of everything there – if you’re a traditionalist you’ve got the Southern Cross and you’ve got the blue in there which looks magnificent; if you’re a person who supported the silver fern that’s quite prominent and you’ve got the black there which we traditionally have for New Zealand.

“It’s one of those things where it’s familiarity – if we change, people will all of a sudden think ‘what was the fuss all about?’”

While Mr Key says he’ll be waving the flag and the supporting the alternative wherever he goes, it’ll be more figurative than literal.

“We don’t actually have a flagpole at our place, but I’m going to try and resolve that issue – worst case scenario we’ll put one up on the fence. I’m definitely going to promote it as much as I can.”

The votes between the two Kyle Lockwood designs were so close the final tally released tomorrow could see the red version overtake the black design.

Whichever way it goes, Flag Consideration Panel chair Professor John Burrows the decision will be simpler.