New Zealanders are to get a chance to vote on a new flag for their country, which could replace its existing graphic featuring the Union Jack.
After reviewing over 10,000 design submissions from the public, the country's Flag Consideration Panel has announced a list of 40 proposals. Four of these will be put to a public vote to determine whether a new flag will be instated.
In May this year, the 12-strong panel challenged New Zealanders to suggest their own designs to replace the country's existing flag, which was originally created in 1869 and officially adopted in 1902.
Previously the country had flown the United Tribes flag, which was chosen in 1834 to facilitate trade, as well as unify Maori chiefs.
The decision to challenge New Zealand's existing flag has been led by prime minister John Key, who has commented that the current design "symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed."
Key has also commented on the obvious similarities between the Australian and New Zealand flags.
The new designs were submitted in response to a countrywide public engagement programme, which saw the panel launch a road show, visit malls, libraries and markets. Resource kits were given to members of the public and schools to encourage participation.
New Zealanders were asked to consider and share their thoughts on the qualities that distinguished the country, and how its culture and values could best be portrayed in a new flag design.
After receiving a total of 10,292 designs, all of which were revised by the panel, the longlist of 40 designs will be reduced to four potentials. The public will be given the opportunity to vote on a single finalist later this year. The proposed new design will then be pitted against the existing flag in March 2016, when the public will decide whether to adopt the new flag or keep the existing one.
The silver fern – a recurrent visual motif in the country, included on New Zealand's coat of arms and also recognised as an unofficial flag – is a prominent theme in the longlist of submissions. Another popular motif found on the proposals is the koru – a Maori symbol that represents the spiral of a fern frond as it unfolds.
"A great flag should be distinctive and so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory," the Flag Consideration Panel said in a statement. "A great flag should be timeless and communicate swiftly and potently the essence of the country it represents."
"It should speak to all Kiwis," the panel added. "Our hope is that New Zealanders will see themselves reflected in these flags' symbols, colour and stories."
As part of the review process, the panel worked with a range of cultural and design experts, as well as specialists in vexillology – the study of flags – to determine which submissions would be viable options. The panel has also promised a thorough investigation on each design, to ensure that all submissions pass rigorous intellectual property checks.
"As a panel, we've been appointed by the government to determine the four alternative flag designs in a neutral and unbiased way," said the panel's statement. "We are committed to doing that. We have selected the longlist designs that we believe best reflect the values New Zealanders have shared with us and you can view these in the longlist gallery."
Last year, proposals were also offered for versions of the Union Jack without Scotland before the country's referendum on independence from the UK.
In June 2015 MoMA added the Rainbow Flag – the symbol of gay pride – to its permanent design collection.