Voters in New Zealand have thrown out proposed changes to drop the Union Jack from the national flag.
The first results of a national referendum indicate voters want to keep the national flag without any alterations.
A number of new designs were put forward in an earlier ballot.
The winner chosen to compete against the national flag was a design called Silver Fern, which replaced the Union Jack and some of the blue background with a leave design on a partly black background.
The official national flag design is the ‘blue duster’ with a Union Jack in the top left corner and four stars representing the Southern Cross constellation.
The flag was adopted by the New Zealand government in 1902.
56% vote in favour of no change
The vote was 56% in favour of keeping the national flag, against 43% supporting the new design.
The vote is seen as a snub to long-standing premier John key, who was backing the vote for a change.
After the referendum defeat, he magnanimously declared that New Zealanders should embrace the flag and be proud of the design and their country.
The flag vote was conducted much like the current UK referendum on exiting the European Union.
Factions for and against the change spent millions of dollars promoting their views, but in the end fewer than half the population bothered to turn out to vote.
Too expensive to replace
Change The Flag campaign leader Lewis Holman was disappointed with the vote but felt many people considered the cost of changing the flag was too expensive.
“I think many people were put of voting to change the design because they felt at $26 million, replacing the old flag was too expensive and the money could be better spent,” he said.
“Lots of people commented the new flag was too like the old one to merit spending the money.”
Flags that include the Union Jack are a throwback to Britain’s colonial past.
Eight countries retain the Union jack in their national flags – Britain, Anguilla, Australia, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Fiji, Montserrat, New Zealand, Niue and Tuvalu.
Three Canadian states feature the Union Jack – Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia.
One US state also features the Union jack – Hawaii.