The New Zealand government has published a list of 40 new flag designs that could replace the country's current flag, pending the result of a vote in March. 

More than 10,000 submitted flag designs were reviewed by the Flag Consideration Panel, which narrowed the candidates down to 40. 

The panel says it will present a short list of four alternatives by mid-September. New Zealanders will rank those designs in a vote in late 2015. In March 2016, there will be a final vote between the preferred design from that vote and the current flag. 

"A flag should carry sufficient dignity to be appropriate for all situations in which New Zealanders might be represented. It should speak to all Kiwis. Our hope is that New Zealanders will see themselves reflected in these flags' symbols, colour and stories," the panel wrote in an open letter

The current flag of New Zealand is a blue ensign, featuring the British Union Flag in one corner and four red stars forming the Southern Cross. 

Some in New Zealand consider it to be a relic from the country's colonial past and too similar to Australia's flag. Others, including many combat veterans, feel a deep attachment to it.

The country's flag debate is reminiscent of the contentious process that led Canada to replace its red ensign with the Maple Leaf flag in 1965.  

Some Kiwis on Twitter were enthusiastic about the proposed redesigns. 

But others pointed out that many of the candidates on the long list are variations on the same design.

Most of the proposed designs feature a stylized silver fern frond, either the coiled "fiddlehead," an indigenous symbol called "koru" in the Maori language, or the fully unfurled frond that is the symbol of New Zealand sports teams. 

Some believe that replacing a colonial symbol with one from Maori culture is not appropriate.