New Zealand Flag

Five designs are finalists being considered as the new flag for New Zealand in Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealanders now have a fifth option to choose from when deciding whether to change their flag after a popular campaign for a geometric design called "Red Peak" prompted lawmakers to change the rules. (New Zealand Flag Consideration Project via AP)

Move over Fern Leaf. You have competition from Red Peak.

New Zealanders have been given a fifth design to choose from for their new flag. A popular campaign for a geometric design called "Red Peak" prompted lawmakers on Thursday to amend the rules to add it to the original four finalists, all variations of the fern leaf.

The Pacific nation of 4.5 million people is considering changing its flag because many consider it outdated and too similar to Australia's. It features Britain's Union Jack in the top left corner, signalling a colonial past that some are eager to put behind them.

A government-appointed panel had winnowed down more than 10,000 designs submitted by the public to four finalists. But many people felt those designs didn't offer enough choice, with three of them featuring silver ferns and the fourth a representation of an unfurled fern.

The Red Peak does not have any fern but a red triangle topped by a white triangle against a black background.

The fern plant is indigenous to New Zealand and features on sports emblems including the rugby and cricket teams' uniforms.

Head-to-head vote

On Thursday, New Zealand's Parliament voted overwhelming to add Red Peak to a November referendum, after about 50,000 people signed an online petition urging that the design be considered. The vote came after a couple of weeks of political posturing and manoeuvring on the issue.

The flag that wins in November will be pitted head-to-head against the current flag in a second nationwide vote next March.

However, there are plenty of New Zealanders who want to keep their current flag. Many veterans fought under it and feel a special bond to it. Others don't like the new designs, or view the process as an expensive stunt initiated by Prime Minister John Key to distract from more pressing issues.

The two flag votes will cost taxpayers about $26 million NZ ($21.6 million Cdn).

Key told reporters Thursday the government had tried to be pragmatic by adding Red Peak after people had expressed their feelings about it, albeit after the four finalists had already been chosen.

"I think it took a while for people to really engage in the process," Key said.