21 Jan 2016

Flag bridge decision disgraceful, says Winston Peters

7:57 am on 21 January 2016

The Government's decision to fly the alternative New Zealand flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge has infuriated New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

The Black, White and Blue Silver Fern flag, designed by Kyle Lockwood

The Black, White and Blue Silver Fern flag, designed by Kyle Lockwood Photo: SUPPLIED

The current New Zealand flag will fly alonside the black, white and blue Silver Fern challenger at over 250 sites, including the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

They will fly from the selected sites from this Friday until late March, when the second referendum, in which voters will choose between the two flags, will end.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges approved flying the contender after receiving a request from the Flag Consideration Project and said the government was just being fair.

"The idea of giving people a bit of a choice, getting them to see the two alternatives, obviously the current New Zealand flag and the alternative flag up there - to see how they perform if you like," Mr Bridges said.

"To get a sense of them makes for a much more informed decision for voters as they go into the referendum."

Mr Bridges said he appreciated there was special significance about flying other flags on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the government rarely approved it.

"I think obviously what we've got here is a significant set of circumstances, really a once in a lifetime set of referendums on a flag decision."

But Mr Peters said the Government was waging a propaganda war on the public and far from it being about fairness, the government was simply promoting the Prime Minister John Key's preferred flag.

"The Prime Minister came along and said he wanted to change the flag he didn't want the Union Jack any longer.

"Bit of a paradox there because he's for knighthoods, so he wants one part of the old system and not the flag that flies behind it.

"We've had a pandemonic mess from the start to the finish and this is just another change in policy, unsanctioned by law or any other convention to see the Prime Minister get his way if he possibly can."

Mr Peters said the public had no desire for a new flag, with fewer than 50 percent taking part in the first referendum, and support for the black white and blue option was a "serious minority of public opinion."

"National is acting like an advertising agency - not like a responsible government. It's yet more disgraceful behaviour in the entire $26 million flag farce."

Mr Bridges dismissed the criticisms saying it was Winston being Winston.

"I think what Winston is doing is he's confusing the outcome that he clearly wants, which is the status quo, with fair process.

And I think most New Zealanders, and I would say nearly all New Zealanders whatever their position on the flag referendum is would agree that its right to let people see the alternatives so they really get a sense of what it is they're voting on."

The second flag referendum will be from 3-24 March and the preliminary result should be known about 7pm on 24 March.