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13 April 2024

New Zealand rugby hero McCaw advocates for new flag

New Zealand All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (centre) and his teammates perform the Haka before their opening Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Tonga. (FILE)

By Agencies

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has joined New Zealand's debate over a potential new flag by taking to social media to express his desire for the country to adopt one with a silver fern.

The 35-year-old McCaw, who earlier this week was named New Zealander of the Year, said he felt his country needed to change the flag when he ran out ahead of last year's World Cup final against trans-Tasman neighbours Australia.

"The moment when I decided a new flag would be great for our country (was when) running out at Twickenham and seeing the two flags looking so similar," McCaw wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday, with a picture of the two flags side by side.

"The silver fern has always been the special symbol on the All Black jersey that represents who we are as kiwis, so the new flag with a silver fern as a part of it would be a great option I believe."

McCaw joined fellow All Blacks team mate Dan Carter, who now plays in France, as two high-profile sports people to come out in favour of a new flag in the last week.

New Zealand is currently undergoing a two-part referendum to determine whether or not to change its flag, with the second phase due to be hold next month when a design featuring a fern on a blue and back background, will face off against New Zealand's current flag.

The existing flag features the United Kingdom's Union Jack in the corner and four red stars in a Southern Cross formation, indicating New Zealand's location in the South Pacific.

The new flag had won an earlier referendum against four other contenders following a public process where more than 10,000 designs including flags bearing the native kiwi bird and sheep, were whittled down to the shortlist by a Government-selected panel.

New Zealanders ranked the five in order of preference in the first phase of the referendum and the white fern on a black and blue background with four red starts came out on top.

Voter turnout was around 1.5 million people - or 49 percent of registered voters.

The cost of the referendum, about NZ$26 million, has been criticised, while local media this week reported that Prime Minister John Key's Cabinet in the centre-right government was divided on changing the flag.

Key initiated the referendum last year and has indicated his preference for a silver fern to be incorporated into a new flag.

The country's most prominent war veterans group has voiced its opposition to any changes to the existing flag.