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New Zealand U-turns on Red Peak flag design

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Media captionHow was Red Peak added to the shortlist?

New Zealand's government has made a dramatic U-turn on its competition to design a new national flag, and is allowing a fifth wild card entry.

Red Peak, designed by Wellington resident Aaron Dustin, experienced a groundswell of public support earlier this month after failing to make the final four for the competition.

Nearly 52,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be added.

PM John Key had previously ruled out making changing the final line-up.

But he has now said it will be included in November's referendum, which will ask New Zealanders which of the designs they prefer.

A second vote in 2016 will ask whether they want to scrap the existing flag - featuring the Union Jack - and replace it with the winner.

Image copyright New Zealand government
Image caption The four final flag designs were widely derided by the public

The four finalists were not well received when they were unveiled earlier this month, with many dismissing them as boring, predictable or too corporate. Three featured a fern design and the fourth the curving koru Maori symbol.

Despite the subsequent massive support for Red Peak, Mr Key had ruled out including it as a fifth entry, saying doing so would require a change to the law.

But on Wednesday, Mr Key said his party would back a bill tabled by the Green party to amend the New Zealand Flag Referendums Act and allow a public say on Red Peak.

"In the end, I'm not wanting to be the one that stands in the way of people having some choice," he told reporters.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said it was "kind of ridiculous that it has got to this point", and that Mr Key could have included Red Peak all along if he had wanted to.

The move was both celebrated and mocked on social media.

Image copyright @danslevin
Image caption Some saw a victory for people power in the decision
Image copyright @juliefairey
Image caption Will the official approval make Red Peak less popular?
Image copyright @Stuart_Oakey
Image copyright @AotearoaSam
Image copyright @BitterMoa
Image caption The issue of the cost of the referendum continues to be brought up
Image copyright @aaronincognito
Image caption Some Tweeters are still mourning other now legendary designs which did not make the cut

The conservative New Zealand First party, which is opposed to any changes to the flag, has said it will block the legal changes.

Deputy leader Ron Mark has also criticised Red Peak as resembling the design painted on Nazi sentry boxes.

"How offensive is that to veterans? It's going from farcical to ridiculous. We don't want a bar of it," he said.

Red Flag's designer has said the flag uses the shape of traditional weaving patterns, and "suggests a landscape of alpine ranges, red earth, and black sky", while referencing the Maori creation myth of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, also known as Rangi and Papa.

It also highlights New Zealand's position near the international dateline, which makes it one of the "first to hold the light of new day", he said.

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