Final voting confirms winner in New Zealand flag referendum

The "Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue)" will go head-to-head with New Zealand's existing flag in a second referendum in March next year (AFP Photo/)

Wellington (AFP) - A flag with a silver fern on a black-and-blue background was confirmed Tuesday as New Zealand's preferred option if the country decides to replace its current standard that features Britain's Union Jack.

The counting of late and overseas votes from a recent referendum on the New Zealand flag confirmed the preliminary results released last week, electoral commission officials said.

There were five options to choose from and an identical design flag in a slightly different colour scheme was actually the most popular first choice.

But under New Zealand's preferential voting system, where people ranked the five designs in order of favouritism, the silver fern flag with a black, white and blue background was the most popular overall.

The winning design will go head-to-head with the existing flag in a second referendum in March 2016 to determine if New Zealand changes its national banner.

"This is a historically significant choice we have in front of us," deputy Prime Minister Bill English said.

"We now have some time to consider the two flags side by side and have a good think about which one of them best represents us as a nation now and into the future."

Prime Minister John Key has led the push for reform, saying the existing ensign is a colonial relic that is too easily confused with Australia's flag.