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Tuesday March 11, 2014 MYT 12:16:00 PM
Tuesday March 11, 2014 MYT 12:25:37 PM
An All Blacks' supporter waves a New Zeland flag during a match against Italy at Rome's Olympic stadium on November 17, 2012.
Key said he was open to ideas but personally favoured a silver fern on a black background, the national emblem already used by New Zealand sporting teams such as rugby union's All Blacks.
"The design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed," he told a function at Wellington's Victoria University.
"The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom."
If he wins the election, Key said he would convene a cross-party committee to help oversee debate on the flag issue and arrange a referendum before the next poll is due in 2017.
While in favour of removing the Union Jack, Key said he remained opposed to cutting ties with the British monarchy.
"I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go," he said. "Nor could we or would we dispose of the cultural legacy which gave us a proud democracy, a strong legal system and a rich artistic heritage."
The existing flag was first used in 1869 and formally adopted in 1902. Its supporters say that New Zealanders have fought and died under it for generations and a change would dishonour their memory.
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