Voting on a new flag design for New Zealand begins today, and Prime Minister John Key says the National Party's own polling shows people prefer the current flag, but the gap for change is narrowing.
From today, New Zealanders can vote for the flag they prefer from five new designs.
Three of the flags feature silver ferns, one has the koru and the fifth - a late addition- is the Red Peak design.
The vote will be a postal referendums, with voting papers sent in the mail.
The next round of voting begins in March, when people will choose between the most popular new design, as decided by the first referendum, and the current flag.
Mr Key expected debate about the flag to heat up once a challenger is chosen, and he said the outcome could be close.
"On balance at the moment, it's more likely that they would keep the old flag than change, but it's not so overwhelming that you couldn't see that move around.
John Burrows, the head of the Flag Consideration Panel said he did not think the first preference vote would reveal a winner.
"I'd be surprised if there was a clear winner on the first preference, because with five flags it's not likely that one will get 50 percent first time up. But once you start to get a second preference, I'd have thought we would see a 50 percenter in that round, and if not in the third round."
Mr Burrows said he has received calls from Britain, Japan and America who are interested in the flag referendum.
The first round of voting ends in three weeks time on 11 December.