New Zealand rejects changing flags after $17.6m referendum

(CNN)One year and $17.6 million later, New Zealanders have decided to keep their current flag.

The country's Electoral Commission announced the preliminary result on Thursday evening, after three weeks of voting.
    More than 56.6% of voters chose to stick with the current standard -- a relic of British rule. While the Silver Fern challenger did get more votes than polls suggested, 43.2%, it was not enough to make history.
      Voters chose the Silver Fern (black, white and blue) in a previous referendum late last year from a selection of five to go up against the existing standard.
      Some 2.1 million voters took part in the referendum, a turnout of 67.3%, according to the Electoral Commission.

      Expensive and controversial

        New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, a big proponent of changing the country's flag, argued that the silver fern is a historical symbol of the country and will promote national pride.
        But Key's critics pointed to the vast cost of the referendums -- $17.6 million (NZ$26M) -- and a lack of general support for changing the flag among the general public. A UMR Research poll taken between March 10% and 15 found only 35% in favor of changing flags.
          And, of the 1.5 million voters who took part in the initial referendum, only 40% or so chose the silver fern as their fir