A member of the panel consulting with the public about a possible new New Zealand flag is adamant there will be no Government interference.
A dozen high-profile public figures, including former All Blacks captain Brian Lochore and Olympic gold medallist Beatrice Faumuina, have been selected to oversee public submissions into the design of an alternative flag to be voted on in two upcoming referendums.
The first referendum, to be held late this year, will pit the leading alternative designs against each other and the successful design will then be voted on against the current flag in a second referendum, which is due next year.
The Flag Consideration Panel met for the first time yesterday.
Chairman Professor John Burrows, the former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury, says that while the Government selected the panel, it's been made very clear to them they're on their own.
"We're a totally independent panel, totally neutral and there will be no Government interference in the process at all," he told TV ONE's Breakfast.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said when the panel was announced last week, members had been selected after cross-party nominations.
One of the criticisms over the referendum has been the timing as the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign looming this year.
Professor Burrows says he totally respects this point of view and it's something individuals will need to take into consideration when voting.
"It's all about national pride, how we see ourselves, and how people outside see us."
"There's never been a thorough debate about this in over 100 years and this won't happen again for a long time so it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it's got to be done properly."