- The Debate
- Get involved
- Constitutional review
- The Treaty of Waitangi
- Commonwealth membership
- Common Cause
Why we need a republic
We believe that we need a republic, because a New Zealander should be our head of State. They should be elected democratically and be accountable to all New Zealanders.
These ideas are the heart of republicanism, where power comes from the people. New Zealanders are increasingly supporting a republic. Support has doubled in the last decade, as people realise that our system must change.
There are several benefits to becoming a republic:
- A republic will empower votes
- A republic will get rid of outdated succession laws
- A republic will make New Zealanders citizens, not subjects
- A republic will clarify New Zealand's foreign policy
- A republic will affirm the separation of Church and state
- A republic will bring the head of state home
- A republic will signal New Zealand's maturity to the world
- The time is right for a republic
A republic will empower New Zealanders by increasing their democratic rights. Having the right to choose the head of state is a basic and fundamental right. At present, the office of head of state is supposed to embody the state yet voters have no say in choosing who that person is. Becoming a republic will give power to voters and reinvigorate the democratic process.
A republic will give the state new legitimacy and encourage a wider culture of egalitarianism — the idea that no one is born 'better' than anyone else. The principles of a republic apply to all of the institutions of the state without exception. Equality in a republic will exist as a fundamental and irrefutable principle.
At present, the Monarchy represents a system of social hierarchy and privilege. Its existence at the centre of New Zealand’s constitution upholds the belief that some people are innately better than others and so deserve more rights. The Monarchy represents a class system that promotes the idea that some people are born ‘better’ than others. Our current head of state is still chosen under archaic laws of succession. The Monarchy discriminates against all New Zealanders on the basis of gender, religion, birth, nationality, ethnicity, family status and political opinion. This contradiction highlights the irrelevance of the Monarchy to New Zealand. The Monarchy’s supporters have shown little support for reform of the succession laws governing the selection of the Monarch.
A republic will demonstrate that New Zealanders are committed to egalitarianism. A clear majority of New Zealanders believe in appointment by merit. It is a better system and achieves better results. New Zealanders would not accept a hereditary Prime Minister or a hereditary captain of the All Blacks — so why should New Zealand accept a head of state determined on the same basis? Even the Kīngitanga, New Zealand's own monarchy, elects its head rather than choosing them solely by birth.
New Zealand is respected amongst the members of the United Nations as a country that obeys international law. We are a small nation but because we show respect to other countries and cultures, New Zealand’s views are listened to. New Zealand's constitutional ties to the Monarchy interfere with and confuse this perception.
For example, New Zealand's Government did not support the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yet New Zealand's head of state authorised the invasion of Iraq by "Her Majesty’s Armed Forces", as the head of state of Great Britain. If an Iraqi asked you to explain why New Zealand's head of state supported the invasion, what would you tell them? The Monarch's position is not a symbol of New Zealand's political independence.
Most New Zealanders believe in the separation of church and state. New Zealand's constitutional arrangements should reflect this. New Zealand is a diverse country with people of many different faiths and beliefs. The Monarchy is a barrier to New Zealand's secular principles. Part of the Queen’s title declares Her Majesty as "Defender of the Faith". In Britain she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. There is no reason why the head of a church should hold such a position. A republic will affirm that New Zealand’s head of state will be neutral on matters of religion.
In a republic, the head of state will live in New Zealand. They will work on behalf of all New Zealanders. They will be accessible and will remain connected to the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders. Having a New Zealander as head of state ensures that, politically, the buck stops here. The head of state will answer to, and speak on behalf of, the people of New Zealand. Becoming a republic would bring the head of state "home", much like creating New Zealand's own Supreme Court in 2003, removing the right of Westminster to legislate for us in 1986, or gaining legislative independence in 1947.
New Zealand needs to demonstrate and signal to the world its uniqueness and independence. There are plenty of people around the world who do not think or perceive New Zealand as being independent. Some think New Zealand is still a British colony; others think New Zealand is a part of Australia. For example, it is not easy explaining to many Japanese tourists why New Zealand’s $20 note has a picture of the Queen of Great Britain on it. The Japanese understand monarchy; they have one of their own. What they do not understand is why New Zealand keeps Great Britain's as the head of state yet calls itself independent.
The beauty of the Pohutukawa in summer time.
Symbols matter. New Zealanders have an affinity with the koru and kauri, with the silver fern, the Kiwi, with our mountains and rivers, with the beauty of the Pohutukawa trees in summer time. These things form part of what it is to be a New Zealander.
Most members of New Zealand's diplomatic community understand the importance of symbolism. Richard Nottage — New Zealand's former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade — argued for a republic in 1998, stating that the position of the British Monarch as New Zealand’s head of state "looks strange in Asian eyes". While it would be wrong to make constitutional changes because of what other people think of New Zealand, it should be asked why they feel that way. New Zealanders need to be aware of what keeping the Monarchy is saying about New Zealand.
Some people argue that it is 'petty nationalism' to change the head of state on the basis of national identity. Yet they are often the first to say that the Monarch is just a symbol and does not affect the governance of New Zealand's in any way. Similarly, supporters of the Monarchy have claimed that it is "mature" to remain a constitutional monarchy. All of these arguments boil down to a question of symbolism. Whether they like it or not, the Monarchy is a colonial hangover. The Monarchy can no longer represent the diversity of cultures living New Zealand. A republic will solve that problem.
In a republic, the head of state will be democratically elected and be accountable to all New Zealanders. At present, no New Zealander can aspire to be head of state, no matter how much ability they have, no matter how much they contribute to the country. The role is reserved exclusively for a member of the British Royal family. The Monarchy clashes with New Zealand’s cultural traditions of egalitarianism and appointment by merit.
Becoming a republic does not mean rewriting history or casting aside British contributions to New Zealand’s heritage. It is about affirming New Zealand's unique place in the world. New Zealand will still be a member of the Commonwealth. The status of the Treaty of Waitangi will not change. The flag and national anthem does not have to change.
Most Commonwealth countries are already republics and New Zealand is not alone in raising these issues. Australia, Canada, and even Great Britain are all heading down the same path. Becoming a republic will represent New Zealand’s coming of age as a nation.