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What would ditching the British monarchy mean for Aotearoa?

9 May, 2023

Interviews by Hanna Thompson and Nicholas Lindstrom, adapted by Ashley-Rose Redstone

Photo: Canva. 

Listen to the full interviews with Te Pāti Māori’s Takutai Kemp, the New Zealand Republic campaign’s Lewis Holden, and Constitutional Law expert, Graeme Edgeler.

King Charles III had his coronation ceremony last week, officially recognising him as the head of state of Aotearoa and the other Commonwealth countries. The coronation has re-ignited debate over whether Aotearoa should become a republic. 

Te Pāti Māori have launched a petition, calling on parliament to remove the British royal family as head of state and create a Te Tiriti centric Aotearoa through constitutional transformation. 

Te Pāti Māori’s candidate for Tāmaki Makaurau, Takutai Kemp, told Hanna Thompson on 95bFM’s The Wire that despite advocacy from groups across the commonwealth nations, there had been no official apology from the Crown for the impact of colonisation on indigenous people.

"Like Rawiri [Waititi] said, there is no honour in this crown. It is tainted with the blood of indigenous nations. The throne upon which he now sits at the apex of white supremacy globally. 

She added that during the opening event for the coronation, Aotearoa’s UK High Commissioner, Phil Goff, failed to observe the Karakia or acknowledge the Māori King’s own coronation within his introductions.

Kemp argued that a Te Tiriti centric Aotearoa would strive to be the opposite.

“A Te Tiriti centric Aotearoa looks like how we will treat you when you come to our Marae. You will be welcomed, you will be fed, no one should be starving, you will be hosted, you will be loved, you will be taken care of, and you will be safe.”

Lewis Holden from the New Zealand Republic campaign told Nicholas Lindstrom on The Wire that becoming a republic will solidify Aotearoa’s independence. 

Holden said that the perceived need for the monarchy to observe Aotearoa’s parliament is “nonsense” and highlighted that historically, the crown has not intervened in our politics or constitutional issues.

“It is about emphasising to the world that we are now an independent country and not holding on to the colonial era symbol of having the British monarch as a head of state.”

He argued that Aotearoa already has a Governor General who acts as a head of state, and the only change would be how they are elected. 

Constitutional Law expert Graeme Edgeler told Nicholas Lindstrom on The Wire that becoming a republic would need to involve legislation from Parliament and changes to present statutes, such as The Constitution Act or the revocation of Acts that surround the Crown, such as the Act of Succession.

Edgeler said the transformation to a republic would likely need a referendum or public vote.

He proposed that Aotearoa could adopt other options, such as a written constitution like Australia or instating a President like in the US.

But Edgeler said from a legal perspective, there would be minimal changes to the structure of Aotearoa’s government.

“It is not the British Crown anymore. It is the New Zealand crown. They are legally distinct things, and it has been that way for several decades now.”

He expressed that Aotearoa’s current obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi would remain the same, as the Crown has not been instrumental in upholding them.