NZ POLITICS DAILY: Republicanism and royals

Bryce Edwards

New Zealand’s ‘inevitable’ shift towards becoming a republic seems to be the major political debate to emerge out of the current royal tour. Some will see it as undiplomatic that this fresh debate has been sparked while ‘the Cambridges’ are guests in New Zealand. For instance, leader of the Opposition David Cunliffe has been reported today as saying Republican talk 'not appropriate' right now

However you can’t take the politics out of a royal tour, and it seems that there’s an array of New Zealanders who want to discuss the future constitutional arrangements of the country. One is former National Party deputy PM Don McKinnon, who gave a 7-minute Q+A interview in the weekend arguing that New Zealand is ‘inching toward a republic’. McKinnon is in line with Prime Minister John Key, who has in the past said the shift is ‘inevitable’. Staunch republican David Farrar points out that ‘This is significant coming from the former Commonwealth Secretary-General. Especially that four of the remaining 16 countries are planning to become republics when the Queen dies. Arguably that is a sensible time for NZ to do the same’ – see: McKinnon says NZ republic is inevitable.

Republicanism on the rise?

David Farrar’s polling company Curia has just released opinion poll results on the issue of republicanism, which are now being reported around the globe by a media interested in New Zealand’s apparent increasing desire to dispense with the monarchy – for the details of the poll and some reaction see Blake Crayton-Brown’s William may not be Kiwi king: pollster. It seems that the country is currently evenly split over becoming a republic, but younger people are much more strongly in favour. As blogger No Right Turn says, this seems to mean that ‘the supporters of monarchy will die off quietly just as the supporters of religion are doing’ – see: The inevitable republic

Public indifference to the current royal tour is further evidence for some that republicanism is on the rise, or at least that New Zealanders aren’t so enthusiastic about the royals anymore. For example, Brian Rudman says today that ‘Despite the pre-tour media hype, my fellow citizens haven't gone all monarchist on me.  The sudden presentation of a 9-month-old baby as our future king circa 2060-plus didn't suddenly have Wellingtonians dropping to one knee in the rain-swept streets, tugging their forelocks as the cavalcade drove past’ – see: Quick snip and we're a republic. Rudman argues that ‘support for the status quo is rapidly dying out’.

It’s the logistics of the shift to republicanism that is the ‘stumbling block’ according to Rudman. He argues in favour of choosing simplicity in New Zealand’s shift towards republicanism: ‘The sensible alternative is to change very little. Select a governor-general/president as we do now, and just cut the umbilical cord to Buckingham Palace, along with the pretence that he or she represents the British monarch’. 

Alternatives to this model are surveyed in a Nelson Mail editorial A post-royal NZ brings hard calls. It refers to three models: ‘soft republicanism’; ‘full republicanism’, or a third option of having ‘no head of state’. 

Opposition to the Royal visit

For further evidence that the royals might be on their way out, it’s worth looking at some of the opposition to the current tour. Interestingly, it's the political editor of Newstalk ZB, Felix Marwick, who has penned the strongest opinion piece against the tour, denouncing it as ‘A colossal waste of time, energy, and money’. His lack of enthusiasm for having to cover the tour for his radio network is stark: ‘the thought of having to follow the scions of aristocratic privilege around the country as they partake in such earth shattering events as riding in jet boats, visiting a police college, and yachting on Auckland harbour, bores me to tears’ – see: Royal tour a complete waste

Marwick also puts his arguments against royalty: ‘But what, in the quantum of human affairs do they contribute to New Zealand other than represent a vestigial tie to our colonial past. Bar symbolism this visit is an expensive waste of time, has limited news value, and does little, if anything, for the country.  My ancestors, and I know I'm not alone in this, came to New Zealand to get away from Britain's oppressive class system. To escape the poverty trap that constrained those who were not of the right social class. So why are we celebrating and endorsing the royals when they represent the very system our great great grand parents escaped from?’.

In the blogosphere similar sentiments can be found. Leftwing blogger Steven Cowan connects the royal trip with another current political issue – the Government’s clampdown on beneficiaries going on holidays – saying ‘Those two well-known state beneficiaries Willie and Kate Windsor have left old Blighty to holiday in New Zealand, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer’ – see: The Queen is dead

But, by and large, there is a lack of visible opposition to the Cambridges’ tour. Philip Matthews has written a very good feature on the opposition to the tour, but actually points to the largely indifferent stance of New Zealanders: ‘you might expect some organised opposition. Not protests or riots necessarily, but at least a hint of public disagreement.  Where is it? Polling quoted by those pushing for a New Zealand republic puts support for our own head of state at 40 per cent. That is a decent minority. Yet the republican cause stays remarkably low-profile’ – see: Is $1m royal tour value for money?

Matthew’s piece has plenty of other interesting elements, such as the response of the spokesperson for the Taxpayers Union, Jordan Williams, who declares that the visit is ‘not really a fiscal issue’, and that ‘the monarchy is quite inexpensive’.

Radio NZ reports that the Royal tour could be protest free. Maori activists in particular have moved out of ‘protest mode’. Even Veteran Maori protestor Dun Mihaka, who once ‘showed his rear end to the royals during their 1983 tour of New Zealand to highlight the cultural domination of Maori’, is only planning a very mild protest – see Julia Hollingsworth’s Mooning activist plans royal protest.

Revival of monarchism in New Zealand

So perhaps New Zealand is not really about to ditch the Monarchy. Certainly not according to John Key, who argued this week that there has been a resurgence in support for the royal family: ‘If you go back about six, seven or eight years ago - maybe a decade ago - and asked the question whether New Zealanders wanted to become a republic, I think the numbers probably would have been 60-40 per cent opposed…. If you asked that question today, I think it would have been 80-20 opposed’. Of course, Key appears to be out of touch with latest poll results, as pointed out by Chris Trotter in his blog post Wrong On The Royals: Without his advisers, is John Key just another ill-informed Tory?

But internationally there are plenty of other voices arguing that William, Kate and George are reviving New Zealand support for the monarchy. For example, the Daily Express’ Richard Palmer has written for his British audience, asking Could William and Kate effect quieten calls for republic of New Zealand? He cites John Key as having ‘insisted that there had actually been a resurgence of support for the monarchy’.

On the CNN website, New Zealand historian Philippa Mein-Smith argues that in both New Zealand and Australia, ‘republicanism seems to be in reversal’ – see: Cheering Prince George but planning to do away with the Queen? She also explains why the republican movement is historically weaker in New Zealand than Australia

In the British Telegraph, English author and journalist Harry Mount explains Why New Zealand will never be a republic, an argument that boils down to the fact that ‘sentiment is more powerful than reason’.

Support for the Royal tour

It is also clear that there is plenty of local support for the royal tour. One of the key arguments in its favour is the economic benefit that the royals bring to the country. For example, the Manawatu Standard’s Michael Cummings writes, ‘Putting both the hype and the skepticism to one side, though, the visit by William and Kate is undoubtedly good for the country. Rightly or wrong, the young couple attract huge international media interest wherever they go. The exposure New Zealand will receive while they're here is worth much more to the country than the price paid by taxpayers to host them. People of William and Kate's star power drive tourism; people will see them here, decide to come here themselves, and the money they spend on transport, accommodation and shopping ultimately ends up in the pockets of Kiwis working in those sectors’ – see: Exposure worth more than tour costs

And there seems to be some evidence for this economic impact – see the Daily Mail’s Kate and Wills effect: Flight searches to New Zealand soar 153% on DAY ONE of royal tour

Others cite the ‘modernisation’ of the royals, as having helped ameliorate opposition. For example, The Press newspaper says, ‘sentiment towards the royal family is as firmly positive as it has been in years, helped as much as anything by the palpable ease and charm of William and Catherine.  Certainly, the idea of replacing the Queen as head of state with a president and turning New Zealand into a republic is one that is unlikely to be implemented any time soon. Republicanism as a serious political movement is virtually non-existent in this country. It is a notion that has been flirted with by some politicians in the past but it has always run into the problems of why would we do it (the present arrangement has existed for a long time and does not appear to be broken) and how would it be done’ – see: Warm welcome for Royals

To see how the New Zealand royalists are supposedly modernising too, see Brittany Mann’s Changing face of monarchists. She says that ‘New Zealand monarchists are no longer the decorative-plate collecting, tea-towel toting fuddy-duddies of yore’.

For other generally favourable views on the benefits of the royal tour, see Lee Suckling’s Why the Royals are worth it, Shelley Bridgeman: The cost of the royal visit - is it worth it?, and Mike Yardley’s Incredible Cambridges are renewing the royal brand

Politicisation of the Royal visit

There’s always the pretense that royal tours are not political, and the politicians have attempted to prevent the visit from becoming overtly politicised. Yet the façade broke down yesterday when questions about its timing in an election year, and whether the Prime Minister was ‘milking’ the opportunity were brought up by David Cunliffe. The Labour leader asserted that he was ‘not going to play politics with it’, but believed that John Key had successfully managed to get extra ‘facetime’ and photo opportunities with the royals – see Vernon Small’s Labour accuses PM of milking royal visit. Similar arguments were made by Cunliffe supporter Greg Presland on The Standard – see: The politics of the Royal Tour

Winston Peters also came out with some strong words on the issue, calling for ‘a bit of elegance and a bit of taste’, and declaring ‘I'm starting to feel really sorry for baby George and it's only day one. I just would hope we don't see this obsequious subservient photo-opportunity behaviour. You can guarantee I won't be part of it’ – see Vernon Small’s Politicians swap barbs over royal jockeying. Such scrapping in the name of the 9-month old royal, caused blogger Scott Yorke to pen his parody post A statement from Prince George

International media coverage

About 450 journalists are covering the royal tour and it’s certainly interesting to see how the trip is being reported elsewhere. For a start, there was the sensational and incorrect story in Britain’s Daily Express: Maori dancers asked to cover up to not embarrass the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Government Minister Chris Finlayson denounced the story as ‘an infantile prank’ but, as TV3 revealed, it was more a case of a New Zealand expert being reported out of context – see: Maori undies 'prank' a misunderstanding.

And the international media have even taken an interest in how TVNZ’s Heather du Plessis-Allan reported on the royal journalists – watch the 5-minute item here: TVNZ Royal report goes global.

For much more in-depth background and history about New Zealand’s orientation to the royals, see Megan Cook’s Te Ara encyclopedia entry Royal family. Also see the excellent Wikipedia entry on Republicanism in New Zealand, which includes details of various politicians’ stances on monarchy and republicanism. And for even more on the pros and cons of republicanism, you can watch last year’s 40-minute TV3 debate: Should we ditch the royals?

Finally, there’s a bit of humour to be found in the royal visit. Toby Manhire has brilliantly put together a children’s story about New Zealand politics and society for Prince George, in the style of Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary books – see: Cheery McWavy - A Kiwi story for baby George. To see how New Zealand cartoonist view the tour, see my blog post Cartoons about the Royal Tour of New Zealand. And Scott Yorke provides A message from the Royal Tour Organising Committee

Today’s content

Royal visit and republicanism

Vernon Small (Stuff): Politicians swap barbs over royal jockeying

Alexander Bisley (Guardian): Duchess of Cambridge and the meaning of the Maori warrior's tattoo

Stuff: Rain set to continue during the first days of Royal tour

TV3: Maori undies 'prank' a misunderstanding

Pete George (Your NZ): Severely flawed royal tour poll

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): A statement from Prince George



Isaac Davison (Herald): Minister was warned of pressure on suppliers

Simon Wong (TV3): Countdown asks for inquiry evidence

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Nanny state lotto restrictions or welcome to Governing?

TVNZ: Commerce Minister under fire over Countdown allegations

Newswire: Nats block Labour's Countdown move

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Shane Jones takes aim at Lotto

TVNZ: Countdown bosses could be called before MPs

Radio NZ: Progressive accused of more bullying

Vernon Small (Stuff): 'Menacing' supermarket letter to be public

Newswire: Countdown sent 'menacing' letter, MP says

Corin Dann (TVNZ): Commerce Committee to release Countdown letter

Brendan Manning (Herald): Labour plan to remove Lotto from checkouts 'a bit nanny state'

Grumpollie: Initial thoughts on buying lotto tickets at checkouts

Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Hard-nosed duopolists

The Standard: David Farrar…..Busted.


Budget 2015

Vernon Small (Stuff): NZ Budget deficit bigger than expected

Newswire: Govt deficit remains bigger than forecasts

Herald: Govt tax take falls short, again - deficit rises

No Right Turn: Ouch

Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post): Politics, lies and the Economy



James Weir (Stuff): Business confidence hits 20-year high

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Stonking confidence

Tamsyn Parker (Herald): $278b - our lost pot of superannuation gold

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Whyte blames financial crisis on Government

Richard Meadows (Stuff): Foreign currency probe revelation

Liam Dann (Herald): Dr Doom tips markets to tumble


Tau Henare

Isaac Davison (Herald): Hits and misses of Tau's time in politics

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): The right man for National at the time

Michael Fox (Stuff): Tau calls time on Parliament

Rachel Morton (TV3): Henare reflects on life as an MP

Radio NZ: Henare pays tribute to committee

John Minto (Daily Blog): Tau Henare – political driftwood


National Party

Fundamentally Useless: Well, John Key thought it was a GREAT idea

David Kennedy (Local Bodies): The Young Nats Celebrate Wealth and Privilege

Alan Papprill (Irascible Curmudgeon): Judith Collins and John Key as the public see them.

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Young Nats in trouble for anti-Semitism

Rob Salmond (Polity): Armstrong on National on Labour

David Hargreaves (Interest): John Key might have just unintentionally made houses a crucial election battleground

The Standard:Winning song urges Key to leave politics

Julie Moffett (Newstalk ZB): Conor English won't run in Clutha


Inequality and poverty

Michele a’Court (Stuff): Life on the wings of Paula's dole is a breeze

Herald: Editorial: Travel is not a right for those taking welfare

Simon Buckingham (Daily Blog): Trying to live with disability under Paula Bennett

The Standard: Poverty denial – NZ Herald editorial

Anna Samways (Herald): Sideswipe: April 8: Paula's scream

Cory Anderson (ISO): Protesting National’s War on Beneficiaries

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): If only John Key would welcome the 285 000 NZ children in poverty with as much urgency as he is meeting Baby George


Legal highs

Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): Doing something about legal highs

Duncan Garner (RadioLIVE): Communities can ban synthetics

Russell Brown (Hard News): The perilous birth of the Psychoactive Substances Act

Pete George (Your NZ): Cannabis and psychoactive substances debate continues


Christchurch rebuild

Peter Robb (Stuff): Future Chch likely to be 'a letdown'

Rachel Dixon (Guardian): Christchurch after the earthquake: risen from the rubble

Tony Milne (Daily Blog): Christchurch must grasp chance to create a better city


Internet Party

Radio NZ: Internet Party seeks political status

NBR Staff (NBR): Internet Party submits list to Electoral Commission, claims 2000 members

TVNZ: MPs deny move to Kim Dotcom's Internet Party

Scott Hamilton (Reading the Maps): Kim Dotcom, Benjamin Work, and the Tongan swastika



Russell Brown (Hard News): The Language of Climate

Kennedy Graham (RadioLIVE): Greens: The polar bear is us

No Right Turn: Environmental Reporting Bill: The origins of secrecy



Jared Savage (Herald): Top cop's job on the line over prostitute

Rob Kidd (Stuff): No charges after top cop accused of rape

No Right Turn: The police should not be above the law


Maori politics

Simon Maude (Stuff): Subtribe vows no charges

Fightback: Tino Rangatiratanga: What’s it got to do with Pākehā?

Michael Fox (Stuff): Kohanga trust lashes out after contract lost

Newswire: Greens want action on Maori in justice system

Sparrowhawk:“Institutional racism”. Warning: label may smudge with over-use.

Radio NZ: Big change for first Maori radio station


Labour Party

Audrey Young (Herald): Aged to get more funding – Cunliffe

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): The first 100 days of a Labour led Government

Matthew Beveridge: Now is the winter of our discontent…..



Stuff: Today in politics: Wednesday, April 9

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Welcome to the bureaucrat capital

Herald: Editorial: No grounds to ease immigration rules further

Peter Wilson and Alastair Bull (Newswire): Cut Aratere ferry and start again, Peters says

Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Occupational licensing: NZ Edition

Audrey Young (Herald): NZEI unhappy about school leadership package

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): GE has place in NZ

Radio NZ: New Zealand consulting Australia over Solomons aid

Matthew Beveridge: Social media and party office holders

Peter Aranyi (The Paepae): “The more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become.”

Brook Sabin (TV3): Report shows 61 dangerous petroleum incidents

Adam Hollingworth (TV3): MPI fishing rulers go out with wrong info

Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about MyNBR Tags

NZ Market Snapshot


Sym Price Change
USD 0.7165 -0.0017 -0.24%
AUD 0.9128 -0.0032 -0.35%
EUR 0.6083 -0.0009 -0.15%
GBP 0.5405 -0.0017 -0.31%
HKD 5.5938 -0.0135 -0.24%
JPY 80.2910 -0.2960 -0.37%


Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 1301.2 -8.600 2017-10-16T00:
Oil Brent 57.6 0.670 2017-10-16T00:
Oil Nymex 52.1 0.420 2017-10-16T00:
Silver Index 17.3 -0.071 2017-10-16T00:


Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 8090.7 8114.1 8090.7 0.26%
NASDAQ 6622.6 6632.5 6605.8 0.28%
DAX 12995.8 13003.7 12991.9 0.09%
DJI 22892.9 22960.1 22871.7 0.37%
FTSE 7527.0 7530.3 7527.0 -0.03%
HKSE 28777.2 28777.2 28692.8 -0.00%
NI225 21352.2 21394.0 21255.6 0.38%
ASX 5846.8 5896.3 5846.8 0.73%