British-born locals are divided on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union - but some fear leaving will weaken Britain's status in the world.

On June 23, the UK will hold a referendum which poses that question, and British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK and some living abroad will be eligible to vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold this referendum, the first on the issue for more than 40 years when it joined the Common Market, if he won the 2015 general election.

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It was a response to growing concerns from some quarters that Britain was being held back by being a member of the EU.

Others believed Britain's status in the world was more secure as part of the 28-nation club.

UK-born Dr Jim Miller, who works at Toi Te Ora Public Health Service and has lived in the New Zealand for eight years, believes Britain should stay in the EU.

"I think leaving would split more and more countries into smaller groups all competing with each other. I don't think it's a wise move.

"I'm not there of course, but leaving would definitely affect us here too in terms of New Zealanders' ability to work in Europe, something people would be interested in doing."

Papamoa resident Albert Bowkett, 74, has lived in New Zealand for 40 years.

"It's a long time but I'm still English really as well as being a Kiwi. I do think that Britain needs to quit the EU. It's the watering down of the British culture that I'm most concerned about.

"Of course there would be some downsides from leaving but I think lots of British people would be prepared to pay the price of doing so."

I think leaving would split more and more countries into smaller groups all competing with each other. I don't think it's a wise move.

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English-born Blink Public Relations director Natalie Bridges said: "It's creating huge controversy at home and it's hard to keep up with the commentary for and against.

"Everyone seems to be split on the decision - my mum and dad are split, a bit like the Conservative Government where Boris Johnson is for leaving and David Cameron wants to stay in. There are economic arguments - and some might say scaremongering - for staying in the EU. But there's also national identity issues at stake here. The rebel in me would want to leave."

UK-born Phil Mosscrop, 24, from Otumoetai, who emigrated to New Zealand in January, said he would be voting by proxy in the referendum.

"I'm firmly for staying because I think Europe is huge and Britain is quite small and leaving the EU would weaken the country's position.

"Europe is Britain's greatest market. I also think having this sort of division between countries which are located so close to each other is pretty pointless."

Mr Mosscrop said the EU's motto was 'United in Diversity'.

"While the EU has its problems, I think it's far better to stay and try to work them out and leaving might cause instability within Europe."

What is the European Union or EU?

* An economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries

* Began after World War II to help foster economic co-operation

* Countries trade with each other through a Common Market

* The EU has its own currency, the Euro, which is used by 19 member countries.