Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

By George, he's made a difference

Excitement over royal wedding and birth has seen republican sentiment diminish.

The birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son, Prince George, has boosted royalist support. Photo / AP
The birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son, Prince George, has boosted royalist support. Photo / AP

New Zealand's opposition to becoming a republic has grown since the birth of Prince George, a Herald Digipoll survey shows, as fewer than one in three people now think we should break away from the monarchy.

The survey found that 59.6 per cent of respondents were against New Zealand changing to a republic when the Queen died, while just 28.5 per cent were in support.

Opposition to becoming a republic has grown more than 5 per cent in the past year, during which time the royal family has been in the spotlight.

In July, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed their first son. Since their wedding in 2011, support for becoming a republic has fallen 6 per cent.

Last month, Prime Minister John Key became one of the few foreign leaders to be invited to stay at the royal family's home in Balmoral.

After the visit, Mr Key said there were few benefits to New Zealand becoming a republic, though he supported changing the flag.

In February, New Zealand was the first country in the Commonwealth to introduce legislation which changed the royal line of succession to remove restrictions for women and Catholics. National MP Simon O'Connor, the former head of Monarchy New Zealand, said the result was unsurprising because royalist support went in cycles and usually peaked after key events such as royal weddings and births.

"I think it reflects the feeling on the ground. I just look back to what was happening around Prince George's birth when he had 40 landmarks around the country lit up blue, and an army salute, a motion in Parliament, which I don't think has been done for a long time.

"It would have been the same when Elizabeth married Philip, and then their first kid, and the same with Diana and Charles and their first kid. It does go in cycles, so I'm not surprised with William and Catherine and baby George that it's all very exciting."

He said the events piqued the interest of young New Zealanders, who had a growing curiosity about the role of the Queen in New Zealand's democracy.

Victoria University senior law lecturer Dean Knight, an advisor for the Republican Movement, said that most people were unclear about what becoming a republic meant. Some people wrongly assumed that it meant New Zealand would be barred from the Commonwealth Games, that an American form of government would be introduced, or that the Government's Treaty of Waitangi obligations would change.

Mr Knight said that if a poll asked whether people wanted Prince Charles or Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae as head of state, the result would be different.

- NZ Herald

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