We asked Labour's Jacinda Ardern and National's Nikki Kaye: Is it time for New Zealand to become a republic?

JACINDA ARDERN

After much anticipation, the royal wedding is almost upon us. In amongst all the tiny details of William and Kate's romance there's one element I've always quite liked; Kate's parents own the equivalent of 'party hire.' You can almost imagine their response to the news of her pending nuptials: "That's lovely, dear. We know it will be a bit of a do, but we'll take care of the marquee and the spit roast." It's a minor part of the story, but the bit that makes the whole thing seem a just a little bit more normal.

It seems there's always been an element of whimsy surrounding the monarchy. It's no wonder girls grow up wanting to be princesses; they marry princes, live in castles, wear tiaras and beautiful bedazzled dresses. I doubt though that this girlhood dream includes the idea of holding constitutional reign over various small states with otherwise sovereign and independent parliaments, but that's where the whimsy and the reality collide.

Granted, some of the realities have changed. Several years ago we made a fairly significant move when we ensured our highest court was actually in New Zealand rather than London; one bit of progress that at least managed to stick. But there are a few key realities that remain, as our head of state the Queen (or her representative) still has the role of formally dissolving and opening parliament, swearing in our Cabinet Ministers, and formally approving every piece of legislation that passes through the New Zealand parliamentary process before it can become law.

There are those who argue that a monarchy is more successful at protecting democracy (Fiji might dispute that) and my favourite argument from Monarchy New Zealand, who states that "in a world full of divisions and selfishness" New Zealand is demonstrating its generosity of spirit by sharing its head of state with 15 other countries.

All of this may seem trivial, and for some, too insignificant to warrant change. But that's before you throw that other grand element into the mix... principle.

If we were to start from scratch and redesign the way New Zealand was governed, I doubt we would start with the model that said our head of state should be based on nothing more than birth right. It's just not very Kiwi, and more than that, it's not our own.

There are hurdles between us building the independent governance that comes via a republic, but none are insurmountable. The Treaty of Waitangi was a partnership between the Crown and M?ori and these relationships would need new constitutional footing if we were to remove the monarchy from the picture. And, of course, we would need a replacement head of state. Michael Cullen recently spoke on this subject and I think set out a plausible path, that a new head of state be elected by a super majority of parliament upon the death or incapacity of our current monarch, and that the Governor General play a transition role. Whatever the next steps look like, they're steps I believe we need to take.

I have no doubt that we'll all keep reading stories about the royal family, and the commemorative teaspoons will still find their way to our shores. Addressing the realities doesn't mean losing the past, but it does mean building a future that more accurately reflects who we are, what we believe in, and where we are going.

And the added bonus? We still get to keep the whimsy.

Jacinda Ardern is on Facebook and Twitter @jacindaardern


NIKKI KAYE

I'm one of those who believe the constitutional arrangements of our country should be modernised to reflect our changing culture, while recognising that the monarchy reflects an important part of a shared heritage.

I personally believe that hereditary privilege should not determine our Head of State and that person should be a New Zealander. One of the things I love about New Zealand is that we are a very egalitarian society and we don't tolerate class structures.

New Zealand has a strong national identity, forged through decades of independent decision making as diverse as being the first country to give women the vote to adopting a different view from our nearest neighbour, Australia, on nuclear-free ship visits. We are a self-governing nation; we elect our own government, make our own laws, develop our own policies, and frequently adopt different foreign policy stances to Britain.

For the record, supporting New Zealand to appoint its own Head of State does not mean that you can't be a fan of the Royal family or be interested in the excitement generated by this week's Royal Wedding. I am actually really looking forward to heading to a "Royal Wedding-Watching Party" on Friday night and by the looks of Facebook there will be quite a few of my peers doing the same.

I believe the Queen has shown outstanding dedication and service over the last 60 years. Many New Zealanders have real affection for her and when Prince William came to New Zealand last June I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet him. I think he genuinely cares about New Zealand and many people were moved by his visit and speech to the Canterbury Memorial Service.

When it comes to whether New Zealand becomes a republic, I believe this is a decision for all the people of New Zealand to make. Recently we had a private members bill that failed on this issue. While I support a change in the way our Head of State is appointed I don't believe that the appropriate mechanism for major constitutional change is through a private members bill. Any changes should be made by public referendum at a time when New Zealanders have considered and understand all the pros and cons.

We have been let down in the past when changes have been made on constitutional issues without public consultation and a significant mandate, such as the previous Government's decision to end our relationship with the Privy Council.

Some Kiwis will want to know what a republic means for the Treaty of Waitangi. This is an important issue in the debate. A Constitutional Review will be taking public submissions on the issue after the general election and will listen to what the people want. As a general principle, I support significant constitutional issues being decided by the people, such as electoral reform in the 90's, and the upcoming MMP referendum that will take place at the next election.

Let's debate the issue of whether New Zealand becomes a republic in a mature, considered way that ensures public consultation and involvement. I also believe that attitudes towards New Zealand becoming a republic are likely to change over time as new generations of New Zealanders develop their own views about how we want to assert our identity to the world. Let's not impose a resolution of the question on New Zealanders before we want it. There are few things more important and sacred to a nation than how we govern ourselves. That is not a conversation to be held just in the Beehive, this is a decision we should make as a nation together.


Nikki Kaye is on Facebook and Twitter @nikkikaye

Do you have a topic you would like Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern to tackle? Email online-editor@nzherald.co.nz

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