"You can tell everybody that this is your song."

Elton John may have been singing of love. But also he pretty much sums up the concept of a national anthem. A song that unites a country, invokes a surge of unity, patriotism and pride. Reflects history, culture and the spirit of the people.

But what if you don't feel it?

I have never stood up for God Save the Queen.


Growing up in Irish Catholic Liverpool, it was the done thing to sit still arms folded, eyes closed and lips dryly sealed when this played. Our national anthem was You'll never walk alone.

Adopted by Liverpool FC, its tune rang beyond the Kop, and became the anthem of a city that often was left to fend for itself but which prided itself on its strength and identity.

Whether at civic occasions, weddings and funerals, it was this song that was poignantly intoned outside court by families of the 96 Liverpool football fans which in April this year a jury found were "unlawfully killed" in the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster because of mistakes by the police.

That is our song.

Now in New Zealand, although God Save the Queen remains the official national anthem, another song is sung across the country - in schools, communities and sporting events - the Maori and English version of God Defend New Zealand.

I now have this second anthem that stirs me. This week at a school play about Sir Edmund Hillary, when Hillary and Tenzing reached the summit, not only the cast but the whole audience stood up to the sound of the waita heralding the song.

This, and listening and watching the children, parents and community belt out in Te Reo, 'their song' truly sent shivers down my spine. This is New Zealand's waita, reflecting our unique culture.

In the final scene of the play when Hillary is knighted by the Queen, his laid-back Kiwi style is in contrast to the silly formalities of the royal court.

Cut to real footage of Hillary singing one of his favourite songs.

Cut to Neil Finn playing it after Sir Ed's death.

God Save the Queen, the second anthem? My kids said they had never heard of it.

This is the same generation that were robbed of a chance to get rid of the Union Jack from the New Zealand flag earlier this year.

It is Queen's Birthday weekend this weekend.

But for most New Zealanders that simply means a lazy long weekend. Specials on undies at the Warehouse. Electric blankies at Bunnings.

There may still be crowns, courts and castles and glittering palaces in distant lands but the British monarchy seems increasingly irrelevant in New Zealand.

We are a country that was the first to give women the vote, climb Everest, one of the first to legalise gay marriage.

Despite our small size, we strut on the world stage. All Blacks, The Luminaries, Lorde, Lydia Ko. A unique breathtaking landscape, arguably one of the most beautiful in the world.

A rich Maori culture and language and traditions. A multicultural population formed by people from all corners of the world. Proud Kiwis. Why then would we want to still bow to the old Empire.

The Queen represents an increasingly irrelevant aristocracy. When her reign ends, it makes sense to kick them in to touch and take our heads out of the stale underskirts of mother England.

As Lorde says:

"We'll never be royals. It don't run in our blood, that kind of lux just ain't for us. We crave a different kind of buzz/ We don't care. We are not caught up in your love affair."

E Ihow Atua,

O ng iwi mtou r

ta whakarangona;

Me aroha noa

Kia hua ko te pai;

Kia tau t atawhai;

Manaakitia mai