1.00pm - By JONATHAN MILNE, Herald on Sunday Political Editor

Former Governors General Sir Paul Reeves and Dame Cath Tizard say the Queen should be replaced by a New Zealand head of state.

Her former representatives spoke of the need for New Zealand to signal its maturity to the world, as the Prime Minister announced a major "stocktake" of the constitution.

Sir Paul, a former Anglican archbishop, said his knighthood had become a part of him since its award in 1984: "But if renouncing knighthoods was a prerequisite to being a citizen of a republic, I think it would be worth it."


Dame Cath said she supported a republic in principle and, as governor-general, had discussed the issue with the Queen: "She is quite sanguine about these things. She has always said it is a decision for New Zealand to make, and 'whatever decision New Zealand makes, of course we would accept it'."

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced yesterday a special Parliamentary committee inquiry into the constitution, chaired by United Future leader Peter Dunne.

Mr Dunne told the Herald on Sunday he strongly believed New Zealanders should elect their head of state, but he would chair the committee impartially.

He believed the committee, which he hoped would represent every party in Parliament, was unlikely to go further than recommending a process to move towards a republic.

But that could enable a public referendum and a republic to be achieved in the next 10 years: "You can't be so crude as to say we're not going to do it while the Queen's alive. If she follows her mother's example she could be around for another 30 years yet."

He did not expect the committee would need to travel the world for advice.

Labour's Maori caucus, traditionally cautious about any tinkering that might affect Treaty rights, met immediately before the announcement.

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said the Treaty was etched in our history and he was interested in how that would be handled in the debate about moving to a republic.

Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, who has previously said New Zealand would one day consider "passing the baton" to a New Zealand head of state, was not commenting.

And the only other retired governor-general still alive, Sir Michael Hardie Boys, said he favoured the status quo: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Last night National leader Don Brash echoed Sir Michael's views, saying the public would eventually debate a republic but it was not an urgent priority.

The Prime Minister's speech was interrupted by two protesters calling for the release of Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui.

Earlier, disabled delegate Huhana Hickey screamed at delegates over the conference's refusal to put disabled members on its national council.