Getting to know the royals better appears to have confirmed Prime Minister John Key's view that New Zealand should remain with the monarchy - but he still wants to change the flag.

Speaking after his visit to Balmoral, Mr Key said he could see no benefit in New Zealand becoming a republic.

"I don't think New Zealand should rush to become a republic. It may happen one day, but I can't for the life of me see the benefits of it other than you get to spend a lot of money electing heads of state as opposed to the government appointing one."

However, he said that belief "wouldn't stop me changing the flag".


He said he expected the royal family would say the nation's flag was up to New Zealand - and he believed the public was split on the issue.

One of the problems was that even those who supported a change could not agree on a replacement. Mr Key said his own support for changing the flag had strengthened over time. "The Rugby World Cup for me really cemented the view we should change to the silver fern."

He did not believe his wish to change the flag to remove the Union Jack was contrary to his monarchist leanings.

"I don't see how they're related. Some would say it has the Union Jack on it, but there are Commonwealth countries with the Queen as head of state where they don't have the Union Jack on the flag."

Asked if he would like to beat Australia to changing the flag, he said he did not know if they were even considering it. "Whoever headed towards changing the flag, I think it would be controversial but a potentially winnable argument."

Asked whether knowing the royals on a personal level had entrenched his monarchist views, he said he had "an enormous respect" for them.

"It's given an opportunity to see how remarkable they are. They're in fantastic shape, they work extremely hard and they're very knowledgeable."

He said there was a succession line "of immensely able people".


"On one level, that's always going to be a factor in my view. But even prior to that I was always quite strongly of the view that the monarch should remain."

But he did not expect the issue to bubble up in New Zealand soon, not least because of the popularity of the younger royals such as Prince William and his new family. To help persuade the rest of New Zealand, he has invited Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, to visit with Prince George.