Nikki Pender argues “we” (New Zealanders) “enjoy a meritocratic constitutional monarchy”, on the basis that no-one forces New Zealand to keep the Queen as head of State. This is a unique way of putting the monarchy, but also a concession that its head is not in anyway chosen on merit. She correctly argues that change from the status quo to a New Zealand head of State “could be effected relatively swiftly” and makes a number of other claims that deserve scrutiny.
The only reason New Zealand keeps the Queen, Nikki says, is because there is “no popular support” for a New Zealander as head of State, and the majority of Kiwis consider the Queen deserves her position. In fact, Nikki’s own comments contain one piece of why “popular support” appears to be with the monarchy. From her comments, it appears that Nikki believes that an independent head of State of New Zealand would mean we have to leave the Commonwealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of members of the Commonwealth today are republics. Only a handful still have the Queen as their head of State – and of those a number are taking steps to creating their own heads of State. This is sadly not a very well known fact.
The comments on Nikki’s article are also instructive. More often than not the arguments were not for the monarchy in anyway, they were simply against a New Zealand head of State. Claims such as a New Zealand head of State would be all-powerful like the US president, that it means an end to the Treaty of Waitangi are objectively not true, yet often repeated myths.
While we can’t bring about a New Zealand head of State without popular support – and we’d be hypocritical not to as believers in the consent of the governed – the campaign for a New Zealand head of State focuses primarily on refuting these myths. By doing so we get to the heart of the issue – who will be the best head of State for New Zealand, and what is the best way to choose the holder of that office. While Nikki may be right to claim the Queen has been “trained for life” for her role, that misses the point. The fact is the Queen is first and foremost the UK’s head of State, and not ours.
I’d also point out that Prince Charles has been trained for life for his role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a good King of New Zealand!