New Zealand PM envisages country becoming republic ‘over course of lifetime’

·4-min read

The leader of New Zealand has suggested she still believes the country is likely to become a republic in her lifetime, but said bonds will remain between Commonwealth nations even as relationships with the UK evolve over time.

Jacinda Ardern said she does not have any intention of instigating the process by which the country would move away from a monarchical system, as she refrained from predicting a timescale for the shift.

Reflecting on the change in sovereign, Ms Ardern, who is visiting the UK for the state funeral, said the transition from Queen to King will not be “jarring” for New Zealand, as Charles is “well known” in the country.

She told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show: “He shares many passions and interests that New Zealanders do.

“And I think that means that that relationship already exists. It’s a transition, but it’s not a jarring transition for New Zealand.”

Asked why she has said in the past that she believes the country will become a republic in her lifetime, she said: “I think even the Queen herself has observed and acknowledged the evolution over time in our relationships.

“My observation is that there will continue to be an evolution in our relationship. I don’t believe it will be quick or soon, but over the course of my lifetime.”

Pressed on how and when this might happen, she said: “We have complex arrangements, the Treaty of Waitangi – a very important founding document for Aotearoa, New Zealand, signed between Maori and the Crown.

“This is why it’s not a process I have any intent of instigating, but if and when it does occur, it will take time, and it will need to be very carefully worked through.”

The prime minister of Australia Anthony Albanese signs a book of condolence at Lancaster House in London
The prime minister of Australia Anthony Albanese said ‘now is not a time’ to discuss his country becoming a republic (David Parry Media Assignments/PA)

In addition to the UK and New Zealand, the King is head of state for 13 Commonwealth realms.

These are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

But the monarchy’s future role in some of the countries appears less certain with the start of a new reign.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, said after the Queen’s death that he would call for a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese has said “now is not a time” to discuss his country making the change, but has not ruled out a future referendum on the issue.

Jamaica is expected to follow Barbados, which became a republic in November 2021, although it remains within the Commonwealth.

Ms Ardern also reflected on her first meeting with the Queen, during which she asked how the late monarch managed being both a mother and a leader.

The New Zealand prime minister, who was pregnant at the time of the exchange, said: “I asked her, for instance, of course what was one of the things on my mind alongside being a new prime minister was being a prime minister and a mum.

“I said to her: ‘How did you manage?’ And I remember she just said: ‘Well, you just get on with it’.

“And that was actually probably the best and most, I think, factual advice I could have. You do, you just take every day as it comes. And she did.

“But I have such respect for her because I see now what it takes to be a mum and a leader and she did it more times over than I.”

Also speaking on the programme, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle described the Queen’s funeral as “the most important event the world will ever see”.

“We should not allow anything to overshadow the most important event the world will ever see, and that’s the funeral of Her Majesty,” he said.

Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, told the programme the Queen “has great value to us” as a Commonwealth country.

“She was not only a Queen, but a very affectionate motherly personality,” she said.