Time to become a republic

When I was in primary school, I lined up with hundreds of others along Highgate to catch a glimpse of the Queen — a brief wave through a car window and the excitement was over. I also remember my class being interrupted over the intercom system for the announcement that Prince William was born — such was the importance of the event. This weekend, I asked my son, who lives in the heart of student-ville, whether there had been any coronation parties over the weekend. He looked at me blankly, and I had to repeat my question "were there any parties to celebrate the coronation?" He replied, "What’s the coronation?" His answer reflected the generational dilution of the value of the monarchy.

I watched the coronation for about half an hour; that was all I could stomach. The pomp and ceremony was of some historic interest, but of little relevance for me as a New Zealander. Actually no, it’s worse than that — it’s not that the Royals have little relevance to me, but what they symbolise makes me feel uncomfortable about how New Zealand and other countries were colonised (and the 100-plus years afterwards) and the treatment of indigenous peoples.

Like many New Zealanders, I learned during my schooling that "New Zealand has no history", which is why we were taught English history. Thankfully, this attitude is changing. This is not about being "woke" — for me, it’s about confronting the statistics and understanding the path to inequities in health, education and wealth that exist in New Zealand. It’s also about revitalising what we have almost lost in terms of indigenous history, practices and language. For many Pakeha New Zealanders confronting our past is uncomfortable, but is essential if we are to become a better nation and I hope younger generations will be more open to it.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said "ideally, in time, New Zealand will become a fully independent country, [and] will stand on our own two feet in the world, as we by and large do now ... I don’t think that swapping out the Governor-General for some other form of head of state is necessarily an urgent priority right now, though." This stance is pragmatism at best, gutless at worst. But I understand the pragmatism, just as I understand there will be people reading my opinion piece who will be spitting in their teacups. I was quite stunned at how cross some friends were with me when I raised all of this with them. It’s surprising who are royalists — they were excited about the coronation and all it represented and my view to them was unfathomable.

Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball said: "I think most New Zealanders don’t easily accept unearned privilege. I think we accept, right down deep in our guts, that we’re pretty much as good as the next person." It is this egalitarian mindset that, for me, separates us as New Zealanders from other countries in terms of our identity. As a nation, we score incredibly low on Geert Hofstede’s "power distance" measure (22/100), meaning equality is at the heart of what we believe.

The debate as to whether we become a republic will be conveyed as complex in terms of our obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The New Zealand Republic movement has a clear view that any move towards becoming a republic must include legislative protection for the Treaty and the current Māori-Government relationship. Their belief is that the movement will be an opportunity to improve the relationship between Māori and Pakeha — I hope so. Those who oppose the republic movement will pull "Treaty complexity" as a reason not to take action — I don’t buy it. As Theodore Roosevelt said: "Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty ... "

At a personal level, I have nothing against the Royal Family. They look to be as dysfunctional as most families and it’s little wonder given the media craziness they are born into.

I wish them well but, boy-oh-boy, I would love the next coronation ceremony to be at even greater arm’s length for us as New Zealanders.

 - Anna Campbell is co-founder of Zestt Wellness, a nutraceutical company. She holds various directorships.