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Design: Archi Banal.
Design: Archi Banal.

SocietyJuly 6, 2023

Arguing for and against the monarchy in New Zealand

Design: Archi Banal.
Design: Archi Banal.

There are two sides to every story, including the future of the monarchy.

Against: to reject the legacy of colonisation

The Crown symbolises one thing: colonisation. Our head of state is a foreign billionaire whose ancestors believed they had the God-given right to conquer, pillage, plunder and rape. “But that happened centuries ago!” says the royal fan, disregarding that the monarchy hasn’t used the time since to redress their ancestors’ wrongdoings. Instead, they’ve performed acts like maintaining their massive landholdings and making brown people feel unwelcome in their family. 

Because of the royals, our history will always include colonisation. Still, we should reject powerful symbols of the oppression of tangata whenua (and Indigenous peoples the world over), like the monarchy.

For: Commonwealth Games medals

We’re never going to collect massive Olympic medal hauls. Last Olympics, New Zealand finished a respectable 13th place with 20 medals – but who wants to come 13th? Enter the Olympics’ imperial little sibling, the Commonwealth Games. At the 2022 games, we finished fifth with 49 (!!!) medals, including as many golds as our total 2022 Olympic medal count.

If we ditched the Crown, we could still compete in the games because we could retain Commonwealth membership. But half-arsed breakups aren’t good. In my hateful opinion, if we ditch the monarchy, we should largely dissociate with Britain à la a modern American revolution (without the violence) – including leaving their athletics showcase for conquered nations. But if we did that, we’d have to settle with middling 13th-placed Olympics finishes instead of grandiose fifth-placed Commonwealth Games spots. For the sake of racking up Commonwealth Games medals, maybe it’s worth retaining the monarchy. 

New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games winning men’s 4000m team pursuit cycling team from Birmingham 2022. Look how happy they are to have contributed to such a hefty medal count by Team NZ! (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Against: some members of the royal family are ratbags

Some of the royals must be nice. Their kids are cute and haven’t upheld their family’s racism (yet). But there’s also a mate of sex offenders, a prince who called people he killed “chess pieces” and tried making money airing their familial dirty laundry, a grumpy grandpa who threw fits at his coronation and many other personalities. These characters sound like an HBO cast, not good leaders.

For: the place of Te Tiriti

Our founding document was signed explicitly between hapū and the British monarch, so what would happen to Te Tiriti o Waitangi if we abolished Crown authority? The way I see it, there are two options. One: replacing the Crown in Te Tiriti with the new sovereign power. Two: we create a new founding constitutional document. I am no legal expert, but both options sound complicated. 

But recent events prove we aren’t ready for those complicated conversations yet. Racists still reckon “Mowrees are coming for us” because of policies that respect the treaty that gives all tauiwi their right to be here. New Zealand isn’t ready for these profound conversations until entire generations, regardless of ethnicity, know our history and te reo me ona tikanga. We’re far from that goal, so maybe maintaining the monarchy – whose authority comes from Te Tiriti – is helpful to stop a race war. 

King Charles at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Then Prince and now King Charles Speaking at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the site where New Zealand’s founding document was signed. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

For: ceebs changing

Abolishing the monarchy would be super complicated, so it is a bit of a ceebs. To do it would require a lot of effort, people and money – which could be better spent on other important kaupapa. Change is usually a slow, contentious process, particularly when it is as complex and nuanced as a new government structure. 

Against: because we’re uniquely New Zealand, not the ‘little Britain of the south seas’

We speak English and eat fish and chips, but our culture is distinct from Britain’s. Historically we imitated our “motherland” with dire results, including forming a Pacific empire – sorry for the Spanish flu, Sāmoa. However, recently our identity has changed. New Zealand is a delightfully diverse place where different peoples, for the most part, get along. We should lean into that identity instead of upholding monocultural institutions like the British monarchy. 

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