My head of state in New Zealand is Queen Elizabeth II. We're still part of the Commonwealth, still a fragment of the once-huge British Empire. While we have our own Prime Minster and all that, in theory, the Queen is our big boss, even if the power is more ceremonial than not.
In recent weeks the debate on New Zealand's future has flared up again, with the leader of the opposition party saying it's time to start making plans for a republic. "We need to start the conversation now," said Labour leader Phil Goff. Prime Minister John Key seems to be content with vagueness, having said before a New Zealand republic is "inevitable" but not actually doing much more than that. Bills introduced to actually move the debate don't get far; the most recent one failed on its first reading in Parliament.
The sentiment generally seems to be that when Queen Elizabeth II dies or steps down, NZ (and probably Australia) will move to sever their last ties to the monarchy. The notion of poor King Charles III doesn't seem to instill a lot of confidence in people. (We might still have Queen Elizabeth for another 20 years though - while she's 84, her mum lasted to 101.)
However, you could argue that without the ties to the motherland New Zealand suddenly becomes a mighty small country at the bottom of the world. Australia already has a lot over us economically. Would losing the monarchy actually benefit us in any tangible way on the world stage? Do we need it to stay afloat? Yet culturally, we're hardly "Southern Britain" anymore. NZ is a vibrant, multicultural nation - a little bit Pacifica, a little bit Maori, a little bit Australian, a little bit Asian. Britain really is an awful long ways away. We're our own identity now.
I've got nothing against old Queenie, and I find the novelty of it all kind of interesting to observe coming from the American system of government. If pressed, I'd have to admit the whole notion of a hereditary leader, as limited as her actual power might be, kind of flies in the face of my good ol' "anybody can be President" American idealism.
But I'd bet firm money a change is going to happen, in the next decade if not sooner. I certainly see no harm in the notion of planning for it, but there seems to be a political timidity to engage on this -- for fear of offending the last hardcore monarchists. But it's foolish to wait until Queen Elizabeth II kicks the bucket to even start thinking about the future. While there's a kind of quaint charm to the idea of the monarchy, in reality New Zealand stopped being just an outpost of empire some time ago. It's only a formality that we still have a Queen.
(Speaking of outposts of Empire, I'm off to the United States for a long-overdue holiday and will be on blog hiatus until mid-October sometime. Cheers mates!)