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Key describes Mateparae as "our head of state"
Prime Minister John Key has highlighted the constitutional ambuiguity around the position of the Governor-General describing Sir Jerry Mateparae as "our head of state". His comments were reported on the stuff website as he commented on the Governor-General's welcome onto Te Tii marae at Waitangi today. When asked to comment on the presence of protesters at the door of the wharenui Key listed the different ways people understand the Governor-General's role stating:
"He is the Queen's representative here in New Zealand, he is our head of state and he deserves to be treated with respect when he goes actually to Waitangi to effectively be the crown's representative as part of the signing of the treaty".
Of course Sir Jerry is not our actual head of state but for all intents and purposes he is. Legally he is only ever the actual Queen's representative but in reality the royal family have nothing to do with the day to day and week to week activities of the Governor-General. That our Prime Minister, who appoints our 'head of state' can get it muddled might be due to the pressures involved in making hurried comments to a journalist but it also speaks volumes about how hard it is to say exactly what the Governor-General is at Waitangi for. What exactly is 'the crown' he is representing? It is not the Royal family because they have nothing to do with the treaty settlement process unless specifically invited to make an announcement on behalf of the government. The fact is the Monarchy never signed the treaty 174 years ago. It was an agreement between a representative of the British parliament and iwi. Those treaty obligations have since passed to the New Zealand parliament ('the crown'). Sir Jerry Mataparae is at Waitangi to represent the people and the nation of New Zealand. In that sense Key was right. The Governor-General is our head of state. How we choose that position is in need of reform so that it is clear to everyone what our highest constitutional office is actually for.