The Queen's milestone: Time to look to the future

Queen Elizabeth has reached a milstone and is now the longest reigning British Head of State. Since 1952 she has also been New Zealand's Head of State.

Her reign is drawing to a close and will most likely end within the next ten years. King Charles will become our next head of state unless we are ready to make the transition to an independent New Zealand Head of State. Like his mother, Charles will be unable to do the job we need a head of state to do.

A head of state in a parliamentary democracy like New Zealand represents the continuity of the state and authority of constitutional law. The person in the role must act according to the constitutional conventions and powers given to them under New Zealand law. Theymust symbolise New Zealand both here and overseas.

The practical aspects of the role is carried out here by the Governor-General. It is not their role to participate in parliamentary politics or to assert their own view on matters to be decided by parliament or by voters. That is why it is very rare for any head of state to comment publically on any issue. They act as directed to by the government of the day. If they stray from this convention they are swiftly bought back into line.

Queen Elizabeth has veto powers in the UK and the extent to which she has used them or influenced policy behind the scenes is unknowable. The UK monarchy is shrouded in secrecy and resist attempts to make their roles more transparent.

Here in New Zealand we have had New Zealand appointed Governors-General since 1967. Sir Jerry Mateparae is our 10th. These New Zealanders have maintained the mana of the role and set the tone for all future office holders. That is why we are advocating changing to a head of state modelled on the role of Governor-General.

To make this happen will take time and it is important that we are ready to do so. New Zealand's head of state should be a New Zealander. They should be democratically selected and independent. They should act, as the Governor-General does, to safeguard our constitutional conventions but they should also be protected from any attemnpt by the Prime Minister to dismiss them. Only parliament, on behalf of the people, should have that power.

It is a straight-forward solution to the problems inherent in having a foreign head of state.