What do we want from a Head of State?

As we move toward a New Zealand Republic, with a head of state based on the Governor-General, we can look to the present office holder to understand what we want our future Heads of State to do.

Dame Patsy Reddy has only been in the role for a few months so we cannot tell what she will do with her time at Government House. She appears unconventional in some respects but we have yet to see her in action as a cultural leader. She is well used to dealing with those in high office, with the famous and fortunate but we have yet to see Dame Patsy out and about connecting with every day Kiwis.

Regardless of how our Head of State is chosen (whether directly or indirectly) their proposed powers and role will be clearly prescribed. Ours will not be an American or Finnish or French republic. It will be a New Zealand Republic and it is expected the office holder will fulfill three key roles. As a constitutional role model and figurehead, as a top diplomat and as a cultural leader. Welcoming visiting dignitaries and officiating at constitutional ceremonies and meetings will be a core function of the role, but just as importantly will be the opportunities and expectation that our Head of State will be out and about talking to and hearing from New Zealanders from all walks of life.

Dame Patsy has announced she intends to visit all sixteen of NZ's regions within the next five years. Not exactly a hard goal to achieve given our size and really this is just something we would naturally expect from any Governor-General or Head of State.

She recently visited Nelson-Tasman with her husband Sir David Gascoigne and the official three day itinerary looked like the list of photo opportunities we tend to see whenever a royal couple pay their annual fleeting visit. Let's hope she is not going to fall into the trap of seeing herself as a stand-in aristocrat , cutting ribbons, tasting wine, and waving from window of her passing limousine.  It would be nice to see her delving a lot deeper into the full diversity of New Zealand society.   

We have yet to see Dame Patsy visiting those affected by this weeks earthquakes and time will tell what she does to stamp her mark on New Zealand's highest constitutional office. Regardless of what she does and how she behaves it will help New Zealanders get a better sense of what they want from a Kiwi Head of State.