- Head of State debate
- The case for a New Zealand republic
- Defending the monarchy
- The facts
- Constitutional review
- The Treaty of Waitangi
- Commonwealth membership
- Common Cause
History of republicanism in New Zealand
From flagpoles to polls: A history of republicanism in New Zealand. Republicanism in New Zealand is not a new concept, with a number of examples in New Zealand existing from the 19th century that could be called "republics". This page looks at the long history of republicanism in New Zealand, from flagpoles to political polls.
Frenchman Baron de Thierry's attempts to establish an independent state of Hokianga are thwarted by the signing of the Declaration of Independence between the British Colonial office and 34 northern Maori chiefs.
A twelve-member council of the New Zealand Company colony at Port Nicholson (Wellington) convenes under the United Tribes' flag. William Wakefield is elected as "President" of the council. The council creates rudimentary courts.
The Treaty of Waitangi is signed between representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs, establishing New Zealand as a British colony, initially as part of New South Wales.
Newly declared Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson sends a detachment of troops to bring to an end what he calls the "Wellington republic". Acting Colonial Secretary Willoughby Shortland and the troops ensure that the Union Flag flies instead in Wellington.
New Zealand becomes a separate colony from New South Wales. William Hobson becomes first Governor of New Zealand.
Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke, inspired by the American republic, takes an axe to the flagpole flying the Union Jack at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands. Heke repeats this symbolic act of defiance three times, despite the armed resistance of British troops.
The first New Zealand Constitution Act is passed by the British Parliament, granting New Zealand settlers democratic representative institutions. The Act was soon suspended because of concerns by the Governor, Sir George Grey, that the settler government would clash with Maori.
Samuel Revans founds the Wellington Settlers' Constitutional Association. Revans is a noted radical, previously advocating a New Zealand republic.
British parliament passes the second New Zealand Constitution Act, which creates democratic institutions for the first time in New Zealand. The first New Zealand Parliament meets in 1853, but is drawn into conflict with the Governor over whether it has the power to appoint Ministers. Eventually, it acquires this right, creating the office of Premier (renamed Prime Minister in 1893).
The Constitution Act is amended to allow the New Zealand Parliament to amend certain provisions.
1860s - 1890s
Imperial troops and colonial militia fight against Maori tribes and the Kingitanga (Maori King Movement) in the New Zealand Land Wars, throughout the North Island.
Te Whiti o Rongomai founds Parihaka, an autonomous settlement based on principles of peaceful resistance to the British. The culmination of violent invasion in the 1870s and 1880s combined with the Crown's resolve to assert sovereignty over the whole of the country, means that Parihaka slowly cedes its independence in the early 20th century.
Te Whiti and his followers launch a campaign of ploughing up European settlers' farms. Alarmed at the campaign against European settlement in Taranaki, and the lack of government response to this campaign, the people of Hawera declared themselves to be the Republic of Hawera, and formed their own volunteer units to oppose Te Whiti.
The Republic of Hawera is superseded in when government troops invade Parihaka and arrest Te Whiti.
Sir Joseph Ward's Liberal Government passes a resolution to make New Zealand a dominion. On 26th September, New Zealand declares itself a Dominion, responsible for all domestic, but not foreign, affairs.
Colonel Allen Bell, a candidate for the Reform Party at the general election, causes a sensation when he advocates the abolition of the monarchy. The military authorities considered that Bell had broken his oath of allegiance. He was asked to resign his commission as a Colonel, which he reluctantly did in January 1912.
Rua Kenana's Tuhoe Parliament in the Ureweras is invaded by police and destoyed. It is the last concerted attempt to assert a separate sovereignty by Maori.
As a result of becoming a dominion, the Letters Patent are re-issued. The office of Governor is renamed Governor-General, to signify the powers of the office have been curtailed.
The Balfour Declaration declares that the Dominions are "freely associated" states in their own right. The declaration leads to the British Parliament passing the Statute of Westminster 1931, which grants formal independence to Britain's self-governing colonies. The Statute required ratification to become law in Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland. Newfoundland became a part of Canada, while Australia adopted the Statute in 1941.
Britain appoints its first High Commissioner to New Zealand. By 1941 the Governor-General has ceased to be the official line of communication between Britain and New Zealand.
The New Zealand Parliament adopts the Statute of Westminster 1931, giving New Zealand control over New Zealand's foreign affairs - two years after the end of World War Two. The statute legally separates a independent New Zealand Crown from the British Crown, meaning New Zealand's head of state is legally distinct from Britain's, even though in practice they are the same person.
The British Parliament passes the New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947, allowing the New Zealand Parliament to amend all provisions of the Constitution Act 1852. This effectively allows New Zealand to change its own constitutional arrangements.
As a result of adopting the Statute of Westminster, New Zealand's Parliament passes the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948. This Act makes New Zealanders "British subjects and New Zealand citizens" rather than solely British subjects.
New Zealand signs the the London Declaration which creates the Commonwealth of Nations, replacing the British Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes Queen of Great Britain and therefore New Zealand; Her Majesty is declared "Queen of New Zealand and Great Britain" by New Zealand's Parliament under the Royal Titles Act 1953.
The name "Dominion of New Zealand" is gradually dropped from official documents, with the term "Realm" being used instead.
Protesters chanting "1, 2, 3, 4; we don't want your royal tour" become a common feature of royal tours from the 60s. Maori protests focus on the Treaty of Waitangi.
Anti-royalist activist Bruce Jesson establishes the Republican Association of New Zealand in Christchurch, later moving it to Auckland.
Jesson and others found the short-lived New Zealand Republican Party. Their stridently nationalistic manifesto seeks to distinguish New Zealanders from "others beyond our shores who are alien and foreign to us... and take steps to exclude by national quota those immigrants who would upset the degree of harmony we already have".
The first New Zealand born Governor-General, Sir Denis Blundell, is appointed. All Governors-General since 1967 have been New Zealanders.
The New Zealand Men's Eight wins at the International Rowing Championship - and God Save the Queen is played to the bemusement of the crowd. A campaign begins to have God Defend New Zealand made the national anthem.
At the Munich Summer Olympics, New Zealand's Men's Eight rowing team wins gold - and God Defend New Zealand is played for the first time.
Great Britain becomes a member of the European Economic Community or EEC (now the European Union) which leads to reduced trade and economic ties between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Prior to Britain's membership of the EEC, 65% of New Zealand's exports went to the United Kingdom. By the year 2008, only 4% of New Zealand's exports went to the United Kingdom.
The Kirk Labour Government passes the Royal Titles Act 1974. The Queen is declared solely to be the "Queen of New Zealand" under the Act. This is considered a significant statement of nationalism by many New Zealanders.
Activity peters out in Bruce Jesson's republican association, and he replaces the movement with a bi-monthly broadsheet, The Republican.
God Defend New Zealand is declared to be one of New Zealand's official national anthems, alongside God Save the Queen.
The New Zealand Citizenship Act defines New Zealanders as "New Zealand citizens" dropping the reference to "British subject", hence any mention of the United Kingdom is removed from New Zealand passports.
In the early 1980s many anti-royal demonstrations focus on the issue of Maori sovereignty, with Maori groups identifying the monarchy as the source of their oppression. In 1983, members of the Mana Motuhake Party sought to petition the Queen, but were blocked by the Muldoon Government.
Following a long-running review, the Letters Patent of 1983 permits the Sovereign, under prerogative power, to rule New Zealand, to appoint the Governor-General to act in the Sovereign's absence, and to appoint the Executive Council.
The Constitution Act 1986 repeals the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, and removing the right of the British Parliament to legislate for New Zealand at the request of New Zealand's Parliament. The Act ties the Governor-General intimately into our political process. Bills passed by the House of Representatives must be approved by the Queen or the Governor-General in order to become law. The Governor-General has reserve powers of veto, can summon Parliament, prorogue or suspend Parliament, or dissolve it when new elections are called.
Sir Paul Reeves becomes the first Governor-General to represent New Zealand overseas, attending the funeral of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. Until that time it was considered that only the head of state (the Queen) could represent New Zealand overseas. Governors-General representing New Zealand overseas became a common occurrence in the coming decades.
Maori sovereignty protests boil over, coinciding with New Zealand's sesquicentennial (150 years). When the Queen visits Waitangi, one attendee throws a wet t-shirt towards her.
Following the re-design of New Zealand's banknotes, the Reserve Bank removes the Queen from all but one ($20 note), replacing the head of state with famous New Zealanders, - Sir Edmund Hillary, Kate Sheppard, Sir Apirana Ngata and Lord Ernest Rutherford.
Public interest in republicanism intensifies in response to the high profile debate in Australia, prompted by Prime Minister Paul Keating.
The New Zealand public vote in favour of replacing the FPP with a new electoral system at a non-binding referendum.
The New Zealand public votes in favour of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system at a second binding referendum.
The Republican Coalition of New Zealand is formed by a group of students at Victoria University - Paul Lishman, James Shaw, Jonathan Milne, Deborah Morris, Dave Guerin, Evan Roberts, Tomas Kriha, Rebecca Schofield, Bevan Blair, Simon Sheppard and Savage. Savage is elected the first president.
In March, Prime Minister Jim Bolger publicly endorses republicanism, telling Parliament that the big constitutional question facing New Zealand revolves around the role of the Governor-General in the new MMP environment:
Is New Zealand to continue to have an appointed Governor-General as our head of state, or should we move to an elected president? ... It is my view -- it is a personal view not the Government's view -- that the momentum for change will gather as we identify more with our Asia-Pacific region of the world and as our direct links to Britain decline. But the big reason will be that we want to be independent New Zealanders. This will not happen because of any lack of affection or love for our Queen in London, but because the tide of history is moving in one direction. MMP could prove to be the catalyst, given the possible greater role for the head of state as we form governments under MMP.
The Monarchist League of New Zealand is founded to defend the monarchy in New Zealand.
Keri Hulme, the Booker Prize-winning author of The Bone People, is appointed patron of the renamed Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand. Ms Hulme, of Kai Tahu descent, is a member of the self-styled "Free Republic of Okarito" on the South Island's West Coast.
The National Government's proposal to abolish the right to appeal to the Privy Council, and create an extra tier to the Court of Appeal, fails to win the support of Parliament.
After the first MMP election, NZ First proposes an addendum to its draft coalition agreement with National requiring a referendum on any move towards a republic. The addendum does not feature in the final agreement.
The Third New Zealand Study of Values is released, showing support for a republic doubling from 16.2 per cent in 1989 to 33.3 per cent in 1998 - with 62.2% opposed to a republic.
A republic referendum in Australia is defeated by a margin of 4.5% of the popular vote.
A National Party policy proposes holding a referendum on the monarchy following the end of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. The policy fails to win support at the party's annual conference.
The New Zealand Honours System no longer awards titular honours, with Knighthoods and Damehoods being scrapped. A poll conducted by the National Business Review in February 2000 revealed that 54% of New Zealanders thought the titles should be scrapped. Technically, New Zealanders could still receive a Knighthood and Damehood directly from the Queen.
The Victoria University of Wellington Institute of Policy Studies hosts the Building the Constitution Conference at Parliament in Wellington.
Keith Locke, a Green Member of Parliament and republican, introduces his Head of State (Referenda) Bill, which would bring about a referendum on the republic issue.
Turnout is exceptionally low for The Queen's tenth Royal tour of New Zealand.
Labour includes in its election manifesto a plan to abolish appeals to the Privy Council, and replace them with a new Supreme Court.
Upon the re-election of the Labour government, legislation is introduced to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. In 2003 the law is passed, despite calls from New Zealand First, National and ACT for a referendum to be called on the issue. Appeals to the Privy Council were replaced by appeals to the new Supreme Court of New Zealand from 1 July 2004.
Prime Minister Helen Clark announces formation of a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the constitution, chaired by United Future leader Peter Dunne. Both the National Party and New Zealand First refused to participate, however, calling the committee a "political stunt", accusing the Prime Minister of using the inquiry as a distraction from the subject of the "grievance industry" of Maori land claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. In its final report, the committee recommended wider education on the constitution.
Parliament passes the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 which, among other things, replaces the title of Queen's Counsel, given to senior barristers, with that of Senior Counsel. These changes have already occurred in some Australian states, where they have been criticised by supporters of the status quo as "republicanism by stealth".
The Government amends the Letters Patent 1983, so that the Governor-General no longer has to ask for permission from Buckingham Palace to leave New Zealand.
The results of the 2005 New Zealand Election Study are published - support for the monarchy has fallen from in 62.2% 1999 to 48.7% in 2005. 34% of those surveyed support a republic, 17% don't know.
A poll by Research New Zealand finds the highest ever support for a republic at 42% of those surveyed - support for the monarchy is recorded at 48%. The New Zealand Election Study finds 49% support for the monarchy and 32% support for a republic.
The Republican Movement launches The New Zealand Republic Handbook at Parliament.
In October, Keith Locke's Head of State Referenda Bill is drawn from the ballot.
On 21 April, the Queen's 8th birthday, Keith Locke's Head of State Referenda Bill is voted down 68 - 53, with National, Act, Progressive and four members of the Maori Party voting no and one abstaining, and Labour, the Greens and United Future voting yes.
- Bruce Jesson et al, Manifesto of the New Zealand Republic, 1967.
- Jonathan Milne, "The way we were", in Rep (Republican Movement, Wellington) April 1996.
- Geoffrey Palmer and Matthew Palmer, Bridled power: New Zealand government under MMP (Oxford University Press, Auckland) 2002.
- Evan Roberts "Parihaka; New Zealand's first republic?", in Rep (Republican Movement, Wellington) December 1996.
- Luke Trainor (ed), Republicanism in New Zealand (The Dunmore Press, Palmerston North) 1996.
- Alan Whelan and Barrie Cook, New Zealand Republic (Niu Pacific Ltd, Wellington) 1997.
- Gavin McLean, The Governors - New Zealand's Governors and Governors-General (Otago University Press, Dunedin) 2006.