It’s a bit fucking wild that Queen Lizzy is dead.
After reigning for 70 years, Queen Elizabeth was the only monarch many people knew. Millions lived and died under her name. She ruled through world wars; Coronavirus; the assasination of JFK; the invention of the internet; Beetlemania, The Jackson Five, The Backstreet Boys, and One Direction; and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wearing matching denim to the 2001 AMAs.
Not to repeat the words of people more eloquent than us, but Queen Elizabeth wasn’t just a person, she was a symbol and an institution. And her death rightfully brings up questions of where that institution should sit in New Zealand’s government—if at all.
Because Queen Elizabeth was the last monarch of a “united” British empire, she also remains a symbol of white supremacy and colonialism. And while the royal media team worked overtime in her later years to rebrand her as a #girlboss in Angela Kelly’s Chanel-esque suits, it remains to be seen how they’ll manage to rehabilitate Charles’ image. Y’know, after the whole Princess Diana debacle. #notherhusband #notourking.
Additionally, the Queen’s death already has other countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Belize considering the move to Republicanism—a style of government where the Head of State is an elected representative rather than a monarch. In November of last year, Barbados took the plunge. So, why not Aotearoa New Zealand?
Of course, some would be quick to cry that the Crown is one of the principal parties in one of New Zealand’s foundational documents—Te Tiriti o Waitangi—and removing the Crown as Head of State might violate our constitutional foundations. To which Craccum would quickly say: shut the fuck up. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an agreement between two independent nations—lest you forget He Whakaputanga? Removing the Crown would probably not do as much as you think it would, especially when our own government has essentially taken over the role of the Crown in Te Tiriti. Not that Te Tiriti has been historically well observed by the Crown anyway—and also, what a convenient time to suddenly start caring about our “constitutional foundations”.
Moving toward a Republic would mean several things for New Zealand, but most importantly, it would be a powerful symbol of decolonisation. It would be a step towards honouring tino rangatiratanga and acknowledging the Māori sovereignty that was never ceded to the British. Of course, becoming a Republic is not a silver bullet solution to the ongoing effects of colonialism, but it would send a strong message. Jacinda Ardern herself has even said that she believes New Zealand will become a Republic in her lifetime, but that she’s “never sensed the urgency”.
But perhaps now more than ever, decolonisation is urgent. Colonialism has never been separate from economy, social welfare, politics, or the law. Why should we pretend otherwise now? The issues New Zealanders are facing today are issues that stem from colonialism and white supremacy—the housing crisis, incarceration rates, and widening class divides—just to name a few. So, why not now? And with petitions already under way to remove the Crown from meaningful symbols of Aotearoa, such as our currency, a New Zealand Republic may not be too much more of a stretch.
Kia kaha Aotearoa New Zealand.
Flora Xie (she/her) and Naomii Seah (she/they)