WELLINGTON – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that her government will not pursue any moves to change the country into a republic following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Ardern said she thought New Zealand will eventually become a republic, and it would probably happen within her lifetime, but that there were more pressing issues for her government.
The remarks were her first about the New Zealand republic debate since the queen's death, and reflect previous comments she has made on the issue. Ardern has also previously expressed her support for the country eventually becoming a republic.
Under the current system, the British monarch is New Zealand's head of state, represented in New Zealand by a governor-general. The governor-general's role these days is considered primarily ceremonial.
Still, many people argue that New Zealand won't fully step out from the shadows of its colonialist past and become a truly independent nation until it becomes a republic.
“There's been a debate, probably for a number of years,” Ardern said. "It's just the pace, and how widely that debate is occurring. I've made my view plain many times. I do believe that is where New Zealand will head, in time. I believe it is likely to occur in my lifetime.
“But I don't see it as a short-term measure or anything that is on the agenda any time soon,” Ardern said.
She said that becoming a republic was not something her government planned to discuss at any point.
“As I say, in large part actually because I've never sensed the urgency,” Ardern said. “There are so many challenges we face. This is a large, significant debate. I don't think it's one that would or should occur quickly."
The death of Elizabeth and ascension of King Charles III to the throne has revived the republic debate in many countries around the world.
Charles became the head of state not only in the United Kingdom and New Zealand but also in 13 other countries, including Canada, Jamaica and Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese started laying the groundwork for an Australian republic after he was elected in May. But he said Sunday that now is not the time for a change but rather for paying tribute to Elizabeth. He previously said that holding a referendum on becoming a republic is not a priority of his first term in government.
Many people in New Zealand have speculated in the past that the republic debate would gather momentum only after the death of Elizabeth, given how beloved she was by so many.
Ardern said she didn't link the two events. “I've never attached it in that way,” she said.
Elizabeth's image features on many of New Zealand’s coins and banknotes. prompting the nation's central bank to advise people the currency depicting her remains legal tender following her death.
Ardern also announced Monday that New Zealand will mark the death of Elizabeth with a public holiday on Sept. 26. The nation will hold a state memorial service on that day in the capital, Wellington.
Ardern said Elizabeth was an extraordinary person and many New Zealanders would appreciate the opportunity to mark her death and celebrate her life.
“As New Zealand’s queen and much-loved sovereign for over 70 years, it is appropriate that we mark her life of dedicated public service with a state memorial service and a one-off public holiday,” Ardern said.
Ardern said she will leave this week for Britain to attend Elizabeth’s funeral.