New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Says No Republic Plan After Queen's Death As Debate Is Expected To Surge

Following Queen Elizabeth II's death, it's expected the monarchy versus republic debate would surge in countries other than the UK where the British monarch is head of state.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said that there is no plan to change the country's status to a republic. 

Ardern's comment comes in the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II's death on Thursday. Besides the United Kingdom, she was also the head of state of New Zealand and 13 other countries, including Australia and Canada. While these countries are self-governing independent states, they retain the British monarch as their head of state, which means that Elizabeth's sucessor Charles III is also the head of state of these 14 countries. 

Following Queen's death, it's expected that the republican movement could pick pace as monarchy versus republic debate surges.

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 Ardern's 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. 

Many people argue that New Zealand will not fully step out from the shadows of its colonialist past and become a truly independent nation until it becomes a republic.

Ardern said, "There's been a debate, probably for a number of years. 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 further 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. 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," said Ardern.

A similar debate is expected to surge in neighbouring Australia. However, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also said there are no plans for the transition to a republic for now, even though he 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 on 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," said Ardern. 

Ardern also said she will leave this week for Britain to attend Elizabeth's funeral. 

(With AP inputs)