William may not be Kiwi king: pollster

BLAKE CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 09:19 07/04/2014
Opinion poll

Should we have a New Zealander as head of state?

Yes

No

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He was born to rule, but it looks increasingly unlikely Prince William will become king of New Zealand.

A poll released today by New Zealand Republic, a body seeking a New Zealand head of state, showed 66 per cent of 18-30-year-olds wanted a homegrown head of state to replace the Queen, who is 87 and took the throne in 1953.

Prince William is second in line to the throne, after his father Prince Charles.

Overall, poll support for a New Zealand head of state was 44 per cent, 46 per cent favoured the status quo, with 10 per cent undecided.

The poll was of 1038 people, from a random selection of 15,000 phone numbers. It has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

New Zealand Republic campaign chairman Savage said: "Now is more the time than ever before to really seriously look at the options."

Younger people had a much stronger sense of New Zealand's identity and diversity and no longer saw historical links to Britain as a defining national characteristic, Savage said.

Younger people were far more on board with the idea of a Parliament appointed head of state, he said.

The poll showed support for such an appointment at 11 per cent, but for the 18-30-year-old bracket it was 29 per cent.

It showed people increasingly wanted to see someone they could relate to in the role, Savage said.

"I think it's pretty clear that a British monarch cannot and will not ever represent contemporary New Zealand.

"It's an important practical and symbolic role and if you ask most people how it works, many people won't be able to tell you."

Monarchy NZ chairman Sean Palmer questioned the accuracy of the poll.

"Once again they have changed the nature of the question to suit their end," he said.

"The fact that they ask whether a British monarch should become king indicates that they do not understand how the constitution in New Zealand works."

The question of whether Prince William had New Zealand citizenship was complicated and no-one was really sure of whether the Queen was even a British citizen, Palmer said.

"We know that the royals certainly consider themselves New Zealanders, as well as Canadians and Australians and whatever."

Palmer rejected the notion young New Zealanders were turning away from the monarchy.

"Generally speaking, we find that younger New Zealanders are among the most supportive of maintaining the Queen of New Zealand."

Prime Minister John Key told Morning Report he expected the Queen would remain head of state, but "in all probability" New Zealand would eventually become a republic.

"But we're talking about what sort of time scale... a very long term one now I think."

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Despite the results of today's poll, he said sentiment toward the royal family had changed in the past decade.

"If you go back about six, seven or eight years ago - maybe a decade ago - and asked the question whether New Zealanders wanted to become a republic, I think the numbers probably would have been 60-40 per cent opposed.

"If you asked that question today, I think it would have been 80-20 opposed."

Key said Australia, which had had a ballot on the issue, was also now far more in favour of retaining the royal head of state.

"I think that speaks volumes about the way that William and Kate, as young royals, have modernised the royal family and their place as the head of state."

Key said he had pushed out his time frame for when he would expect New Zealand to become a republic, but still thought it was "inevitable".

"One day it will happen, but I just don't see that being something that will happen any time soon."

Former governor-general Dame Catherine Tizard told Fairfax Media she was delighted to hear the poll figures.

"I have been advocating for some time now that we should be as a country making plans for what we propose to do when her majesty is no longer with us," she said.

One issue constantly ignored was how we would get that head of state, Tizard said.

"It's the logistics of it that I think are difficult, not the will to do it, and that's what I think we should be addressing.

"It would be easier to get the decision to abandon the monarchy when the Queen is gone."

Tizard said she and the Queen had discussed these matters - the Queen's view was it was New Zealand's decision and she would, of course, accept the result.

Yesterday, former Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon said on the Q+A TV programme that it was important we candidly discuss the issue.

"I think it's inevitable (we become a republic). I don't know when and I'm not going to campaign actively one way or the other," he said.

"But it's a debate that will continue, it's important we have a good debate about this and about the flag."

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said he thought the poll results looked good.

Bolger said he'd never hidden his republican views over the years.

"The growth in support for a New Zealand head of state is of course inevitable and will happen over time," he said.

Bolger said he didn't want to upset the Duke and Duchess' tour but welcomed such a conversation.

"I think countries can do with those sorts of discussions from time to analyse not who they are, but who they want to be seen as."

- The Dominion Post

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