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Should New Zealand retain its ties with the British Monarchy, or would you prefer the country to become a republic?
The cynical view would be that the future king of England can afford to pay for his own birthday junket. News the New Zealand taxpayer is picking up all the "in-country" costs of the current royal visit - even for the Duchess of Cornwall's personal hairdresser - provides obvious ammunition for the republican movement, such that it is.
Any royal visit reopens questions about New Zealand's current and future role in a global setting that is quickly changing. New allegiances are being formed as Britain and New Zealand continue to develop relationships in their own regions. New Zealand negotiated the world's first free trade agreement with China in 2008 and has been in talks for more than four years with the likes of India, Vietnam, South Korea, the United States and Japan.
As Britain has become increasingly enmeshed in Europe since joining the European Union in 1973, its formal and economic links with New Zealand have become increasingly of a historical nature - although at a personal and individual level, travel and migration between the two countries remains common.
Though many politicians seem to concede that constitutional independence from Britain makes sense and will come one day, it is a barrow few seem prepared to push in the short term.
While we continue as a constitutional monarchy, members of the royal family will continue to pop over to see us from time to time, and some of the tab will be picked up by the Government. That's the price we pay for sticking with British royalty as head of state, however nominal the role might be in practice.
Though naturally the visit by Charles and his wife, Camilla - her first time here, his seventh - raises questions in some minds about the point, the costs and benefits and the constitutional relevance of this association, attempts to ignite the debate will be shut down by the country's leaders. And fair enough - support for republicanism seems to be declining in opinion polls, and the process of designing and introducing an alternative would be taxing.
Meanwhile, Charles turns 64 tomorrow during his visit Down Under. His mother the Queen's appearance is as royally robust as ever, and she looks like remaining on her throne for some years to come.
Whatever individuals might think of him, let's spare a thought for the king-in-waiting. How must it feel to be born into a position, serve a six-decade apprenticeship and still have no certainty when the job will come? It long has been fashionable to mock the Prince of Wales for his unconventional views and passions, and some fans of "the firm" have theorised the monarchy would be in safer hands if the crown were to bypass a generation and go directly to his son William. That idea has been ruled out by the royal family and, assuming he outlives his mother and is still fit to rule, Charles will be king one day.
Perhaps there are few logical reasons to retain the monarchy as head of state in an otherwise independent democracy. However, one is the cost that would be associated with the constitutional and legislative upheaval if and when the time comes. Some tinkering among the trimmings is long overdue though: we could use a new flag, and the notion of asking God to defend secular New Zealand is also a curiosity. How about a new anthem, too?
- © Fairfax NZ News