Royals like old extended family
In my younger days, I wanted to be completely independent from Britain, but over the years since, I've come to realise there is merit in keeping our ties intact. While some people get up in arms about royal visits or the media interest in royal life events, I find it's easier to take a more relaxed and pragmatic view.
Your headline "Do we need the royal family?" is a bit like asking "do we need our great-aunt or uncle?".
For me, it's not a case of needing them - they are simply there as part of our extended family, and it would be churlish to tell them otherwise. In a world that has countries at war with each other, I like being part of a global family that encourages a sense of friendship and goodwill.
In our own extended families, most of us have relatives who we like or don't, the ones we see all the time or hardly at all, and the ones we admire or perhaps look down on. But regardless of any differences or transgressions or how far away they live, they are still our family.
In the case of the royals, they do us no harm and wish us only the best, so what reason do we have to disown them? I think they achieve a great deal of good in the world with many worthy causes and general goodwill, and it would be foolish not to support that. Those who see them as bludgers of the state have probably never watched a programme showing how much work the royals actually do or what it's like to be in the public eye, and I know I wouldn't want their position.
It doesn't bother me that the Queen is our official Head of State and not a New Zealander - in some ways it makes it easier, because we don't even have to think about it. With the Queen, Governor General and Prime Minister, our country enjoys a relaxed stability that others might envy, and I'd like it to stay it that way.
Maybe a republic would be the same, maybe it wouldn't - but why risk it? We already have autonomy in New Zealand and are free to run our country as we please, so I see no benefit in becoming a republic. The royals don't interfere with our daily lives, nor cause us any hardship, and despite what some think, they don't expect us to feel ruled or inferior in any way. If their position helps to achieve some good in the world, then it's worth making use of that - even they recognise that. As a country, we should at least accept them as our distant relations who pay us a friendly visit now and then. And whether we loathe or enjoy the royal pageants or news of a royal baby, it is entirely up to us as individuals.
Although I don't want a republic, I do think we should remove the Union Jack from our flag. Having that symbol of Britain on our flag makes it seem like we're still part of Britain, rather than the independent and proud New Zealanders that we are.
Without the Union Jack to remind us every day, we would have little reason to even think of a republic. As she was with Canada, I'm sure the Queen would be delighted to see us achieve our own flag, and yet still remain part of the family. Canada removed the Union Jack from their flag in 1965 and are still part of the monarchy and the Commonwealth.
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