New Zealand Māori party calls for a ‘divorce’ from Britain’s royal family

Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the move was ‘an opportunity to reimagine a more meaningful and fulfilling partnership’

The Māori party of New Zealand has called for a “divorce” from the crown and removal of the British royal family as New Zealand’s head of state.

The call came on the 182nd anniversary of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi, or Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand’s foundational legal document.

“If you look at our founding covenant as a marriage between tangata whenua [indigenous people] and the crown, then Te Tiriti is the child of that marriage. It’s time [for] tangata whenua to take full custody,” Māori Pāti co-leader Rawiri Waititi said. “This won’t mean the crown is off the hook. If a couple gets divorced, you don’t lose responsibility for your child. This will be an opportunity to reimagine a more meaningful and fulfilling partnership,” he said.

The treaty guaranteed Māori the crown’s protection of their land rights. But in the 100 years that followed its signing, Māori lost more than 90% of their land through a mixture of outright confiscation by the crown, private or government sales, and land court practises that did not recognise collective ownership.

Past pushes for New Zealand to become a republic has struggled to gain momentum. Polling from Colmar Brunton in 2021 found a third of New Zealanders wanted to cut ties with the monarchy, while 47% did not and 20% did not know.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said she is a republican, and in 2021 she said she believed New Zealand would become a republic in her lifetime – but that she would not take action on it during her term. Speaking at the announcement of governor general Cindy Kiro, Ardern said she had had ​ “never sensed urgency” from the public to make it happen. “I’ve been very clear that despite being a republican, I’m not of the view that in the here-and-now … this is something New Zealanders feel particularly strongly about,” she said.

“I don’t know that I’ve had one person actually raise with me generally day-to-day the issue of becoming a republic. This government has prioritised those issues that we do see as a priority. But I do still think there will be a time and a place; I just don’t see it as now.”

The call for removing the Queen as head of state is a shift in policy for the Māori party, which in 2017 objected to calls for a republic from within Labour. “Removing the Queen as our head of state removes the treaty of Waitangi and Māori rights in this country guaranteed to us under our nation’s founding document,” then-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said at the time. “Given our colonial history and the systematic stripping away of Māori land, rights and resource, any talk about cutting ties with the Queen, or establishing a republic is an extremely naive move.”

Under current leadership, the Māori party holds two seats in New Zealand’s parliament, and is pushing for constitutional reform in New Zealand, including the establishment of a Māori parliament.

“The only way this nation can work is when Māori assert their rights to self-management, self-determination and self-governance over all our domains. Our vision is for constitutional transformation that restores the tino rangatiratanga [full sovereignty] of tangata whenua in this country,” co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.


Tess McClure in Auckland

The GuardianTramp

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