By NICK PERRY
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that her government will not be pursuing any moves toward changing New Zealand to a republic following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Ardern said she thought New Zealand would eventually become a republic, and it would probably happen within her lifetime, but that there were more pressing issues for her government to pursue.
Her comments represent the first time she has spoken about the New Zealand republic debate since Elizabeth’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 remains New Zealand’s head of state, represented in New Zealand by a governor-general. The governor-general’s role is these days considered primarily ceremonial.
Still, many people argue New Zealand won’t be able to fully step out from the shadows of its colonialist past and become a truly independent nation until it does become a republic.
“There’s been a debate, probably for a number of years,” Ardern said. “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 said.
She 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,” Ardern said. “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.”
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.
Ardern also announced Monday that New Zealand would mark the death of Elizabeth with a public holiday on Sept. 26. The nation will also hold a state memorial service on the same 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,” Ardern said.
Ardern said she would be leaving this week for Britain to attend Elizabeth’s funeral.
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