New Zealand republicans unimpressed by PM Hipkins

·3-min read

The head of New Zealand's republic push believes Chris Hipkins may rue his decision to rule out a shift during his tenure as prime minister.

Mr Hipkins, who succeeded Jacinda Ardern in January, indicated support for becoming a republic prior to taking the top job.

However, he scotched the idea last week before heading to the King Charles III's coronation but has since softened his stance further.

In an interview with the BBC, he called himself a "technical republican" and back in Wellington, he referred to his stance as "theoretically republican".

In other words, he's not for change, but if - somehow - NZ had to start again, he wouldn't design its governance the same way.

"If you were going to write a constitution for New Zealand, who would be the head of state? In my mind it would be nice to have someone who was in New Zealand," he said.

The Labour leader said he sensed the mood from recent occasions, including the coronation, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and her death.

"There have been several moments in the last year or so, where if there was going to be groundswell towards that, we would have seen it by now. And we haven't," he said.

"The constitutional arrangements that we have work at the moment and there is no pressing need for change."

Ms Ardern, Opposition leader Chris Luxon, and Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni all expressed the same opinion: theoretically in favour of a shift, but not right now.

Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson and Greens co-leader James Shaw have also broadly indicated support.

A move to a republic is not as popular in New Zealand as it is in Australia.

Polling conducted annually for the New Zealand Republic movement by pollsters Curia has only once found in favour of a shift.

The most recent poll, in March, did show a tie - 41 per cent both for and against - for a referendum, but only 35 per cent support for a republic.

New Zealand Republic campaign chair Lewis Holden said Mr Hipkins was "a very pragmatic politician", ruling out a republic as "they're absolutely focused on winning the next election".

Mr Holden - a one-time candidate for the centre-right National party in Mr Hipkins' Remutaka electorate - said political pragmatism may be at odds with the public mood further down the track.

"Given it's quite obvious most of the other Commonwealth countries that have Charles as a head of state are looking at their options, ruling out making a decision for the next term won't actually be the smartest thing he's done," he told AAP.

"It's very, very clear, no matter what the prime minister or leader of the opposition think, the issue will continue to be raised."

Mr Holden believes the coronation has brought about "a time of peak monarchy".

"The question for us is not 'Do we like the rituals and the monarchy', it's 'What does it have to do with us?' What does it say that we're clinging on to this colonial institution?" he said.

He believes the tide could turn later this decade, and especially if Australia forges ahead with a fresh referendum in a second term government under Anthony Albanese.

"Despite jokes (Australia and New Zealand) make about each other, we do look at each other's politics," he said.