8 May 2023

King Charles' Coronation resurrects New Zealand republic debate

7:04 am on 8 May 2023
A service celebrating the coronation of King Charles III held in Christchurch Transitional Cathedral on Sunday 7 May 2023.

Portraits of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Christchurch Transitional Cathedral where a service to celebrate the coronation was held on Sunday. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Church services, tree plantings and 21-gun salutes marked King Charles' Coronation in Aotearoa.

But along with renditions of 'God Save the King' came the republic debate - whether the monarchy should remain as the country's head of state.

Events held to mark the coronation went off with a bang at Auckland's Devonport Naval Base and the capital's Point Jerningham, with both firing a 21-gun salute for King Charles III.

The New Zealand Defence Force mark the coronation of King Charles III with a 21-gun salute at Wellington's Point Jerningham.

The New Zealand Defence Force marking the Coronation of King Charles III with a 21-gun salute at Wellington's Point Jerningham. Photo: Soumya Bhamidipati / RNZ

But the Coronation was not exactly front of mind for young Wellingtonians Nico and Isaac.

"We just pretty much wanted to see the guns go... We don't really think about the coronation," they said.

The king most certainly was front and centre at Wellington's Cathedral of St Paul, where groups from many faiths gathered.

"Oh I love the pomp and circumstance," one person said.

"The magnificence of it all is just mind-blowing, all the planning and preparations - months and months and months of rehearsal."

For Judy, the controversial call to swear an oath to the king was a step too far.

"As for swearing allegiance, that's asking for something which is sort of a bit too personal," she said.

Carole was disappointed, describing New Zealand's response to the Coronation as lack lustre.

"It's with great sadness that we weren't more visible in our celebration and I just think as a nation we dropped the ball."

"People could have participated a lot more, I think we should have made a much greater show," she said.

Meanwhile, Mike was not sure whether the country should have a king at all.

"I'm not happy with people having a different status in society because of their birth. We're all equal, we're all citizens," he said.

A crowd also came together for Ōtautahi's church service.

A celebration of the Coronation of King Charles III service taking place in Christchurch Transitional Cathedral on 7 May.

People celebrating the king's coronation at a Ōtautahi's church service. Photo: RNZ/Niva Chittock

Anglican Dean of Christchurch Lawrence Kimberley said the city's special service was driven by demand.

"It's one of the ways that we can celebrate the Coronation and to honour King Charles as our new king of this country and defender of faiths," he said.

"We're doing it in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council because there were quite a lot of people asking back in February: 'What are we going to do to celebrate this?'. So we thought we'd put this service on."

Margaret was among the hundred or so attendees at Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.

For her, there was one big draw card.

"I really love coronation music and I have sung quite a lot of it myself at other times... I'm also a brass player and there's a brass group in this [service]," she said.

"So I guess I'm really after the music, but not necessarily the rest of the coronation."

She did not pledge allegiance to the king or watch the ceremony live - but she did sing God Save the King at another event earlier in the day.

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau plated a tree on Saturday to celebrate King Charles' Coronation.

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau plated a tree on Saturday to celebrate King Charles' Coronation. Photo: Facebook / Tory Whanau

It was a different story for Manuela, who had moved to New Zealand from Germany.

"I'm a regular [at the church] anyway, but I'm also very excited about the coronation. It's not really something I've experienced in the country that I'm from but it's very much in my interest and I'm glad that I live in New Zealand now," she said.

"I'm very excited to have King Charles as the new king."

But she questioned how long a king would stay as New Zealand's head of state.

"It still has its place at the moment. I don't think it will be here for much longer, in the future I can't see the monarchy staying on... I think [New Zealand] will head into a republic at some stage."

Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger disagreed.

"It's good to be involved... We've got to embrace this stuff I reckon. It's part of our fabric, part of our history," he said.

"It's feel good stuff and [the monarchy] know how to do pomp and circumstance well."

Mauger joined other mayors and politicians throughout the country in planting native trees for the new king over the weekend.

The government donated $1m to He Rā Rākau Tītapu - King Charles III Coronation Plantings across the motu.

As a lasting reminder of New Zealand's roots, 100,000 native trees and shrubs were expected to be planted during the year-long programme.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs