Bolger sets date for NZ republic

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The Independent Online
WELLINGTON (Reuter) - Jim Bolger, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said yesterday that the country could cut its ties with the British monarchy and become a republic by the year 2000.

Mr Bolger gave the most explicit indication so far that New Zealand could follow Australia in severing colonial links. He said 2000 would be an appropriate symbolic moment for change.

He said: 'The move can be conducted without any rancour of any sort. The call now for true independence by electing our own head of state should surprise no one 1,000 years after the first New Zealanders arrived.'

Mr Bolger, a conservative, has surprised many by pursuing the debate about republicanism in New Zealand. Last week he said in parliament that he expected New Zealand to become a republic with an elected president, abandoning the British honours system and the final right of appeal to the Privy Council in London.

Mr Bolger said yesterday that he would bring together a group of eminent New Zealanders to explore the ramifications of such changes. He said: 'I have yet to determine when such a group should be brought together - but in my view we should do it sooner rather than later so that the debate can go past the general to the detail.'.

Moving to an elected head of state would require a referendum. Prior to that there would need to be debate on how a head of state should be elected. Politicians have said they expect public opinion to move gradually towards republicanism, especially as similar moves in Australia gather momentum.

Paul Keating, the Prime Minister of Australia, has said he would like to see Australia become a republic by the year 2000, but there had been no previous indication that New Zealand would be in a race with Australia to elect its own head of state. New Zealand was a British dominion until 1947.

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