Petition calls for monarchy to be replaced on New Zealand money

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NZ $20 bank notes
NZ $20 bank notes ... historical Māori figures such as Dame Whina Cooper, Eva Rickard or Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia are being suggested to replace the monarch. Image: Diego Opatowski/RNZ

By Giles Dexter, RNZ News political reporter

A Wellington tauira (scholar) has launched a petition calling for Aotearoa New Zealand’s Reserve Bank to replace the monarch in the next redesign of coins and notes, with images that better represent the country.

Rangatahi Māori, Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes (Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu) said it was a chance for New Zealand to think about the role of the monarchy, and the currency was a good start.

“I think these are the sorts of things we should start thinking about — what are the different things that colonisation and the Crown has entrenched over the years that we can perhaps start to pick at, and that we can perhaps start to peel back on?”

Hynes said although these kinds of conversations had already been happening for a long time, the accession of King Charles III had provided an opportunity.

“There are times where [these conversations] will come into the public eye for a short span, and they’ll dominate the headlines for a little time, and then they’ll go back, and they’ll come back eventually when something else happens,” he said.

The #ourownmoney campaign asks the Reserve Bank “to reconsider ensuring our money represents us as a country, that the people and the symbols on our money are people that are from here, that come from these places, have been in this country, even at a minimum have lived in this country.”

Hynes hoped to honour the people who had contributed to New Zealand, and showcase more New Zealand symbols.

Historical figures, blossoms
“We have so many people in our country’s history that have paved the way for us to be where we are today and how we will be in the future. This is an opportunity to acknowledge and recognise their hard work,” the petition says.

He suggested using figures like Dame Whina Cooper, Eva Rickard or Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia on the $20 note. He also proposes putting native plants like kōwhai blossom, harakeke, or kawakawa on the coins.

A constitutional scholar who has participated in the Māori Constitutional Convention, Hynes waited until after the Queen’s funeral to launch his petition, out of respect.

He said the currency conversation is one New Zealand could have without going into the immediate and impulsive calls for a republic, which he believed was a much bigger and more nuanced conversation.

“I’m sceptical of people who are attempting to push a kind of republic-based agenda because they perhaps think in some technical way Māori rights can be extinguished.”

The Reserve Bank has already signalled the next redesign will feature King Charles III, but the change is still a long way off. It will take several years before coins featuring Queen Elizabeth II are replaced, and even longer for the $20 note to change.

“We manufacture these notes infrequently and do not plan to destroy stock or shorten the life of existing banknotes just because they show the Queen. This would be wasteful and poor environmental practice,” the Reserve Bank said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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