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Realm of New Zealand

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The Realm of New Zealand is the entire area in which the Queen of New Zealand is head of state. The Realm comprises New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency in Antarctica,[1] and is defined by the 1983 Letters Patent constituting the office of Governor-General of New Zealand.[2]


The Governor-General of New Zealand represents the head of state (Elizabeth II, in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand) in the area of the Realm. Essentially, Governors-General take on all the dignities and reserve powers of the head of state. As of 2011 the Governor-General is Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Sovereignty within the Realm

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Map of the Realm of New Zealand

Cook Islands and Niue

Both the Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand. The Parliament of New Zealand is not empowered to unilaterally pass legislation in respect of these countries. In foreign affairs and defence issues New Zealand acts on behalf of these countries but only with their advice and consent.

As the Governor-General is resident in New Zealand, the Cook Islands Constitution provides for the distinct position of Queen's Representative. This individual is not subordinate to the Governor-General and acts as the local representative of the Queen in right of New Zealand. Since 2013, Tom Marsters is the Queen's Representative to the Cook Islands. (Marsters was preceded by Sir Frederick Tutu Goodwin.) This arrangement effectively allows for the de facto independent actions of internal and most external areas of governance.

According to the Niue's Constitution of 1974, the Governor-General of New Zealand acts as the Queen's representative.

In the Cook Islands and Niue the New Zealand High Commissioner is the diplomatic representative from New Zealand. John Carter (since 2011) is the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands. Mark Blumsky was the New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue from 2010 until he was replaced by Ross Ardern in early 2014.

Despite their close relationship to New Zealand, both the Cook Islands and Niue maintain some diplomatic relations in their own name. Both countries maintain High Commissions in New Zealand and have New Zealand High Commissioners resident in their capitals. In Commonwealth practice, High Commissioners represent their governments, not the Head of State.

New Zealand

New Zealand proper consists of the following island groups:


Tokelau has a lesser degree of independence than the Cook Islands and Niue have, and had been moving toward free association status. New Zealand's representative in Tokelau is the Administrator of Tokelau and has the power to overturn rules passed by the General Fono. In referenda conducted in 2006 and 2007 by New Zealand at the United Nations' request, the people of Tokelau failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to attain a system of governance with equal powers to that of Niue and the Cook Islands.[3]

Ross Dependency

The Ross Dependency is constitutionally part of New Zealand.[4] The Governor-General of New Zealand is also the Governor of the Ross Dependency. The Ross Dependency includes McMurdo Station, operated by the United States, which does not recognise New Zealand sovereignty of Ross Dependency. The application of Sovereignty within the Dependency is subsequent upon the enforcement of terms found within the Antarctic Treaty.

Summary table

Area Representative of the Queen Head of the government Legislature Capital Population Land area
km2 sq mi
23x15px New Zealand Governor-General Prime Minister New Zealand Parliament (House of Representatives)[Note 1] Wellington 4,242,048 Script error: No such module "convert".
23x15px Cook Islands Queen's Representative Prime Minister Parliament of the Cook Islands Avarua 21,388 Script error: No such module "convert".
23x15px Niue Representative of the Queen[Note 2] Premier Niue Assembly Alofi 2,145 Script error: No such module "convert".
23x15px Tokelau Administrator Ulu-o-Tokelau General Fono None 1,405 Script error: No such module "convert".
23x15px Ross Dependency Governor[Note 2] Chief Executive None[Note 3] None Scott Base: 10–80
McMurdo Station: 200–1000 (seasonally)
Script error: No such module "convert".
  1. The current New Zealand Parliament is unicameral with its sole chamber House of Representatives.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Governor General of New Zealand is also the Representative of the Queen of Niue and the Governor of the Ross Dependency, but they are separate posts.
  3. Legislation for the Ross Dependency is enacted by the New Zealand Parliament (House of Representatives) although actually, its powers are limited due to the Antarctic Treaty System.

Future of the Realm

Within New Zealand there exists some support[5][6] for a New Zealand republic. Should New Zealand become a republic it will retain the Ross Dependency and Tokelau as dependent territories and the Realm of New Zealand would continue to exist without New Zealand, the Ross Dependency and Tokelau.[7] This would not be a legal hurdle to a New Zealand republic as such, and both the Cook Islands and Niue would retain their status as associated states with New Zealand, as New Zealand shares its Head of State with the Cook Islands and Niue in the same way the Commonwealth realms share a Head of State. However, a New Zealand republic would present the issue of independence to the Cook Islands and Niue. Thus, a number of options for the future of the Realm of New Zealand exist should New Zealand become a republic:

  • A New Zealand republic with the Cook Islands and Niue remaining in free association with New Zealand, but retaining the Queen as their head of state;
  • A New Zealand republic with the Cook Islands and Niue having a new republican head of state as their head of state and becoming independent states;
  • A New Zealand republic with the Cook Islands and Niue having their own heads of state, but retaining their status of free association with New Zealand.[7]

See also


  1. New Zealand's Constitution, New Zealand government, retrieved 20 November 2009
  2. Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand (SR 1983/225), New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office, retrieved 20 November 2009
  3. "Tokelau decolonisation high on agenda". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  5. A July 2005 poll published in The Press showed 27% support for the question "Do you support New Zealand becoming a republic?", and 67% opposition.
  6. A Sunday Star-Times poll, published 20 January 2006, stated there was 47% support for a New Zealand republic, and 47% support for the monarchy.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Townend, Andrew (2003). "The Strange Death of the Realm of New Zealand: The Implications of a New Zealand Republic for the Cook Islands and Niue" (34). Victoria University of Wellington Law Review. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 

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