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Important Link With Heritage Lost

12 April 2000

Margaret Burgess
Culture and Heritage Spokesperson


Helen Clark’s abrupt slashing of time-honoured knighthoods and other awards means another important link with our British heritage has been lost. After little more than one hundred days as Prime Minister, she has seen fit to use her new authority to abandon a system that has served the country well. To many New Zealanders, the British titles have been a proud recognition of this nation’s origins, not a “quaint” anachronism.

Without denying that our Maori people were the first New Zealanders, or that our country is now a multi-cultural nation, it is a fact that our pioneer forebears were predominantly of British stock. Since the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand has been one of a Commonwealth of nations that looked to the monarch as their titular head. The honours that the monarch confers every Queen’s Birthday are held in high regard all over the world, and are not quaint trivia to be discarded at whim.

Historical traditions are an essential part of a nation’s heritage. In a confusing world of changing values, where even the basic unit of society – the family – is under threat, the links with our British heritage have given a certain stability. Yes, we are an independent nation, but in our haste to ‘come of age’ let us not throw out every vestige of our past. Our British heritage has helped to make New Zealand the proud nation it is today.


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