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King's Birthday: What Does It Represent?

Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Queen Camilla leave from the Norman Porch after the State Opening of Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament, in London, on 7 November 2023. Photo: AFP / TOBY MELVILLE

New Zealand is set to celebrate King Charles III's birthday this weekend, despite his actual 76th birthday being in November.

The tradition of honouring the British monarch’s birthday on the first Monday in June continues to be a cherished practice in New Zealand. Unlike its neighbours, Australia celebrates this occasion a week later, while Canada observes it the Monday before.

For many New Zealanders, the King’s Birthday, much like the Queen’s Birthday before it, is particularly popular due to the statutory holiday it provides. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, June 3, granting a long weekend followed by a shortened work week.

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Across the country, people are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, take short trips, or simply relax at home. In Auckland, a couple strolling along Ponsonby Rd expressed their excitement about the break. "To be honest, we’re just relaxing. Monday to Friday is so full-on with two teenage girls,” they said with a laugh. “This is a good breakout time for us to get out and have a chat.”

In Wellington, stallholders were busy early in the morning, preparing their goods for sale at a central city market. Some anticipated a quieter day than usual due to regulars being away for the long weekend. However, a visitor to the city shared a different perspective. "The King’s Birthday itself doesn’t mean much to me, and as a retiree, I don’t get a day off," he remarked. "But we’re here to explore art galleries and enjoy the city, so it’s a great weekend."

Opinions on the monarchy itself are mixed across the country. Some Wellingtonians appreciate the constitutional ties with the UK, believing the relationship benefits New Zealand. Others, however, think it's only a matter of time before Aotearoa New Zealand becomes a republic, despite acknowledging King Charles III’s commendable efforts.

Monarchy NZ asserts that King Charles is managing his extensive and challenging role admirably, despite the lack of privacy. Labour MP Willie Jackson noted that while many people he knows respect the monarchy, he believes New Zealand is gradually moving towards establishing its own identity.

Recent calls from Te Pāti Māori for a nationwide protest against the Government have highlighted a growing support for the idea of an independent Māori Parliament, suggesting that this debate will continue to evolve.

Meanwhile, thousands of Kiwis are looking forward to their day off on Monday. The celebrations will include 21-gun salutes in Auckland and Wellington, along with the announcement of the King’s Birthday Honours, recognising the contributions of notable New Zealanders.

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