This article first appeared in The Spinoff on 1 November 2018
If you’re into the latest royal tour, that’s terrific. But what about the small matters of the thousands we’re paying to make it happen, and the constitutional anachronism, writes Sarah Paterson-Hamlin
Yes, I’m going to be that person. The one who can’t just sit back and enjoy the pretty pageantry of this royal tour and who is actually going to complain about two good-looking young people being nice to small children. Sorry!
Meghan and Harry (last names are neither required nor understood) have just departed our fair shores in what the Herald is calling a “hugely successful royal tour”. They’ve had a hangi, been draped in korowai, gone for a bush walk in Abel Tasman National Park, had some fancy dinners and some less fancy barbecues, and met the great and the good of Aotearoa. A collection of activities that many overseas would give their right arms to be able to experience, and that many locals would also call a pretty decent holiday. It’s even more appealing when you consider that it’s largely paid for by someone else, namely the New Zealand government.
We don’t know yet how much the four-day jaunt will cost the taxpayer, and this is interesting in itself. The information would presumably have already been widely disseminated and publicly available if there was a call for it, but there just doesn’t seem to be that appetite. Why don’t we care just how much we are paying for this newlywed couple with only the most tenuous connection to our governance? Instead, we seem happy to have the information quietly placed in a dark corner of the Department of Internal Affairs website several months later once the visit is over and forgotten.
But we should count ourselves lucky that the DIA will release this information at some stage. In the UK, the royal household is exempt from Freedom of Information requests. This should bother us here too, because it makes it almost impossible to know just how much the royal family costs the New Zealand taxpayer outside of these visits.
From recent visits of royals to New Zealand, we can surmise that we will have a bill of around half a million dollars, which will include about $78,000 spent on accommodation costs, $160,000 spent on vehicle hire, and flight costs of over $200,000. That’s a pretty sweet holiday. I stayed in a flash hotel when my best friend got married in Queenstown last year – it had its own soap brand and everything. I wonder what kind of epic place I could have experienced for $19k a night? For that kind of money, I would expect the chocolates on the pillow to be actually sentient and sing me to sleep.
Let’s return to the relevance of Megs and Hazza to our present country running situation. Harry is currently sixth in line to the throne of New Zealand. OK, it’s closer than me, but there are still five people who have to die before he becomes our nominal head of state, three of which are younger than he is, and have so far consumed a significantly smaller amount of alcohol.
The closest parliamentary equivalent of sixth in line to the throne would be the sixth most important person in the cabinet, so let’s say Andrew Little. If Andrew Little had played strip billiards, shot an endangered animal, or dressed as Nazi for the lols, it would certainly make him a lot more interesting than he currently is, but we’d also probably be less keen on having him in our cabinet.
I’m sorry for raining on anyone’s royal parade. If you’re into that kind of thing, that’s absolutely fine. I am not suggesting anyone stop reading about the Markle Sparkle, or taking opportunities to see them from afar when they come our way. I don’t wish them any harm, and I don’t mind if lots of people enjoy their fancy clothes and listen to their views on sporting events and penguins. But we can keep doing all of that without actually giving them constitutional power over us, or spending the equivalent of a Kiwibuild house on a couple of days of very fancy Uber hire.