The Queen loves hearing 'the gossip' from NZ, but doesn't give any back - Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy

Queen Elizabeth II loves hearing "gossip" from New Zealand but rarely supplies any of her own, the Governor-General has revealed. 

Dame Patsy Reddy hasn't had a face-to-face catch-up with Her Majesty this year thanks to the pandemic, but has been in touch via old-fashioned post.,

"I did see her last year, but of course this year we haven't had travel - so I've written her letters," she told The AM Show on Thursday.

"She is a great believer in handwritten letters - actually that's not true, I do type them - but they are personal letters."

In them, Dame Patsy dishes on what's going on behind the scenes here in Aotearoa. 

"She wants to know about what's really happening. She can read the news reports and things... She wants to know the gossip, but she doesn't give me much back, I have to say. I always get a really nice reply thanking me for my letter, but not giving me their goss."

Netflix's series The Crown has this year made headlines for indulging in perhaps a little too much 'goss', with UK authorities urging the streaming service to add a disclaimer that it's fiction.

The Queen.
The Queen. Photo credit: Getty

Harry and Meghan

It's been a rough year for most, the Royal Family included. The year began with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan basically quitting their jobs and relocating to the United States - a republic. 

Dame Patsy said she was sad to see them go.

"They stayed with us when they last visited New Zealand - they're a lovely couple and really genuine in their love for New Zealand as well. 

"If it means that we won't see them as often or we'll slip off their radar, I am sad. I think they are keeping their connection with the Commonwealth though, and so in that capacity maybe." 

The pandemic

The pandemic that stopped Dame Patsy visiting the Queen this year kept many Kiwis at home in March and April - the Governor-General among them. 

But while many of us struggled to find space to work quietly away from the children, she and partner Sir David Gascoigne had the opposite problem - they were confined to Government House Wellington, a sprawling mansion with eight guest suites, several kitchens, a ballroom, tennis and squash courts, 12 hectares of grounds and even a bomb shelter. 

Government House in Wellington.
Government House in Wellington. Photo credit: Supplied

"It was very strange... there were five of us in total - our aides and David and me, let loose in the commercial kitchens. We did some jigsaws - we got pretty good at those. Or David did - I gave up after a while. We improved our snooker skills. 

"We tried to be religious about doing our daily walks - fortunately we've got beautiful grounds to walk around. We weren't so good on maintaining the grounds I must say - lawns got a bit long."

But there was also work that had to be done.

"Then there was quite a bit of paperwork and a lot of things I was doing by Zoom and remotely... Part of my role is convening groups of people, celebrating success, acknowledging achievements and having commemorations. 

"So all of those events were of course deferred or cancelled in some cases. Once we came out of lockdown, we were scrambling to catch up in different ways." 

She said New Zealand did "incredibly well" at halting the outbreak of COVID-19 because we by-and-large listened to the experts.

"When you look back now it's easy to forget what it was like right at the beginning. I think we were all really nervous, we didn't know what to expect - we were anxious. I can remember my first walk outside the grounds and getting to a pedestrian crossing and wondering how I push the button. We were anxious about how this virus was actually travelling around, but we became more confident as we saw that we did get on top of it...

"We... learned about the importance of working as a team. It's trite almost, but actually when we look at how we respect authority because we trust the people that are delivering authority to us, whether it's at the border or the people at MIQ... It worked." 

New Zealand's colonial past 

This year saw colonial-era statues around the world toppled, protesters angry they were commemorating slave owners and military leaders who oversaw massacres of native people. 

New Zealand wasn't immune, with Hamilton City Council removing a statue of the "murderous asshole" who gave his name to the city, and swastikas being spraypainted on a statue of Captain James Cook in Gisborne. A campaign was launched to remove the statue of "notorious autocrat, imperialist and racist" Richard Seddon. 

"If they were memorialising our colonial past, maybe it would be a different conversation," she said," Green MP Golriz Ghahraman told Newshub Nation in June, "but they're glorifying people who have done certain things which have been hurtful and we're still seeing the impacts of that."

Dame Patsy isn't keen - but expressed support for new statues commemorating figures on the other side of history to those commonly represented now. 

"We have had, historically, an unbalanced view of our history. So it's really good to rebalance that. But I think you can do that by telling both sides of the story, and I think we should be doing more of that... We're building up our history, and it's good to keep all of it - the good and the bad. But just acknowledging there are different sides of it."