Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Prince Philip's death provides an opportunity to acknowledge his service to others despite his history of racially insensitive remarks.
The Duke of Edinburgh died at Windsor Castle on Friday aged 99. His funeral is planned for April 17 and a New Zealand memorial service will be held in Wellington on April 21.
Ardern was asked during her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday about "unmentioned tension" due to his "record of making racist statements" and his family's links to New Zealand's colonisation. She was then questioned whether his memorial would address these parts of his legacy.
"Through our history of course we will have challenging elements that are a foundation of our history as our nation," she responded before explaining that whatever a person's opinion of the late Duke may be, his service to others is undeniable.
"It [his death] now also offers an opportunity for us to acknowledge the contribution of someone who ultimately, no matter what anyone's opinion will be, who ultimately gave his entire life almost, to the service of others."
She went on to commend Prince Philip for devoting his life to service, comparing it to that of a politician.
"When we come into politics I think we very knowingly do so for a particular period of time, we often don't know how long that will be, but we, for the most part, know it will not be the majority of our working life," she explained.
"But for Prince Philip it was and he knew that and I think there's something very significant about that."
Prince Philip is known for several offensive jokes and casually racist comments as outlined by Central Queensland University history lecturer Benjamin T. Jones in a piece for The Conversation.
In 1986 he told British students in China they would become "slitty-eyed" if they stayed too long, and in 1999 he joked an old-fashioned fuse box must have been "put in by an Indian".
According to the Insider, the Queen has never apologised for the family's history of colonisation and stayed silent during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
Queen Elizabeth also has ancestral ties to the establishment of the British slave trade.
In Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's recent tell-all interview with Oprah it was revealed racism - and a lack of protection as Meghan faced racism from the media - was part of the reason why the couple left England.
Meghan, who has a white father and a black mother, said there were "conversations" and "concerns" over what colour her then-unborn son Archie's skin colour would be.