Once I've used the the OBJECT>REPEATS command, how can I treat each repeat as a separate object - essentially release the link between the repeats and the oritinal object? I have overlaps that I want to 'unite'.
Object > Expand?
Object --> Flatten Transparency ...
But that can be very destructive.
If there are freeform gradients in the repeat, disable the object option in the "Object Expand" as that is very destructive as well.
Yes, it is a pity that it cannot simply expand into the repeated elements.