Royal visit 'cancelled' says a marae insider

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014

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A political stoush is threatening a planned visit by Prince William to Waikato's Turangawaewae Marae this year.

Preparations were under way at the Kingitanga's seat of power in Ngaruawahia but plans have been brought to a grinding halt.

Marae insiders slipped a message to Fairfax Media that said "the Royal visit has been cancelled!!!!"

They blamed "politicking" and were shocked to hear the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would not follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh's 1953 visit.

Questions were asked as to how the collapse could happen so quickly but it is understood that government officials may have been at the centre of it.

Maori King Tuheitia was approached by staff from the Ministry Maori Development, Te Puni Kokiri, with a list of demands and a tight timeframe that would have broken proper protocol on his marae.

The king and his advisers were at Ratana Pa yesterday and were unavailable for comment.

But media manager for the 2014 Royal Visit Office Allen Walley said engagements for the tour were yet to be settled and a visit to Turangawaewae could still get the seal of approval.

"The royal visit is in the planning stage at the moment but there are no venues or events confirmed at this stage," he said.

Government officials had looked at a number of venues but final decisions had yet to be made, he said.

Someone had jumped the gun confirming the visit, but Mr Walley said not to hang up the bunting just yet.

"It was perhaps a little bit ahead of play," he said. "Basically, everywhere in the country is in the mix at the moment."

In a statement, Te Puni Kokiri said they had been advised by the Visits and Ceremonies Office in the Department of Internal Affairs that no venues were confirmed for the visit.

Kensington Palace announced last month that Prince William, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their son Prince George would visit New Zealand in April.

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- The Dominion Post

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