Topless locals eating rare kereru on tour, apparently

British media reports saying "topless female Maori dancers" will cover up for the royal tour, before William and Kate feast on protected wood-pigeon are being described as "mind-boggling".

"For important occasions like this the women go topless. It's tradition but because this is a big occasion they'll cover up out of respect so they don't embarrass Kate and William.

"Usually the men do not wear anything under the piupiu, the flax skirts, but because of the high-profile guests they'll wear black undies to welcome them," Tredegar Hall, a member of London-based Maori cultural group Ngati Ranana was quoted as saying.

Prince William, wife Kate and baby George kick off their 10-day trip to New Zealand in Wellington today.

The reports also said the royal couple would be offered traditional food from a hangi "including a native bird, the kereru, which is on the verge of extinction".

"They cook beef, pork and chicken, and kereru if they are lucky. It is a native bird that is nearly extinct because the possums and rats go for them," Hall was quoted as saying.

The kereru or native wood pigeon was a protected species under the Wildlife Act, a Conservation Department spokeswoman said. It was in gradual decline with the key threats from rats, stoats, cats and possums.

Killing a native wood pigeon can earn a $100,000 fine or six months in prison.

AUT Maori history professor Paul Moon described the British reports as "mind-boggling".

Maori women had not been topless to welcome foreign dignitaries "in living memory" he said.

Some male maori kapa haka groups wore underwear and some did not, he said.

However it would be "the height of rudeness" to dictate terms to local Maori.

Dr Moon said it was "extremely unlikely" that kereru would be on the royal menu during the tour.

"I can't see it happening."

The Dominion Post