Royals to spend 9 days in NZ

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 10:54 03/03/2014
prince george standard
REUTERS

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS: Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge hold Prince George of Cambridge outside of the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London July 23.

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Racing down the Shotover river in a jet boat is one of the things Prince William and wife Kate will get up to when they visit New Zealand next month.

The royal couple and baby Prince George will spend nine days in the country as part of a three-week tour downunder, Kensington Palace has confirmed.

The family would arrive in the country on a New Zealand air force flight from Sydney to Wellington, media manager for the 2014 Royal Visit Office Allen Walley said.

Prime Minister John Key said the visit would entail a "pretty good geographic spread", meaning New Zealanders would have a good chance to see the royal family.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George would visit four South Island and four North Island centres.

"The duke and duchess will be based at Government House in Wellington and mostly make day trips to different parts of the country, then return to be with Prince George in the evening," he said.

"We're trying to make it as easy as possible for them to have regular family time with their son, while acknowledging thousands of New Zealanders will want to take the opportunity to meet them."

Shotover Jet said it would be "thrilled and delighted" to take the royal couple for a spin on their visit to Queenstown.

Ngai Tahu Tourism Southern Regional Manager David Kennedy said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would enjoy a trip in the latest technology V8-powered Big Red.

The boat was capable of speeds up to 85kmh in as little as 10cm of water, as well as delivering full 360 degree spins and beyond.

"The royal couple are known for their love of the outdoors and sports, so we think they'll really enjoy the chance to experience a world-leading Queenstown adventure tourism operation," Kennedy said.

Staying in the south, a Regal Rugby Fun Day was planned at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium to give the royal couple a taste of the national game.

All Blacks overseeing the event would include Highlanders Aaron Smith and Ben Smith, along with former All Black Brad Thorn.

The duke and duchess would present a trophy and medals to the winning and participating teams.

"It's great that the royal couple wanted to make time in their busy schedule to experience what rugby means to our country," New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said.

"Prince William is a big rugby fan so we are planning a fun event which will allow the duke and the duchess to get a first-hand taste of rugby, meet kids who are passionate about the game and hopefully lend a hand coaching the finalists with the help of some of our senior players."

With the tour marking the newest royal's first official overseas trip there is expected to be huge interest in the visit which will start in New Zealand on April 7 and end in Australia on Anzac Day.

While 8-month-old Prince George is not expected to accompany his parents on most public outings, aides expect he will make an appearance before the cameras at "one or two" events over the course of the three-week tour.

"The duke and duchess are content enough to know that he will be with them in the two countries," an aide said.

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The trip's other highlights include the royal couple racing each other in competing America's Cup yachts on the Auckland Harbour.

Along with their usual staff, the royal couple will be bringing a nanny with them on the trip. While in New Zealand, the tour party will be transported on a New Zealand air force plane.

At this stage it would be "wildly speculative" to put a figure on how much the tour was costing taxpayers, Walley said.

"We won't have a very good idea until after the visit and all the bills are in, at which time we will of course make that public."

There was no budget for the tour, but they would be "keeping a careful watch on the costs", Walley said.

Some costs would be directly paid through the Royal Visit Office, which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs.

Prince George is about the same age as his father, Prince William, was when he travelled to New Zealand with his parents Charles and Diana in 1983.

The Duchess of Cambridge has not been to New Zealand or Australia before and an aide said it was her first chance to experience some of the "extraordinary warmth and hospitality for which the people of both countries are renowned the world over".

Prince William was last in New Zealand and Australia in 2011, shortly after the Christchurch earthquakes and natural disasters in Queensland and Victoria.

The royal couple's first engagement will be at Government House in Wellington the day of their arrival in New Zealand.

They will be greeted by a powhiri on the lawn and Prince William will inspect a guard of honour before a 21 gun salute is fired.

The following day will be kept free for the family who will spend the time away from the capital at a private residence.

On April 9, they will have a full round of engagements including a function at Government House to recognise Plunket, where Prince George may make an appearance.

The following day the duke and duchess will attend a wreath-laying ceremony in Blenheim, attended by veterans from World War II and more-recent conflicts.

The royal couple will also visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage centre where they will be escorted by Sir Peter Jackson around his display of World War I aircraft.

Later that evening they will attend a State reception at Government House and unveil a portrait of the Queen.

On April 11, they will travel to Whenuapai in Auckland, New Zealand's largest air force base, where they will meet base personnel and their families for an informal gathering.

On April 12 Prince William will visit Pacific Aerospace at Hamilton while the duchess, who is a patron of East Anglia's children hospices, will visit a children's hospice in Hamilton.

The couple will then travel to Cambridge where they will visit the town centre before meeting Olympic cycling medallists at the new national velodrome.

On April 13, the couple will leave George in Wellington while they travel to Dunedin, Queenstown and Christchurch.

In Dunedin they will be met by Ngai Tahu before attending a Palm Sunday service, followed by the rugby fun day.

In Queenstown they will visit the Amisfield vineyard before riding the Shotover Jet.

On April 14 the couple will visit Christchurch where they will visit the central business district and attend a brief ceremony to remember those who were killed during the 2011 earthquake.

On their final morning in New Zealand the royal couple will visit the police college outside Wellington which was opened by the Prince of Wales 30 years ago.

A walkabout in central Wellington may be their final event before they fly to Australia.

'PRIVILEGE, HONOUR'

Plunket New Zealand president Tristine Clark said they had been approached by Kensington Palace before Christmas to organise the function at Government House.

"It's really exciting we can go public with it now. For us, it's a real privilege and an honour that they've chosen Plunket to give us a chance to showcase what Plunket is and does," she said.

Nearly 100 years ago King George granted Plunket the honour of being the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, and with Prince George visiting, it was a good opportunity to recognise that link, Clark said.

Ten Plunket families with a baby around Prince George's age would be chosen to attend the function.

"It'll be pretty exciting for them, it'll be a great story to tell."

'SHINING A SPOTLIGHT'

Monarchy New Zealand Chairman Sean Palmer said the length of the trip and the coverage of the country were "fantastic".

"The more of the country they can see, the more they can engage with people," he said.

"From an economic perspective, this is really good for New Zealand on the world stage. When they see the sights, when they engage with Kiwi activities, culture and industry, the world media follows them on that.

"It will shine a spotlight on that in a way we could never advertise or sell."

- Stuff

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