Prince William charms Christchurch on quake tour

Last updated 19:42 17/03/2011

Prince William tours quake-hit Christchurch

Prince William at the emergency services base

Prince William arrives at Christchurch Airport

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Prince William left his mark on the West Coast during his visit today after talking about everything from stag dos to PlayStations with family members of the Pike River miners.

William, along with Prime Minister John Key, arrived at Shantytown near Greymouth around 4.30pm today.

He was greeted by Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn who walked him through the historic tourist village to meet with more than 100 families members.

As he walked, Prince William remarked to Kokshoorn: “This whole year has been a disaster.”

Once in the hall, Kokshoorn addressed the more than 150 family members and the prince.

“It is real humbling that you have extended your hand to help these families grieve,” he said.

“We know you have had tragic times in your past with the death of your mother, Princess Diana.”

Kokshoorn said Diana’s legacy had been handed to William.

“We are great fans of you, and Kate... you are going to make a great couple.”

Key said the government was “obviously delighted” that William decided to come to New Zealand.

“I think it speaks volumes of Prince William, that he’s taken time out of his busy schedule.

“New Zealand has been going through a rough patch. I want you to know and be sure we will never forget the men of Pike River.

Family spokesperson Bernie Monk said William was down-to-earth and spoke with every single family member.

“He asked the kids if they had a PlayStation and then told them he had one.

Monk said William "knows how we feel" when it comes to grieving.

Monk said one mother brought her two daughters to the event and while they were excited at meeting the prince, “they would have rather met the princess.”

Families were still eager to get rescue teams down in to the mine and were frustrated at the thwarted attempts so far.

“They must go down, they must go down, so let’s get down there,” he said.

After spending more than an hour with the families, William then attended a second event with people involved in the Pike River disaster including police, mine rescue teams, DOC and local councillors.

He was greeted by local iwi and gifted a piece of pounamu, as well a wedding present for him and Kate.

“You’re  champion,” said Kokshoorn.

As he was leaving, William said “We’ll see” in response to whether or not he will return for the Rugby World Cup later in the year.
William was believed to be spending the night near Hokitika before returning to Christchurch tomorrow to attend the memorial service.

Devastation in Christchurch unbelievable

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Earlier today the Prince described the devastation in Christchurch as ''unbelievable'' during his tour of Christchurch's quake hit city centre today.

Just before 1pm, the Prince entered the red zone, travelling up Gloucester St and stopping first at Cathedral Square.

During his visit, Prince William said he loved New Zealand and "it's good to be back".

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) engineer Des Bull and Reverend Peter Beck were among those to meet Prince William at the ruined site of the Christ Church Cathedral.

The Prince then travelled down the badly damaged Colombo St and Manchester St before arriving at Latimer Square.

Outside the square, which has been acting as the base for USAR teams, Bull told Prince William about the damage to the Grand Chancellor building, which remains on a lean in Christchurch's central business district.

''It's just the scale of it, it is unbelievable,'' the Prince said outside Latimer Square.

''It really does bring it home to see it leaning like that. When you see buildings like that... that's very very sad.

Inside Latimer Square, Prince William was greeted by dozens of USAR workers.

''You guys have been doing a sterling job. You really have. You have done fantastically well,'' the Prince said.

The Prince also spoke of how it had been an ''horrendous time for disasters in the last six months''.

''There was a lot of us who were in the military were gnashing our teeth to get over here,'' he said of the situation in Christchurch.

USAR area commander Steve Barclay was among those who spoke to the prince.

''It's a great morale boaster to have him here. It's not purely symbolic. We had Russell Crowe here the other day and we had John Key and having the Prince come all this way to acknowledge our problems is a real morale boaster and we really appreciate it.''

When USAR teams got Prince William to pose for a picture, they put a cap on his head and he joked, ''it smells a bit dodge''.

Prince William also spoke to Shane O'Brien another USAR officer, whose house in Bexley was badly hit by the quake.

His two shy twins Lilah and Verity, both 7, also met the future king.

''Who are these two lovely girls and are you looking after dad?'' Prince William asked the pair.

He said Prince William told him both Lilah and Verity were proud of their father.

''I think it's really good. It gives us all a boast. While New Zeland is a tiny little place in the middle of nowhere, it's nice to know the world knows where we are and who we are,'' O'Brien said.

Prince William also spoke to TV ONE camera man James Marshall, whose Gloucester St building was badly hit on the quake.

Marshall told the Prince of how he grabbed his camera before immediately going to work on the day of the quake.

''Sure you did. You journalists are all the same. You'll all film first,'' the Prince joked.

The Prince also told Marshall the damage has ''really been brought home to me today, driving around.''

Prince William also spoke to Fairfax Reporter Keith Lynch about the damage to the historic home of The Press in Cathedral Square.

He passed on his condolences to the family of the Press employee Adrienne Isobel Lindsay.

At his final stop, the Christchurch Fire Station, Prince William was introduced to firefighters.

He spoke at length to Paul Rodwell and Terry Gyde, two firefighters who pulled Japanese quake victim Norika Masutani from the ruins of the CTV building.

''He was interested in how the building looked and the conditions when we got there,'' Rodwell said.

He told the Prince of how they tried to free the girl, who asked the doctors not to cut her leg off.

Their colleague Mike Yeates said, ''He commented on how good buildings have withstood the shake and made some comments on the Grand Chancellor building.

''I wouldn't have missed it [the visit] for the world.''

During his time at the station, a fire alarm went off forcing one crew to speed off to an emergency somewhere in the city.

But the Prince continued talking to other firefighters.

And after the greetings, Prince William signed a hat for the service.

He joked ''don't tell anyone'' before signing the hat, ''City Station, Good Luck! William''

Dean of the Christ Church Cathedral Reverend, Peter Beck said the Prince asked about the future of the city after seeing the Cathedral.

''Overall he was looking throughout the square, seeing the devastation there and acknowledging the devastation.

''He seems like me to a wonderfully genuine nice guy who was seriously amazed by what he was seen.

''It's great that he could be here and be part of this today and it acknowledges the significant of what's happened here.''

PRINCE'S WEDDING GIFT TO CITY

The prince and Kate Middleton, who marry next month, have asked people intending to send them wedding gifts to instead give money to charity.

A spokesman for St James's Palace said overnight that guests at the April 29 wedding and those who simply wanted to express their goodwill could pay into a charitable gift fund, which will support 26 charities.

Although most of the charities were based in Britain, they include the New Zealand Government's appeal for aid following Christchurch's 6.3-magnitude earthquake last month.

''Having been touched by the goodwill shown them since the announcement of their engagement, Prince William and Miss Middleton have asked that anyone who might wish to give them a wedding gift consider giving instead to a charitable fund,'' a spokesman for the palace said.

Australian charities were also included, and the spokesman said their choices reflected ''the couple's close ties to and affection for'' there and New Zealand.

''The couple have chosen to take the chance to benefit some causes that have less exposure or which are undertaking valuable work in areas of the community which the couple feel would benefit from this support,'' the spokesman said.

Donations via the website, www.royalweddingcharityfund.org, are possible in six currencies.

The money will be held and distributed by a charitable foundation set up by William and his brother, Prince Harry.

Prime Minister John Key said the addition of the Christchurch relief fund to the small list of charities on the register reflected the couple's close ties to and affection for New Zealand.

"I believe it's a mark of great respect for New Zealand that the couple have nominated the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal as one of those charities," Key said.

"The Prince's support for New Zealand at this time underscores his commitment to the country and I am very pleased to be hosting him for his visit."

- Stuff

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