George at the forefront of charm offensive

ROYAL CHARMER: Prince William during his first visit to New Zealand in 1983.
ROYAL CHARMER: Prince William during his first visit to New Zealand in 1983.

Brush off those Union Jacks, buy a footstool so you can snatch a peep of William and Kate, or finish that Republican protest banner, if that's your thing - the royal tour with something for everyone lands in Wellington today.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and baby Prince George touch down at Wellington Airport's military terminal just before noon, it will open a 10-day tour that promises to be among the most memorable.

As one indication of potential frenzy levels, seven times more British journalists have trekked across the world for this trip than did for the 2012 visit of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

FAMILY TIME: William, Catherine, and George pose for an official portrait ahead of the New Zealand tour.
FAMILY TIME: William, Catherine, and George pose for an official portrait ahead of the New Zealand tour.

Partly that's due to Prince William and Catherine being among the world's most recognisable, photogenic and popular couples.

Then there's the Prince George X-factor.

William sealed his place as a decent bloke in Kiwi eyes on the Lions rugby tour here in 2005, then for showing remarkable empathy for the woes of quake-stricken Christchurch in 2011.

Catherine is the princess who lived the modern dream.

She met her prince at university, married him, then elegantly slotted into the royal family with her immaculate taste in fashion.

But even a couple who have helped humanise and modernise the royals run the risk of being upstaged by chubby Prince George, all of 8 months old and on his first overseas trip.

He is already the most cooed over baby in history; with news teams spending about a month camped outside St Mary's Hospital in London waiting to relay news of his birth.

He hasn't been seen much since, and it's unlikely he, mum and dad will be sighted today on the public drive from the airport to Government House, as they travel to their tour base in a secure limousine, with darkened windows up.

In a snapshot of what is to come, that simple journey of about 5km around Wellington's placid inner city bays has already aroused two controversies.

First, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae was in the crosshairs of a British security specialist for tweeting its timing, supposedly creating a security risk.

Then child health organisation Plunket was remiss in installing a front-facing baby seat for George, when best practice for an 8-month-old was for it to face backward.

"Kensington Palace has specifically requested the Prince be in a front-facing seat," Plunket chief executive Jenny Prince said.

"Whilst it is Plunket's practice to recommend rear-facing seats for an 8-month-old, there is no legal requirement to do so."

The royals have tomorrow off to recover from their trip but on Wednesday - under possibly leaden skies - it will be all on, with George central to a visit by a Plunket nurse and parents' group to the governor-general's residence.

All going well he will be up for playing nicely with about 10 Wellington babies all born the same month as him.

But if he biffs one, or worse, if one biffs him, blubbing baby photos will be zinging across the world.

On the 1983 tour by the ill-fated Princess Diana and Prince Charles, 9-month-old William was famously given a Buzzy Bee toy.

Prince George is set to get a Plunket bear, and be signed on as a Plunket baby.

That could be all the New Zealand public see of him.

He will remain in Wellington with his new Spanish nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, as his parents embrace New Zealand.

William and Kate will mix formal functions with the likes of racing each other in America's Cup yachts in Auckland, coaching rugby and meeting All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw in Dunedin, and zooming around in a Queenstown jet boat.

A tour designed to "introduce the duchess and Prince George" to New Zealanders is so full of icons Kiwis hold dear. It comes across as a massive charm offensive to stave off republican sentiments.

When William and Catherine return to Wellington for their final public walk, the word is George will be onboard a plane waiting for liftoff.

Clutching his Plunket bear, and seated in a safety compliant aircraft seat, no doubt.

Where can I see the royals?

Wellington, today. They arrive at Wellington Airport (the closed-off military terminal), then zip into Government House in a limousine with rolled-up dark windows for a formal welcome.


Wellington, tomorrow. A day off to recover from flying.


Wellington, Wednesday. Wills and Kate play peek-a-boo with 10 Plunket babies the same age as Prince George at Government House, and the littlest royal - who might also make an appearance - will be gifted with a blue Plunket bear.

PUBLIC VISIBILITY: Poor (unless your child is meeting George)

Blenheim, Thursday. Off to Blenheim for a public walk in Seymour Square, then to Omaka where they will attend a flying day with film-maker Sir Peter Jackson.


Later that day, they will attend a State reception in Wellington.


Auckland, Friday. Wills and Kate race each other in two Emirates Team New Zealand yachts, and try out an amphibious craft. There is a short public walk at Viaduct Basin.


Waikato, Saturday. Both mad sports fans, the royal couple will open the new national velodrome, the Avantidrome, and meet some of the country's Olympic medallists. They will also walk around Cambridge (they are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), visit sick kids and an aircraft manufacturer.


Dunedin, Sunday. William and Catherine will go to church and attend a Rippa Rugby tournament for young players at the city's Forsyth Barr stadium, coaching teams and meeting some past, present - and possibly future - All Blacks.


Queenstown, Sunday. Central Otago's finest tipple and nosh will be on the menu at the Amisfield vineyard at Lake Hayes, followed by a wild ride through the canyons on the Shotover Jet and an overnight stay in the tourism hotspot.


Christchurch, Monday, April 14. The royals will help celebrate the city being chosen as the Cricket World Cup host at Latimer Square, walk around the square, open a visitors' centre at the Botanic Gardens, and visit Wigram Air Force Museum.


Wellington, Tuesday, April 15. Day off in Wellington.


Wellington, Wednesday, April 16. Police College visit checking out the crime-fighting dogs. Public drive along Grey, Willis and Mercer Streets, then a Civic Square public walk. Off to the airport, heading for Australia.


The Dominion Post