Royal couple 'captivating' - PM

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 17:49 07/04/2014
PM John Key and royal family
Getty Images
GREETING DUTIES: Prime Minister John Key greets the royal family on their arrival into Wellington.

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The royal couple are likely to "captivate the nation" as they tour New Zealand as a family for the first time, Prime Minister John Key says.

Key, who greeted the couple and Prince George after they touched down in Wellington today, will accompany the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on various parts of their trip.

But with an election just six months away, he insisted he was not going to milk the tour for electoral advantage.

"I mean, I'm not going to be a barnacle attached to them over the 10-day tour if that's what you're asking," Key said.
 
Key will share several engagements with the royal couple. He confirmed he would use their formal get-together to brief them on plans to stage a referendum on changing the New Zealand flag, which he has described as a relic of New Zealand's colonial past.

Key wants to replace the Union Jack with a silver fern.

"I'll probably [raise that] in a formal meeting and go through the arguments around that," Key said.

"But I've had those discussions with them before and I'm telling you now their response will be the same, which will be in the end that's a matter for New Zealanders.

"They're always extremely comfortable with whatever decision New Zealand as a country, New Zealanders make."

The arrival of the royal couple has also sparked a fresh debate about New Zealand moving to a republic, but Key suggested today that the duke and duchess made that less likely now than a few years ago.

"I once ... said it was inevitable it would happen and I tend to think in my heart of hearts it probably is inevitable it will happen."

But he believed the time frame on that happening had moved "considerably further out".

"It just reflects the reality that there's been a real resurgence in the desire for New Zealand to remain a constitutional monarchy."

That William and Kate represented a younger group of royals had helped create "a huge amount of enthusiasm for the royal family", as had affection for the Queen, he said.

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- Fairfax Media

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