Royal tour: a capital sendoff

Last updated 16:07 16/04/2014

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With a wriggle from the little prince and waves from the duke and duchess, the royal roadshow has left New Zealand for Australia.

The royal family took off from Wellington Airport in an Australian Air Force plane shortly after 1pm.

Kate and William, carrying a wriggling baby George, walked calmly on to the tarmac and stopped at the foot of the plane steps to shake the hands of officials, including Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Onlookers crowded around the fence surrounding the airport, some calling out "goodbye".

While the skies were ominously grey, the rain held back.

But the city's parting gift was a strong gust of Wellington wind that swept through Kate's hair as she and her husband waved farewell to New Zealand one last time, before the plane doors closed.

The royals flew to Australia where they thousands turned out for an official welcome at the Sydney Opera House.

CIVIC SQUARE WALKABOUT

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were earlier given a warm farewell by tens of thousands of fans in Wellington's Civic Square.

After a morning of torrential rain, the sun came out just before the couple's arrival, to cheers from the expectant crowds. Some had been camped out in the best, but sodden, positions since 6.30am.

Thousands of Union Jacks waved and hundreds of posies were thrust forward. A rousing cheer went up whenever William or Catherine waved, or merely glanced, at a section of the crowd.

They slowly worked their way along the waving hands and raised camera phones, appearing in no rush to get to the airport.

One little girl who caught both royals' attention was Upper Hutt 11-month-old Ruby Cate Blitz, who was wearing a T-shirt that read: "Marry me George".

The shirt caught Prince William's eye and he chatted to her parents Rob and Marqueney. William had asked Ruby's name, and told her parents "she's absolutely beautiful".

Kate was standing nearby and William called his wife over.

Marqueney Blitz told the duchess "My daughter's going to marry your son". Kate told her Ruby was beautiful.

"I'm just fizzing," she said.

Marqueney now plans to make a T-shirt for Ruby for every royal visit, just to remind the couple of the juvenile engagement.

"Seriously, that's it. It's a done deal," she said.

The royal arrival on Wakefield St was preceded by a motorcade of four police motorcycles, three police cars and six cars full of plain-clothes security staff.

Yet despite the ring of minders, many in the crowds got a personal moment with the duke or duchess, or both.

Four children of Phoenix football club staff were on hand, in uniform, to collect gifts given to the royals. Halfway through the outing they were laden with toys, cards, and flowers, and needed to offload the bounty and begin again.

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By the end of the walkabout William's wrists were laden with coloured friendship bracelets given to him by admirers. Kate also sported a black and neon-yellow bracelet.

Groups of fans bayed at the couple to come their way, but were often starstruck when the royals did.

"Oh my god," one group of girls was heard to say when Kate headed their way. "Oh, I'm shaking!" one told her friend afterwards.

It was a short walk for William and Kate to the motorcade, one punctuated with waves to the crowd on the pedestrian bridge above.

The duchess climbed in the back-left, the duke in the other side, the doors closed and the convoy moved off to cries of "byeeeee".

Civic Square emptied quickly, with dozens of Union Jack flags trampled into the wet brick pavers.

Some royal fans would have departed wet, cold, and disappointed that their gifts went unpresented.

Dozens, however, left the square elated, no doubt vowing not to wash their hands for a week after a once-in-a-lifetime royal handshake.

FURRY FRIENDS

Earlier the couple met police - including the youngest and furriest recruits - at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua. They gave police puppies the royal treatment after more formal duties at the college.

The duke and duchess attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Wall to honour police officers killed by criminal acts while performing their duties.

Local high school children, who were warned to behave or else, had front seats at the ceremony.

High ranking police made up the bulk of the rest of the audience.

William and Kate were greeted with a karakia and the police choir sang a waiata.

With thunder and lightning overhead, police dogs and owners alike cowered in the downpour.

William and Kate cuddled puppies, and then moved on to meet older dogs and their handlers.

While William talked with an owner, Kate affectionately scratched the head of a german shepherd.

Kate stopped on her way into the gym to be greeted by a young girl who handed her a posy.

The pair moved on to the next family - the Boles and their foster pup Gessy. Eight-year-old Morgan handed Kate a plush puppy for George.

Prince William called it sweet and Kate said she'd name it Gessy, after the puppy.

The pair were shown around the police college gym, with officers demonstrating training techniques of how to deal with aggressive offenders, along with forcing offenders on to the ground, and cuffing them.

They were presented with a gift for Prince George, a T-shirt that is a mock police uniform. Other presents given to the eight-month old during this tour include a cricket shirt, a bike and an amphibious boat.

Kate was wearing a blue tweed Rebecca Taylor skirt suit and navy suede Alexander McQueen pumps. Her wet morning showed in her stockings - their heels were dyed blue from her sodden shoes. William wore a navy suit, white shirt and red tie.

Taylor went to school in Wellington, then studied fashion design at Wellington Polytechnic, a course now offered by Massey University.

Her sister, Victoria Taylor, is the founder of Wellington-based jeweller Tory & Ko which provided some jewellery to the duchess ahead of the tour.

Rebecca Taylor worked on film-maker Sir Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles, before heading to New York.

Kate often wears her tailored designs.

Reporting by Siobhan Downes, Andrea O'Neil, Katie Kenny and Kevin Norquay.

- The Dominion Post

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