Royals to spend 9 days in NZ

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.
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.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, will pay tribute to those lost in the Canterbury quake when they visit Christchurch as part of a nationwide tour next month.

The royal couple, along with baby Prince George, will spend nine days in New Zealand as part of a three-week tour beginning April 7, Kensington Palace has confirmed.

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.

Four South Island and four North Island centres feature in the itinerary - including Blenheim, Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch.

Key said the Duke and Duchess would be based at Government House in Wellington and would mostly make day trips to other parts of the country, returning to be with Prince George in the evening.

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

He also wrote a letter to the people of Canterbury last month, which was read out in full at a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the February 22 earthquake. 

In the letter, Prince William said he was "greatly looking forward to returning to Christchurch to see some of the progress and to witness again the unquenchable spirit of this place". 

Monarchy New Zealand's Christchurch co-ordinator, Alex Summerlee, said he was excited about the southern leg of the tour, which included a visit to Christchurch's central business district on April 14.

"This will be a fantastic opportunity for the future king of New Zealand to see how much progress has been made in Christchurch since the Canterbury earthquakes."

Eight-month-old Prince George is about the same age as his father, Prince William, 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 George is not expected to accompany the Duke and Duchess on most public outings, but 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.

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.

The trip's highlights include the royal couple racing each other in competing America's Cup yachts on the Auckland Harbour and a ride on Queenstown's famous Shotover jet.

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.

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.

Later that evening they will attend a State Reception at Government House and unveil a portrait of the Queen. The Duke and Duchess will also visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage centre where they will be escorted by Sir Peter Jackson around his display of World War One aircraft.

On April 11, the Duke and Duchess 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 Kate, 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 a "Rippa Rugby" game. 

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

Ngai Tahu Tourism southern regional manager David Kennedy said the company was "absolutely thrilled and delighted" to be taking the royal couple for a spin. 

"The Royal couple are known for their love of the outdoors and sports, so we think they'll really enjoy the [experience]," he said.

The couple will visit Christchurch on April 14, beginning with a welcome from Ngai Tahu at the Christchurch City Council building in the morning.

Some Christchurch events are still to be confirmed, but the itinerary includes a visit to the CTV memorial park and a 2015 Cricket World Cup event.

The couple will then be hosted at lunch focused on Christchurch's redevelopment, followed by a visit to the Wall of Remembrance at the Wigram Air Force Museum. 

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 out to Australia.