Prince's letter signals return to Canterbury
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Three years on from Christchurch's earthquake, Prince William has penned a letter to the city to assure residents they have not been forgotten.
EXCLUSIVE: The letter also provides the first indication the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit the city during their tour of New Zealand in April.
The prince's message to Christchurch will be read in full at today's Civic Memorial Service.
While an official announcement has yet to be made as to whether the duke and duchess will visit Canterbury, Prince William suggested as much.
"I am greatly looking forward to returning to Christchurch to see some of the progress and to witness again the unquenchable spirit of this place."
Christchurch City Council general manager civic and international relations Duncan Sandeman said officials from the Cabinet Office in Wellington approached Kensington Palace to "see if it was possible" for Prince William to write the letter.
Sandeman would not confirm or deny Christchurch's inclusion on the itinerary, but said a "conclusion could be drawn" from the letter.
He said the "primary rationale" for sourcing the message from Prince William was to remind "those that think we've been forgotten in the wider community - we haven't".
"I just think it's great to know that there's people like Prince William who remembers Christchurch, his visit here and what people are going through."
Prince William ended his message with assurances the people of Christchurch "are in the thoughts and prayers of countless people around the world".
Today's service begins at noon, on the Archery Lawn at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Three years ago today, the city of Christchurch and wider Canterbury suffered a devastating tragedy.
Lives were lost and the heart of a city was ripped out. It seems unbelievable that this beautiful and historic place could suffer such a crippling blow, with so many families and friendships irretrievably broken up.
When I visited the city in March 2011, I saw the destruction first hand and I had the chance to hear about the selfless heroism of first- responders and ordinary men and women who reached out to their neighbours.
Cantabrians' response on that fateful day and in the weeks following was testament to the human spirit at its very best.
Three years have now passed.
For some of you, who suffered bereavements and shocks, the events of February 22, 2011 will seem like yesterday. You will perhaps wonder how you have managed to carry on.
Yet, step by step, Christchurch is recovering and rebuilding.
The city is beginning a new chapter in its history. I am greatly looking forward to returning to Christchurch to see some of the progress and to witness again the unquenchable spirit of this place.
On this anniversary, please be assured that you are in the thoughts and prayers of countless people around the world, fellow Cantabrians all of us.
Catherine and I send you our warm wishes, and we hope that you find comfort as you gather with your friends, neighbours and loved ones to remember what was lost.
- The Press
Which memorial design do you like most?Related story: Christchurch earthquake memorial designs unveiled