Prince Charles heading to Westport, town planning for rain

The last time a royal family member visited Westport was in 1954. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by a ...
PRESS ARCHIVES

The last time a royal family member visited Westport was in 1954. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by a large crowd at Westport Airport.

It's not every day a team of 25 royal representatives and government officials fly into Westport for top-secret meetings.

But the small West Coast town has been "sitting on hot bricks" for weeks as the logistics of Prince Charles' upcoming visit are nutted out.

The Prince of Wales will visit Westport as part of he and wife Camilla's November tour of New Zealand – the first time a royal family member has graced the tiny town with their presence since 1954.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, left, Prince Charles, Camilla and former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, left, Prince Charles, Camilla and former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton during a 2012 visit to Christchurch residential red zone.

Buller District Mayor Garry Howard said the last month had been full of meetings with royal advisors and the armed services, including representatives from London's Clarence House, the official royal residence of the royal couple. 

Howard said the Prince was visiting Westport mainly to observe the multi-nation military training exercise, known as Exercise Southern Katipo.

"This is a huge exercise and they'll be about 2000 troops in Westport at the time . . . so we've been working closely with the armed services around the visit," he said.

"We'll also have time for a short civic ceremony to welcome the royal couple at the Clock Tower in Westport."

The town was "pretty excited about the whole thing".

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people . . . and I've been amazing by the logistics of it all behind the scenes too," Howard said.

The main concern Howard had was if the stubborn West Coast weather would play ball. 

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"The first week of November can often bring that seasonal change and a lot of rain, so we're planning for it being wet.

"I really hope we can pull out a beautiful West Coast day but it's in the lap of the gods."

Westport resident Jan Coll said she was "blown away" by news the Prince would visit the town. 

"I thought [he was] only going to Nelson . . . that's very exciting indeed."

Coll had her fingers crossed for a fine day weather-wise and said she was "most definitely" a royal family fan. 

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Westport during their 1953/54 royal tour of New Zealand. They received a warm welcome from locals when they arrived at Westport Airport.

In preparation for the visit, the left-hand side of a highway between Hokitika and Greymouth was resealed.

Locals referred to the re-sealed stretch of road as "Lizzie's side" for many years.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will visit Wellington, Auckland, Waikato, Dunedin, Nelson and New Plymouth. 

A cultural and conservation focus will dominate the trip, which will include a visit to the Maori King movement at Turangawaewae Marae in Waikato.

Exact dates for each location are yet to be confirmed, but the couple will arrive into Wellington on November 4.

There they will lay a wreath at the new Pukeahu National War Memorial, commemorating 100 years since Gallipoli.

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The couple will travel from Wellington to Dunedin Airport, before travelling to nearby Mosgiel on November 5.

At the township they will board a special "Royal Train" bound for the historic Dunedin Railway Station.

Dunedin Railways chief executive Murray Bond said he was "delighted" by the visit, following weeks of talks with Internal Affairs.

Passengers on the train would include Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and some of the people who helped establish the Otago Excursion Train Trust in 1978.

The train would include three carriages, a mixture of modern and heritage carriages, Bond said.

"Royal trains have been used in New Zealand many years ago, so we are delighted about being involved in this."

The couple would then visit nearby Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Director Jennifer Evans declined to give details of the visit other than to say she was "thrilled" by the visit.

The couple would then go on a guided walk at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, which was "a great opportunity for us to showcase our Ecosanctuary internationally", general manager Chris Baillie said.

"Prince Charles in particular is interested in nature and sustainability so the Ecosanctuary will be of great interest to him," she said.

This is Charles' ninth visit to New Zealand and Camilla's second.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, would visit Westport. In fact, Prince Charles will visit the town without her. 

 - Stuff

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