• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:07pm
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DIPLOMACY

Eyes front, Kate! Britain's royals greeted by Maori warriors on start of NZ tour

Royal baby and parents receive warm welcome, but their visit has triggered debate in Commonwealth nation about retaining the crown

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 6:03pm
 

Britain’s Prince George arrived in New Zealand with parents Prince William and Catherine on Monday for the baby’s first ever official tour.

Strong winds, rain and poor visibility greeted the royals in Wellington at the start of a three-week visit to New Zealand and Australia.

Watch: Baby Prince George lands in New Zealand for first tour

It will be one of the first times eight-month-old George, who is third in line to the throne, has been seen in public since his birth on July 22 last year.

The baby will only be taken to a few specific engagements throughout the trip, the family’s Kensington Palace residence said.

The symbolism of the trip is clear, with George also being directly in line to become king of Australia and New Zealand after grandfather Charles and father William.

The royals’ visit has already sparked intense interest in New Zealand, with the discussions ranging from whether George’s baby car seat has been correctly installed to whether the country should retain the monarchy.

Former deputy prime minister Don McKinnon said at the weekend that it was “inevitable” New Zealand would become a republic, even though people still felt great respect for the royals.

Prime Minister John Key said he did not believe change would happen any time soon, saying there was “robust support” for the monarchy in New Zealand which had increased in recent years.

“If you go back ... maybe a decade and asked the question whether New Zealanders want to become a republic, then I think the numbers would have been 60-40 opposed,” he told public radio.

“If you asked that question today, I think it would be 80-20 opposed," he said.

Prince George follows in the footsteps of his father who travelled Down Under with his parents Prince Charles and Diana in 1983 aged nine months.

But it is the first visit to either country for both Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

The couple started their visit in Wellington on Monday with a ceremonial welcome including a Maori dance and inspection of a guard of honour.

Prince George could have some playmates on Wednesday when William and Catherine attend a reception at the Government House in Wellington with new mothers and their toddlers.

 

On Thursday, they travel to Blenheim for a wreath-laying session honouring New Zealand soldiers killed in the first world war 100 years ago.

They will also meet Prime Minister John Key and attend a state reception where William will unveil a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

The couple are in Auckland on Friday, then Hamilton and Cambridge on Saturday.

They are due in Dunedin and Queenstown on Sunday, where they will brave the Shotover Jet – a high-speed white-water thrill ride down a river canyon.

Then it is on to Christchurch on April 14, where they will pay their respects to victims of the 2011 earthquake.

The royals and their 11-person entourage, including a recently appointed Spanish nanny for the young prince, will head to Australia from April 16 to 25 before flying back to London.

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