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New Zealand shows off its crown jewels to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry Meghan Newzealand Abeltasman Nationalpark

New Zealand has been showing off some of its own crown jewels and hidden gems to the royal visitors the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern greeted the royal couple as they arrived on their first official visit as a couple to New Zealand.

By the time their first afternoon and evening was over, the royal couple had experienced a powerful traditional Māori powhiri on the lawns of Government House, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, negotiated crowds of cheering fans on the streets around Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, and the Duchess had impressed with her first words in te reo Māori.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford were on the tarmac at Wellington Airport to welcome the royal couple on their arrival from Australia.

From there, the Royals drove to nearby Government House – the historic residence of the Governor-General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy – for a traditional Māori welcome on the lawns. 

prince harry meghan newzealand arrival

As part of the ceremony, the Duke and Duchess both joined in a hongi (clasping of hands and gentle pressing of noses) with the Governor-General’s Kaumātua and Kuia (Māori elders), before the pōwhiri, which included a haka performed by members of the New Zealand Armed Forces. The welcoming party included young people representing groups of scouts and guides, and a primary school. The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute.

Crowds of enthusiastic locals were on hand at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park to watch as the royal visitors laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and inspected the newly unveiled UK War Memorial – a spectacular life-size bronze sculpture designed in the form of two of the United Kingdom and New Zealand’s most iconic trees, the Royal Oak and the Pōhutukawa. 

On Sunday evening the royal couple was guests at a reception at Government House, hosted by the Governor-General to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. The Duchess, who appeared wearing a Māori tattoo-inspired diamond necklace by New Zealand designer Jessica McCormack, seized the occasion to introduce her speech with a few words in te reo Māori.

On the second day of their visit to Aotearoa New Zealand, the royal couple went off the grid into Abel Tasman National Park on the north-western tip of the South Island and a coastal region renowned for its golden sands, turquoise waters and emerald green native forests.

The Royals flew by helicopter from Wellington across Cook Strait landing at Totaranui Beach, at the western edge of the park. Totaranui is a popular camping spot at one end of the Abel Tasman Coast Walk, one of New Zealand's Great Walk network of multi-day hiking trails.

Away from the crowds in Wellington, the Duke and Duchess enjoyed a few quiet moments walking on the golden sands of Totaranui Beach with a park ranger and learning more about the history of the forest and the environmental challenges of protecting the habitat of New Zealand’s youngest national park.

They were officially welcomed to the region by the local Māori iwi (tribe) and joined some of the park’s young conservation ambassadors from Project Janszoon, one of several volunteer conservation groups, and local school children at a barbeque lunch.

Department of Conservation park ranger Andrew Lamason was impressed by the passion and interest of the Duke and Duchess.

“They were such an impressive couple -  the amount of knowledge they had. We talked about the urbanization of people and how important it is to have places like this. His [Prince Harry] passion for the environment is real. He talked like an ecologist would talk – his depth of understanding not only about New Zealand issues but global issues around the environment was really impressive.“

“It’s not something he’s just sat and decided he’s going to learn over the weekend – he really understood this stuff so it gives you a lot of hope for the future.”

“They were impressed with the untouched vastness of the area as they flew in – coming to the huge expanse of forest with beautiful golden coastline stretched around New Zealand – stunning! I said you should see it on a good day mate.”

Photo Credit: New Zealand Tourism, Mark Tantrum

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