Prince William arrives in New Zealand for 3-day visit
Prince William arrived in New Zealand Sunday to start a three-day visit in which he will take part in a ceremony formally marking the country's dwindling ties with the British royal family after 170 years, dpa reported.
Making his first official solo visit overseas to represent his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, the 27-year-old prince faces a mixed reception from republicans who want to cut all ties with the monarchy and diehard royalists who want to maintain them.
New Zealand became a British colony in 1840 when representatives of Queen Victoria signed a treaty with chiefs of indigenous Maori tribes.
It has been officially independent since 1947 but Queen Elizabeth remains nominal head of state. Her representative, Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, welcomed the prince upon arrival in Auckland.
William's official duty will be to formally open on Monday the Wellington building of the new Supreme Court, which has replaced Britain's Privy Council as the country's highest court of appeal, cutting one of the last historic ties with the mother country.
The irony of the symbolic act has not escaped New Zealanders.
"Our highest court of appeal will be opened not by our finest legal minds. It will be opened by the grandson of our absentee head of state," said Lewis Holden, chairman of the Republican Movement of New Zealand.
"Prince William may be a fine person in real life, but that does not mean he is more qualified to open our Supreme Court than New Zealand's chief justice of governor-general, who was previously a judge."
At least two opposition members of parliament pledged to join Holden's group in a "peaceful, positive" protest with a banner reading "It's Time For A Republic" outside the court, where the prince is scheduled to take a street walkabout after the ceremony.
Royalists have welcomed the prince, with Noel Cox, chairman of the Monarchist League of New Zealand, rejecting criticism of the cost of his visit to taxpayers, saying publicity from the 30-odd journalists accompanying him would more than compensate in tourist promotion.
With only about a dozen people turning up to see Prince William arrive at Auckland airport, a visiting Australian television reporter wrote her own makeshift "We love Will" signs which she gave to some women to hold up.
The reporter was then filmed in front of the signs for a breakfast programme but did not mention that they were her own creation, ABC radio reported.
A keen rugby fan, Prince William's first engagement was to visit Auckland's Eden Park stadium where matches in the World Cup, which New Zealand will host next year, will be played.
He then went sailing on Waitemata Harbour on New Zealand's America's Cup yacht NZL40 and attended a Maori feast at Government House in Auckland.