Tags: AS | New | Zealand | Prince | Visits

Prince William On Official Visit to New Zealand

Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 05:55 PM

Britain's Prince William took the reins of the winning America's Cup yacht and visited the site of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand on Sunday at the start of his first official overseas trip on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The 27-year-old prince is also scheduled to officially open New Zealand's Supreme Court building and perform a string of other duties during his three-day visit.

The South Pacific country's Supreme Court was resurrected last year, ending a period of nearly 150 years when its final appellate court was Britain's Privy Council, based in London. It was one of a few remaining relics of its past as a British colony.

Queen Elizabeth remains the country's head of state, formally known as Queen of New Zealand. The prince is second in line to the British throne after his father, Prince Charles.

An avid rugby player, Prince William's first duty Sunday was to visit to Eden Park in the northern city of Auckland, the main ground for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He was accompanied by officials, several members of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team and about 60 journalists.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said he was impressed by the prince.

"It can't be easy being in the position he's in, but he handles himself amazingly well," McCaw told reporters. "Underneath all that stuff he has to deal with, he's just a genuine bloke you can have a yarn with."

Prince William then went sailing on New Zealand's winning America's Cup yacht, NZL40, taking the helm under the eye of skipper Dean Barker. Later he attended a hangi, or traditional Maori feast cooked over hot stones in a pit in the ground, at Government House in Auckland.

On Monday in the capital, Wellington, the prince is scheduled to open the Supreme Court building, lay a wreath at the National War Memorial, attend a barbecue hosted by Prime Minister John Key and visit a nature reserve. He is slated to visit the Wellington Children's Hospital on Tuesday before flying to Australia.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the prince's private secretary, said the royal is "enormously fond" of New Zealand, a nation he first visited with his parents in 1983 and again five years ago.

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