Prince William begins first official overseas trip

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The Independent Online

Prince William arrived in New Zealand to begin his first official overseas trip on behalf of the Queen.

The 27-year-old prince's visit generated strong interest amongst the British media who travelled to the South Pacific islands in large numbers not seen since the foreign tours of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The trip is a major milestone for the second-in-line to the throne who is in New Zealand to open the Commonwealth country's new supreme court on behalf of his grandmother the Queen and carry out other engagements.

His actions during the next three days will be filmed, photographed and written about for newspapers, websites and television outlets in Britain and across the world.

The prince will also visit Australia for an unofficial tour which will last three days.

The royal arrived in Auckland on a scheduled Air New Zealand plane just after 10pm last night (11am Sunday local time) and was greeted by Prime Minister John Key and the Queen's representative Governor General Anand Satyanand.

The prince, dressed in an immaculate suit, looked relaxed after his long-haul flight which he spent in business class and left the aircraft before the other passengers.

He was joined by his private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, adviser Sir David Manning, Britain's former ambassador to Washington, and a number of royal protection police officers.

As he shook hands with Mr Key the royal commented on the weather which was overcast with cool temperatures saying: "It's a bit like English weather - confused."

An early indication of the public interest in the visit was demonstrated by around 100 people who waited in the airport's arrivals lounge to get a brief glimpse of the prince before he was driven away.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton described how the royal is "enormously fond" of New Zealand, a nation he first visited in 1983 and again five years ago.

William will be reintroduced to the country's indigenous culture during his short stay when he is guest of honour at a hangi - a traditional Maori dinner - hosted by the Queen's representative Governor General Anand Satyanand today.

Dishes on the menu - cooked slowly beneath the ground in earth ovens - could include wild pig and vegetables.

Before opening the new multi-million pound Supreme Court in the capital Wellington today (Monday morning local time) the prince will be welcomed by Maori elders with a hongi - the traditional rubbing of noses symbolising the exchange of breath.

The royal is an enthusiastic rugby fan whose last visit to the Pacific Ocean islands five years ago saw him follow most of the matches of the Lions against New Zealand's All Blacks.

William will meet the country's current crop of rugby stars when he visits the redeveloped Eden Park stadium in Auckland today - one of the venues for the 2011 Rugby World Cup being hosted by New Zealand.

Later the prince will take to the waters around Auckland when he joins the crew of a yacht used as an early trial boat for the 1999-2000 America's Cup series won by the Pacific Ocean islands.

During his second day the royal, who is training to become an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter pilot, will lay a wreath at a national war memorial in Wellington and that evening join guests at a barbecue hosted by the New Zealand Prime Minister.