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Prince William opens New Zealand court building

Prince William wore a traditional korowai cloak made from kiwi feathers
Prince William wore a traditional korowai cloak made from kiwi feathers

Prince William has delivered his first major speech as a senior member of the Royal Family, officially opening New Zealand's Supreme Court building.

Wearing a traditional Maori cloak, the 27-year-old addressed dignitaries, including Prime Minister John Key, at the ceremony in Wellington.

He described New Zealand as "a nation that believes passionately in itself", but with enduring ties to Britain.

Later, police detained an intruder at a barbecue ahead of the prince's arrival.

The man, understood to be a radio DJ, jumped over the fence into the grounds of the official home of the prime minister, who was hosting the barbecue party.

A Wellington police spokesman said the intruder was apprehended by officers and removed.

Reports said he had been carrying sausages and bread and planned to pose as one of the catering staff in an apparent stunt.

Prince William attends a barbecue at Premier House with Prime Minister John Key
William at a barbeque at the official home of the prime minister

Earlier, the prince, who is representing the Queen on his first official overseas visit, said it meant "an awful lot" to him to stand in for his grandmother.

Elders from Wellington's Maori community honoured William with the traditional nose-pressing greeting, the hongi, as he arrived at the court building.

He was also draped in a korowai cloak made with kiwi feathers.

Once inside, William told those gathered: "The overwhelming impression I have is of a nation that believes passionately in itself, in the value of democracy, in each other and other peoples, and in the rule of law."

The BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the prince's speech had focused on maintaining the status quo - with the Queen as New Zealand's head of state - and the word "republic" was never mentioned.

Prince William is a chief and we welcomed him as a chief
Nga Iwi O Taranaki, Maori leader

Instead, our correspondent said William had spoken about the two country's closely shared values and the enduring partnership between the indigenous Maori population and the British crown.

The prince also used his speech to express sympathy for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Before the opening ceremony, William watched a group of Maori warriors perform the haka - the chest-beating, tongue-waving greeting reserved for important individuals.

Nga Iwi O Taranaki, leader of the group, said afterwards: "Prince William is a chief and we welcomed him as a chief."

Hundreds of well-wishers turned out to welcome the second-in-line to the throne, but the crowd also included a small number of anti-monarchy activists.

Among them was Kerry Bevin, founder of New Zealand's Republican Party, who used a megaphone to tell those gathered it was "time for Kiwis to control their own destiny".

William later visited the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, a sanctuary for endangered species, before attending the barbecue at the prime minister's home.



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