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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:08 GMT
NZ premier denies royal snub
The Queen on arrival at Wellington Airport
The Queen was welcomed by a Guard of Honour
The prime minister of New Zealand has denied snubbing the Queen and Prince Philip by not being on hand to greet them on their arrival in Wellington.

The monarch and Prince Philip arrived in the capital on Friday morning, where they were greeted by Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright.

The Queen greeted by the Governor General Dame Sylvia Cartwright
The Queen has a two-day rest after the flight
New Zealand's premier, Helen Clark, is attending a summit of centre-left governments at Stockholm, thousands of miles away.

She denied snubbing the couple, saying she would be back in New Zealand for the official part of the Queen's visit.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said: "When the Palace sought the Queen's visit for these particular dates, I said it would be awkward because I was very keen to come to the progressive governments' meeting, which I have to give priority to."

Ms Clark went on to say she thought it was "inevitable" that New Zealand would become a republic in the near future.

She said: "I think it's inevitable that New Zealand will become a republic and that would reflect the reality that New Zealand is a totally sovereign-independent 21st century nation 12,000 miles from the United Kingdom."

Official duties

The Queen and Prince Philip are spending two days recovering after their long flight from Jamaica, staying at the exclusive Huka Lodge at Lake Taupo.

Official duties begin on Sunday with a morning church service at Rotorua on the North Island.

The Queen then returns to Wellington where she will unveil a commemorative stone at the Cathedral of St Paul.

The six-day visit will also see the Queen host a state dinner in Wellington and trips to Christchurch on New Zealand's south island and the country's largest city, Auckland.

There she will inspect the team New Zealand entry for this year's Americas Cup yacht race and get an exclusive view of the boat's secret keel design.

It is the Queen's tenth visit to New Zealand in her 50 years as monarch.

'Irrelevant'

On Wednesday she flies to Australia to tour south Australia and Queensland, where she will open the commonwealth heads of government meeting next week.

A poll released to coincide with the royal visit suggests that most New Zealanders find the monarchy irrelevant.

The One News-Colmar Brunton poll carried by the New Zealand Herald indicates that 58% of the population believe the monarchy has little or no relevance to their lives.

And only 7% said the Queen remained "extremely relevant".

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Queen leaves Jamaica for New Zealand
19 Feb 02 | Americas
Queen speaks to Jamaican Parliament
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