Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Prince William's New Zealand trip to have relaxed tone

Prince William
Prince William will open the new supreme court building in Wellington

Prince William's first official visit to New Zealand is to have a more relaxed, youthful tone than usual royal tours, it has been announced.

It will feature barbecues rather than formal dinners and his progress will be charted on social networking sites Bebo and Facebook.

One royal official told the BBC the Queen saw William's first tour as a chance for him "to learn the ropes".

The three-day tour in January will be followed by a trip to Australia.

In New Zealand, the prince will represent the Queen and open the new supreme court building in Wellington.

He will also attend a wreath-laying ceremony and visit a nature reserve.

The prince, who is 27, last visited New Zealand in 2005 for the British Lions' rugby tour.

During that trip, he represented the Queen at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of World War II, but this trip will be the first time he has carried out an entire overseas visit carrying out a number of duties on the Queen's behalf.

On his unofficial three-day trip to Australia, he will visit Sydney and Melbourne.

William, who is second-in-line to the throne, will be visiting Australia for the first time since he was a child.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said William would use the trip to learn more about issues affecting the nation's Aboriginals and see the countryside near Melbourne, which was ravaged by wildfires earlier this year.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said in both countries the emphasis would be on youth and a more relaxed style.

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