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New Zealand: Auckland

12th November 2012

The Duchess of Cornwall with school children in Auckland, New Zealand

The Duchess of Cornwall with school children in Auckland, New Zealand

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The Prince of Wales met some of New Zealand's top sportsmen and women today.

Rugby sevens player Linda Itunu ignored protocol and instead of shaking hands and curtseying to The Prince gave him a hug - and was hugged back.

The 27-year-old sportswoman had worked up a sweat pumping weights before The Prince and The Duchess of Cornwall arrived at a national sports centre in Auckland where the country's top athletes train.

As The Duchess chatted to Olympic medallists The Prince headed over to the women's rugby sevens team and held out his hand to Ms Itunu but got a hug instead and laughed. When they parted after a few seconds Ms Itunu wiped her sweat off the side of The Prince's face and apologised to the royal for leaving him a little damp.

The sportswoman, who is a prop in the New Zealand women's rugby sevens team and works as a personal trainer, said: "I just saw him and he looked like he needed a hug. "I said to The Prince, 'Can I give you a hug' and he said he didn't mind." Before The Prince left the rugby player said she issued an ultimatum to the royal: "I told him he better be supporting us - not England."

As The Prince walked away he joked with the women telling them: "If you don't win I shall be very disappointed."

The royal couple toured the sporting complex where the local community and top athletes alike have access world-class facilities, training and healthcare services. It is also a centre for research and The Prince and The Duchess watched as athletes were put through their paces on treadmills so their body's performance and endurance could being measured.

Their Royal Highnesses also tried their hand at netball when they met some of New Zealand's top women players who towered over the royals. They both hit the rim a number of times as they tried in vain to score a goal and netball player Maria Tutaia, 25, who is 6ft 2ins tall, joked: "Let's just say he's pretty good with a crown on his head but his shooting needs some work. But it was good he had a go and nice to see him speak to all the athletes as he went round."

Later a walkabout brought large crowds out into Auckland city centre and despite the torrential rain that started soon after Their Royal Highnesses appeared, the well-wishers waited patiently to see the visitors who are on a Diamond Jubilee tour of the country.

The Prince later wielded a handheld rug making machine as he learned about a special project to create a wool rug featuring his coat-of-arms.

He was handed the tufting machine that resembled an electric drill by Sam Maloney, 30, who has been contracted to make the textile artwork. The half-completed coat-of-arms rug was hung from a large frame and just outside the border of the piece The Prince tried sowing tufts of wool into a thread mesh.

The Prince joked with Mr Maloney and said "I'll write my name", but his first attempt left a tangled mass of wool but he soon perfected the technique and wove a couple of straight lines. The Prince's efforts came as he toured an exhibition showcasing a diverse range of wool products in his role as patron and founder of the Campaign for Wool, a project launched in 2010 to promote the use of wool as a sustainable material.

Rugs, scarfs, carpets and other wool textiles were on display and the royal watched a dramatic demonstration of its fire resistant properties when a blow torch was held to a number of fabrics. The piece of wool was scorched but did not burn while the cotton and acrylic cloths quickly went up in flames.

In a speech The Prince, who was wearing a double breasted suit made from New Zealand wool, joked: "I don't know if you also realise according to GQ magazine I am a fashion icon." He added: "I am a walking demonstration of the ability of New Zealand wool to disguise a rapidly disintegrating and ageing body."

Their Royal Highnesses later attended a glittering fundraising gala dinner staged in honour of the Queen's 60-year reign and to generate funds for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Trust through an auction of donated prizes.

New Zealand prime minister John Key topped the guest list of notable Kiwis invited to the black-tie event held at a convention centre in Auckland.

The Duchess wore an Anna Valentine silver chiffon dress while the Prince looked smart in a dinner jacket and bow tie. Amongst the performers on the bill was soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who met the royals before a dinner of hot smoked salmon fish cakes, roast fillet of New Zealand beef and chocolate passion fruit delice was served. The classical singer, speaking about The Prince, said: "I adore him," and when asked what it meant to New Zealand to have the heir to the throne in the country, replied: "(It's) very important, we are just so far away from everybody else. He's taking the time, it's a big workload - it's tough on him."

Also performing were the Topp Twins - Jools and Lynda Topp - well known country and western artists in New Zealand. Lynda Topp said: "We do hope we can make them laugh, that's what we're here for, we'll be doing camp mother and camp leader, these characters are a bit risque."

She revealed she once groomed polo ponies for The Prince when he played in a match in New Zealand more than 40 years ago: "We had to warm his polo ponies up for him and I remember it vividly - he fell off."

In his speech to the dinner guests, The Prince joked about his coming 64th birthday on Wednesday. He shares it with the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and the prime minister's wife Bronagh Key, and the trio will celebrate their anniversary with 64 specially chosen New Zealanders also born on the same day. He said: "I now discover that half the population of New Zealand seems to be born on this particular day. So I look forward very much to our joint birthday party on Wednesday along with 64 fellow Scorpios and to discussing our plans for world domination." Speaking about his tour of the nation, he added: "We will take with us an impression of a country confident of its own identity and proud of its diverse origins, having strong traditions, but also confident about its future."

Earlier in the day popular children's author Lynley Dodd joined the royal couple for a special performance of the stage show about her much-loved canine character Hairy Maclary. The Duchess has named the first book in the series of stories about the hairy dog as one of her favourite books and reads it to her grandchildren. After the 20-minute performance at the Bruce Mason Centre, which was also watched by large numbers of small children, The Prince and The Duchess went back stage to meet the cast.

The Duchess had spent part of the day carrying out her own programme of events. Her Royal Highness, who campaigns to raise awareness about the crippling bone disease osteoporosis, met world-leading researchers to find out about their work into the condition and visited a primary school to see children being taught how to grow and cook their own food.

The Prince crossed Waitemata harbour outside Auckland in a coastguard vessel to visit the service's Northern Region Headquarters to meet staff and volunteers.


A speech by The Prince of Wales at the Diamond Jubilee Trust Dinner

A speech by The Prince of Wales at the Diamond Jubilee Dinner in Auckland, New Zealand

Published on 12th November 2012

Prime Minister and Mrs. Key, Sir Don and Lady McKinnon, Ladies and gentlemen,

Tēna koutou katoa. Many Greetings to you all, if I may say so. I'm enormously grateful to the Prime Minister, and Sir Don McKinnon for your very kind words and for the very warm welcome we've received here this evening and we will ensure that The Queen knows of your kind and generous wishes to her during this marvellous Diamond Jubilee dinner. Now can you believe it, I suddenly realised that this is my eighth visit here to New Zealand and that I first came 42 years ago, which is slightly worrying and back then my sister and I seemed to travel all over New Zealand by plane, helicopter, car and also around her in the old Royal Yacht Britannia and I even seem to recall a jolly dance in a wool shed in some remoter part of the country and I suspect many in New Zealand now doubt that I was once quite young and even came here while serving in a ship in the Royal Navy back in 1974. If I may say so I've been reminded of those much younger days by people i have met and the wonderfully warm and welcoming crowds who showed me faded, tattered photographs of when I had some hair and when I could fit effortlessly into my suits, but the photographs merely emphasised the gradual stages of progressive disintegration over the past 42 years.

Now Ladies and Gentlemen coming here on this occasion has helped to demonstrate, I think, the extraordinary contribution being made by New Zealanders' ingenuity, innovation and talent in so many different fields. For instance we had a visit this morning to the Mil ...

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