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Prince William comforts Pike families

Published: 5:53AM Thursday March 17, 2011 Source: ONE News

Prince William spent time on the West Coast this afternoon meeting the families of the 29 victims of the Pike River mine disaster.

The Prince was taken to Shantytown after arriving in nearby Greymouth, to tour the gold mining village. He met Pike River mine CEO Peter Whittall and NZ Mine Rescue general manager Trevor Watts while in the historic village.

The second in line to the British throne is in the county to make a morale boosting visit to Christchurch and Greymouth.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn welcomed the Prince at Greymouth airport and he and Prime Minister John Key both thanked him for coming to New Zealand.

Kokshoorn donned his mayoral chains before leading Prince William through the village to a building called the miners' hall. He said he was humbled that the Prince made time in his busy schedule to visit Greymouth.

Kokshoorn said he appreciated the Prince's compassion and acknowledged the loss of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

"We are really humbled you have extended your hand to us, to come and help the families grieve."

Key thanked the Prince for making the trip to a country having "a really terrible time".

Media were then ushered out as the Prince met with the victims' families, starting with the family of blast survivor Daniel Rockhouse.

His father Neville Rockhouse, who was Pike River's safety and training manager, was the first to shake the Prince's hand.

Spokesman for the Pike River victims' families, Bernie Monk, says it's humbling that the Prince has travelled all this way and is willing to spend a substantial amount of time with them.

Monk says everyone is excited and the visit will help them keep their chins up.

"My wife's gone out and got her hair done her nails done. It's not every day people get the opportunity to meet royals."

ONE News understands his Royal Highness plans to stay in the West Coast overnight and will return to Christchurch tomorrow.

Christchurch devastation "unbelievable"

Earlier, Prince William described the devastation of the 'red zone' as "unbelievable" on his visit to Christchurch.

The Prince touched down in Auckland shortly before 8am and was officially welcomed by Mayor Len Brown before arriving in Christchurch at 12.30pm. 

After being welcomed by Mayor Bob Parker and Civil Defence head John Hamilton he was taken inside to a meeting with Civil Defence officials.

The Prince told members of the armed forces he was stunned at the level of destruction in the CBD, and asked how the earthquake personally had affected them.

Burnham-based Captain Mark Rutledge told him his wife's cousin perished in the CTV building.

A sombre-looking prince said he had been briefed about the worst-affected sites.

"I've seen photos of it..It's so serious,'' Prince William said.

The Prince spent several minutes with the welfare team who explained the medium and long-term implications the earthquake would have on residents. He said they were doing a "wonderful" job.

The Prince asked to meet the women who co-ordinated the port-a-loo distribution throughout the city and posed for a photograph with them.

"Someone's got to do it,'' he joked as he surveyed a map of the city which showed where each port-a-loo was located.

The Prince, on a tour of the 'red zone' in the CBD, spent some time at Cathedral Square speaking to Reverend Peter Beck, dean of Christchurch Cathedral, and a USAR official about the damage.

Prince William said in Latimer Square: "The scale of it is unbelievable".

Tomorrow the residents of Sumner will have a chance to meet the prince before he prepares for the Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Service at Hagley Park, where he will speak.  

See details of the service here .

The Prince's arrival coincided with an announcement that he and his fiancee Kate Middleton have chosen the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal as one of a select group of charities in their Royal Wedding charitable gift fund.

The couple have asked that anyone wishing to give them a wedding gift consider giving to the charitable fund instead.

The confirmed toll from the 6.3 magnitude quake stands at 166 but is expected to rise to 180. One hundred and forty victims have so far been identified.

Key thanks royal couple

Prime Minister John Key has thanked Prince William and Kate Middleton for "their generous support" of Christchurch and the West Coast following the tragic events in the two areas.

"Prince William's visit to New Zealand to meet with the families of those lost in November's Pike River Mine tragedy, and to attend the Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Service, is hugely appreciated by New Zealanders," Key said. 

"The prince's support for New Zealand at this time underscores his commitment to the country and I am very pleased to be hosting him for his visit."

Key also welcomed the news of the Prince and Kate Middleton's decision to nominate the government's Christchurch Earthquake Appeal as one of a small group of charities to be included in their Royal Wedding charity gift fund.

"Prince William and Miss Middleton have chosen charities focusing on issues which matter deeply to them and, in the case of the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, a charity which reflects the couple's close ties to, and affection for, New Zealand," Key said.

Key told ONE News that Prince William's visit was important for lifting morale.

"The memorial service in Christchurch will be a very moving event. It's a public holiday there so hopefully tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands will descend upon Hagley Park to be part of it.

"I know from being at the Pike River memorial it was both a very moving thing and important time for me to be there, and I think it will be full of Cantabrians, and hopefully people will either watch through their TV screens or ultimately go along to the day."

Donations can be made through the Charitable Gift Fund website which includes a full list of the charities to benefit, personally chosen by Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Anyone who wants to donate directly to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal can visit the Quake appeal website .

Do you think Prince William's visit will boost morale in New Zealand? Have your say on our messageboard below.

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  • 1600nz said on 2011-03-18 @ 20:26 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Prince William did a great job and I'm glad they sang one of our national anthems 'god save the queen'.

  • Marshzy said on 2011-03-18 @ 15:14 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Prince William was superb this morning. Going to Sumner, meeting the SVA, and coming to our memorial service. We greatly appreciate him taking time to do this, it is very encouraging to have the support of the Crown. He is a true prince

  • heather allan said on 2011-03-18 @ 11:49 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I guess for some it will boost their morale, for others just a change of their own upturned lives and scenery. I'm looking forward to seeing it on TV anyway. Stand tall people of Christchurch, the rest of us here in NZ are with you 24/7. Gizzy Granny

  • cruizie said on 2011-03-18 @ 10:53 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Is a great gesture, anyone that takes the time to pay tribute should be respected no matter who they are...

  • smithy said on 2011-03-18 @ 09:44 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Yes the timing for a Memorial doesn't suit everyone but what an amazing morale booster to have Prince William here. Not just for ChCh but also for the Pike River families. And what a huge encouragement for Bob Parker and Tony Kokshorn..I think it's brilliant!

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