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Low turnout to welcome the Queen

Published: 5:55PM Friday February 22, 2002

Hardly anyone turned up to welcome Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh when they arrived in New Zealand on Friday for a five-day visit, taking in Wellington, Taupo, Christchurch and Auckland.

The Royal couple were met by officials including Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton and Labour MP Georgina Beyer - believed to be the world's only transsexual member of parliament.

While curious onlookers lined the windows of Wellington's domestic terminal for a glimpse of the Queen as her flight arrived from Jamaica, the crowds that in the past had turned out for Royal visits were absent.

A ONE News-Colmar Brunton poll on Thursday showed the visit was unlikely to generate much interest among New Zealanders. Just 7% said the Queen remained "extremely relevant."

New Zealand's republican movement described the visit as the Queen's "farewell tour."

Prime Minister Helen Clark has previously said it is "inevitable" New Zealand will one day become a republic.

Despite general apathy toward the Royals, just 33% of respondents to the poll said the country should dump the Queen as head of state and become a republic.

There was a sizable media contingent at the airport, however, with about 20 reporters joined by another 10 journalists travelling with the Royal couple.

After the Queen took the salute from a Royal guard of honour, a combined Defence Forces band struck up God Save the Queen.

She then inspected the Royal guard of honour before the band played Pokarekare Ana.

After a few words with members of the welcoming party, including an exchange between the Queen and Beyer, the Royal couple boarded a special Air New Zealand plane to Taupo.

They will spend two days, mostly free of engagements, at Taupo's exclusive Huka Lodge.

The 75-year-old monarch is on a 15-day tour in her golden jubilee year. It is her 10th tour of New Zealand.

The Queen will be escorted by New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Leanne Woon, who has become the Queen's first female equery. The Queen and Prince Philip leave for Australia on Wednesday morning.

Reasonable turnout in Taupo

Taupo Mayor Clayton Stent says at least 200 people were at the city's airport to greet the Queen and Prince Philip who are staying at Huka Lodge.

Stent was there to meet the Queen, and says between 200 and 300 people were waiting to catch a glimpse of the couple.

He says Her Majesty and the Duke were keen to talk despite their long flight, with the Queen commenting on the coolness of the temperature, after being in Jamaica.

The tiny New Zealand republican movement says that it is planning to promote its message during the Queen's visit.

Returning to Wellington on Sunday, she will unveil a consecration stone at St Pauls Cathedral while Prince Philip presents Duke of Edinburgh awards to 60 young people.

They then travel to Christchurch on Monday where they will visit Burnham military camp before flying back to Wellington for a state dinner at parliament.

On Tuesday the couple head to Auckland to visit Team New Zealand at their Americas Cup yachting base.

The couple fly out of Auckland airport next Wednesday morning for Adelaide, Australia.

The Queen, who was to have visited New Zealand last October before opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Brisbane, put off the trip after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the postponement of CHOGM.

The rescheduled visits to New Zealand and Australia had to be shortened because of the Queen's already busy golden jubilee year in Britain.