Harry and Meghan . . . heading our way? PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
It’s been 35 years since Wairarapa was included on a royal tour, but hopes are high that newly-weds Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will be swinging by later in the year.
Kensington Palace has announced the pair will visit New Zealand around the time the Invictus Games are held in Sydney, from October 20-27.
The region’s mayors have plenty of suggestions for how Harry and Meghan could spend their time.
Carterton Mayor John Booth, a pilot, remembers the Air Force Andover aircraft parked outside the Wairarapa Aeroclub at Hood Aerodrome when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited in 1983 with baby Prince William.
He’s offering to put a party on in the region, while South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier says fish and chips at Lake Ferry might suit the down-to-earth couple.
Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson suggests Castlepoint Beach.
The Department of Internal Affairs will oversee plans for the visit, with a special team set up to make arrangements.
“It will be considering a wide range of options that will be of interest to the couple and will also give New Zealanders the chance to meet them and show them different aspects of life in New Zealand,” the department said.
“It’s early days yet – details will be released closer to the visit.”
Mr Booth said 1983 he waited in the aeroclub for Charles and Di to come back and board the plane after events in Masterton.
“Princess Diana stopped and shook my hand and had a chat to me. It seemed like a while, but it was probably a minute,” he said.
He said people were very excited when they came. It was a day-trip on a sunny day.
Mr Booth said he would love to organise a farm visit for prince Harry and Meghan.
An official royal visit to the region was overdue, the mayors said.
“People would line the streets I’m sure,” Mrs Napier said.
“We can provide them with some nice wine and food and some nice accommodation.”
Wharekauhau Lodge, where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge stayed privately before starting their tour with son, Prince George, in 2014 is an obvious contender.
“They could stay at the lodge and go across and have fish and chips at the Lake Ferry pub, and go out and look at the Pinnacles and look at all the seals and go fishing off Ngawi,” Mrs Napier said.
Mrs Patterson said the royal couple would see the best of rural and provincial living in New Zealand if they came to the region.
“It is long overdue, and we would certainly give them a wonderful welcome here in Masterton,” she said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed confirmation of the visit.
“I know Prince Harry really enjoyed his last visit here in 2015, and I’m sure New Zealanders will want the Duchess of Sussex to also experience our warm hospitality and manaakitanga on her first visit here as a member of the royal family.
“This is the duchess’s second visit to our country and I know New Zealanders will be very much looking forward to welcoming her back.”