Prince Harry impresses Rotorua with his command of Te Reo Māori on the Duke and Duchess’ final day in NZ

He's really good!
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‘They saved the best for last,’ was the general consensus among international media on Wednesday morning after the moving welcome of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on to Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua.

Wednesday was the final day of the royals’ visit in New Zealand, and under clear blue skies and bright sunshine (which have been scarce since their arrival on Sunday) local Māori leaders and kaumātua welcomed Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan on to Te Papaiouru Marae with a moving pōwhiri.

Hundreds of invited guests, including excited school children and kapa haka performers, converged on to the marae to welcome the Duke and Duchess.

Thousands of spectators also turned out at Ohinemutu and an eerie silence shrouded the area as people waited for the pōwhiri to begin.

Prince Harry has been widely praised, not only for not breaking eye contact with warrior Raimona Inia as he accepted the wero during the pōwhiri, but also for his demonstrable attempts at speaking Te Reo Māori .

His pronunciation was strong and clear as he opened and closed his address to Ngati Whakaue in Te Reo inside the marae’s meeting house or wharenui, Tamatekapua – and his audience responded with enthusiastic and encouraging applause.

He even led the waiata , singing all of the words to Te Aroha in Te Reo.

Earlier in the week Duchess Meghan was praised for her attempts at speaking Te Reo in a speech she made at Government House.

A special moment was had when Prince Harry was introduced to Robert Gillies, the last surviving member of “B” Company in the 28th Māori Battalion. At 93 years old, Gillies had spent the last week helping prepare the marae for the royals’ visit, and Prince Harry spent several minutes talking to the returned serviceman.

It was 65 years ago, in 1953, that Prince Harry’s grandmother, the Queen, visited Te Papaiouru Marae, making today’s visit even more special. Both the Duke and Duchess were gifted korowai (woven cloaks) – Duchess Meghan’s woven by Te Arawa weaver Norma Sturley.

Locals shared that when the Queen had visited no one was sure what size to weave her cloak so small and medium-sized korowai were woven. As it turned out, the Queen fitted the small so the medium-sized one was kept on display as a keepsake of her royal visit.

Prince Andrew has also visited the marae, and there was a ripple of laughter as speaker Te Arawa leader Trevor Maxwell almost called Prince Harry by his uncle Prince Andrew’s name during his speech.

Te Kanawa Pitiroi, who spoke on behalf of Ngāti Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu, compared Duchess Meghan’s beauty to that of Mt Pihanga. As Māori legend would have Mt Taranaki and Mt Tongariro battled over Mt Pihanga for her love.

He also spoke of Queen Elizabeth’s visit in the 1950s, when he was just 15 years old.

The marae visit was concluded with a speech from Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and a final waiata led by local singer Timua Brennan, singing Pōkarekare ana.

Lunch was next, prepared by 2014 Masterchef winners Karena and Kasey Bird, who also got to meet the royal couple.

The Duke and Duchess then moved on to Te Ao Marama Church Hall, where they met young Te Arawa people involved in mental wellness in the community, university students achieving in professions where Māori are under-represented (architecture, dentistry, engineering), students involved in Māori language revitalisation and young Māori creating in the e/digi space.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the National Kiwi Hatchery at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, then a treetop walk at Redwoods Tree walk. A walkabout through Rotorua’s main streets will conclude their tour of New Zealand.

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