Prince William has arrived in Christchurch to meet with the emergency staff who worked through the aftermath of a deadly attack on two of the city’s mosques last month, hours after attending an Anzac Day ceremony in Auckland.
The Duke of Cambridge was whisked through the South Island city in a police motorcade, helicopters circling overhead, after touching down on Thursday afternoon, accompanied by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as he got off his plane.
High security and a low-key approach by organisers meant a handful of royal watchers gathered at the airport and along streets would have no chance to catch a glimpse during the arrival.
The Prince’s first port of call was at the city’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, which acted as a base of operations for much of the emergency work after the terror attack.
There he was greeted by New Zealand’s top cop, Police Commissioner Mike Bush, and met with officers and ambulance staff who were at the scene of the attacks that killed 50 people.
The Duke of Cambridge was whisked through the South Island city in a police motorcade with helicopters circling overhead
The Christchurch visit is part of the Prince’s two-day solo trip to New Zealand where he is also scheduled to visit the city’s hospital to meet with survivors of the terror-struck mosques
High security and a low-key approach by organisers meant a handful of royal watchers gathered at the airport and along street had no chance to catch a glimpse during the arrival
The Duke asked about how the response was coordinated and how their training had helped staff deal with the unfolding situation.
‘I’m sure the team pulls together,’ he said.
William began his two-day visit to New Zealand on Thursday morning by paying his respects to Australian and New Zealand soldiers with a wreath-laying at an Anzac ceremony at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.
He greeted Prime Minister Ardern with a traditional Maori touch of the noses called a hongi, and tens of thousands of New Zealanders paying their respects.
The March 15 terror attack has loomed over this year’s commemorations in New Zealand.
Dozens of armed police officers stood guard during the hymns and speeches, trucks and buses blocked roads around the site and lookouts kept watch from the museum’s roof.
Numerous other events were cancelled or consolidated ahead of the day, amid lingering security fears.
While William did not speak, Ardern in an emotional speech earlier told those gathered at dawn that the event was a reminder of shared values after the terror attack.
‘Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity, that there is more that unites us than divides us,’ she said.
‘Our sense of independence is as strong as our sense of responsibility to each other and not just as nation states but as human beings.’
Visiting Christchurch’s attack survivors will now be the focus for the remainder of the Duke’s trip.
Upon disembarking the plane, William was greeted by Her Worship the Honourable Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch (far left) at the terminal
William’s first stop was at the city’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, where he met Police Commissioner Mike Bush, and officers and ambulance staff who were at the scene of the attacks that killed 50 people
At the precinct, the Duke asked about how the response was coordinated and how their training had helped staff deal with the unfolding situation
Prince William shakes hands with New Zealand’s Commissioner of police Mike Bush during a visit to the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct
On Friday, Prince William is scheduled to visit Christchurch Hospital and the Al Noor mosque (pictured) which was targeted in the March 15 terror attack
Apart from a last-minute public walkabout on Friday, events are expected to take a significantly more sombre tone than most royal visits.
The Prince will on Friday visit the city’s hospital to meet with a handful of those still being cared for, before meeting with the Muslim community at the city’s terror-struck mosques.
During the service in New Zealand, Catholic Vicar-General of Auckland, Monsignor Bernard Kiely, said a short prayer for the 359 victims of suicide bombing attacks in Sri Lanka over Easter.
He asked for a moment’s silence ‘to pray for our brothers and sisters affected by the atrocities in Christchurch and Sri Lanka.
‘We pray for those who have grieved, for those who have died, for the wounded and for those disabled in body and mind,’ he said.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is greeted with a Hongi, a traditional Maori greeting, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prince William laid a wreath to commemorate Anzac Day in New Zealand this morning before he is due to meet Christchurch terror attack survivors
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge lays a wreath as he attends the Anzac Day Civic Service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Police remove a screaming woman before Prince William lays a wreath during an Anzac Day service in Auckland
What is the hongi?
The traditional Māori greeting is performed by two people pressing their noses together.
Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered manuhiri, a visitor, but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land.
Several royals have been greeted with the hongi during visits to New Zealand, including Prince Charles, Diana, Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan.
Former US President Barack Obama exchanged a hongi with Ms Ardern during a visit to the country in March 2018.
‘We pray for refugees, those without home, work or country.’
Later Prince William laid a wreath on behalf of the Crown and The Last Post was then played before WWI and WWII planes flew over.
The service finished with rousing renditions of the Australian and New Zealand anthems, as well as God Save The Queen.
On Friday, Prince William is scheduled to visit Christchurch Hospital and the Al Noor mosque which was targeted in the March 15 terror attack.
He will then visit the Linwood mosque and lay a wreath at the Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.
New Zealand’s national threat rating was downgraded from high to medium only last week after 50 Muslims were gunned down at two mosques in Christchurch last month.
Despite no signs of imminent threat, armed police were present in large numbers across the country.
William will spend most of his time in the South Island city of Christchurch, visiting first responders and survivors and meeting members and leaders of the city’s Muslim community after the March 15 shootings that killed 50
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge shake hands with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as they attend the Auckland Anzac Day Civic Service
William will spend most of his trip in Christchurch, visiting first responders and survivors and meeting members and leaders of the city’s Muslim community after the March 15 shootings.
It’s not the first time tragedy has brought the Duke to the city in the South Island.
He visited the city following the 2011 earthquake that killed 185, and last visited with wife Kate in 2014.
The Duchess of Cambridge will instead attend a commemoration service in London on Thursday, continuing a 103-year tradition started by King George V and Queen Mary.
The prince’s visit comes after Turkish authorities arrested a suspected Islamic State member they believe was planning to attack a WWI commemoration at Gallipoli on Thursday just hours before hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Australia and New Zealand.
The suspect, 26-year-old Syrian national Abdulkerim Hilef, has been detained in Tekirdag, a northwestern province close to the Gallipoli peninsula.
Turkish authorities said they arrested the man after monitoring his alleged telecommunications with identified ISIS members, believing he had plans to attack the dawn service in ‘retribution for the Christchurch terror attack’.
Suspect: 26-year-old Syrian national Abdulkerim Hilef
More than 1,300 Australians and New Zealanders are registered to attend the commemoration, with several thousand Turkish police expected to patrol the area.
Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson lamented fundamentalists with ‘heinous motives’ trying to disrupt Anzac Day services after the potential terror plot was foiled.
Dr Nelson praised Turkish authorities for dealing with the issue.
‘It’s a reflection of the fact that we do have some people who have heinous motives,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
‘The Turkish authorities went to extraordinary lengths to see that the Gallipoli peninsula was secure for the Anzac Day services that are being held there.’
Turkish nationals were banned from attending the dawn service, which Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is due to be at, amid heightened security fears.
‘Unfortunately we live in a world where there are people – wherever they live, whatever their background, whatever their beliefs – who are fundamentalists intent on disrupting what we do,’ Dr Nelson said.
‘The most important thing we can do is go about living our lives.’
A bomb search was underway at Gallipolli to ensure the safety of thousands of people scheduled to attend the service.
Turkish forces are conducting security checks every couple of hundred metres in the national park surrounding Anzac Cove,
Those attending the event have been asked to arrive 11 hours early so they can clear three security zones, as well as an airport security checkpoint and a pat down.
Selfie sticks, foam mats and water bottles are banned at the Gallipoli service as part of the security measures.
Inside the Hall of Memory following the Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day
Sisters Tahlia, 5, and Evie Malone, 3, place a poppy on the Roll of Honour following the Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial