Maori VIP Tawhiri Karetai gets to know the future King of England. The Maori consider Charles to have the same status as a high chief
Photo: AFP
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Earlier in the day he was challenged to pick up a twig to show his visit was peaceful
Photo: AFP

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7 MARCH 2005

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Prince Charles found himself eyeball-to-eyeball with a fierce Maori warrior when he jetted into New Zealand at the weekend. But there were no hostile feelings in the air, because the future king's close encounter was all part of a traditional Kiwi welcome.

The royal guest couldn't help breaking into a smile when Tawhiri Karetai greeted him with a "hongi", by rubbing noses and foreheads, when he arrived at the Royal Albatross Centre on Otago Peninsula.

And it wasn't his first brush with a Maori warrior that day. Earlier in the afternoon he was confronted by three more when he touched down on the tarmac in Wellington. The imposing threesome demanded he pick up a twig, in order to demonstrate he had come in peace, before his visit could continue. With the fearsome welcome party aiming spears at his chest, Charles duly obliged their somewhat unusual request. Army chief Jerry Mataparae later explained that the ceremony was a mark of respect, because the Maoris consider the Prince's status equal to that of a high chief.

Back home in Britain, meanwhile, the preparations were continuing for his forthcoming wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles. The Queen is set to give her approval to a new set of Royal Mail stamps commemorating the event. While a final decision will not be made until later this week, both Charles and Camilla are said to be delighted by the plan.

There was also some disappointing news for Prince William, though, because it seems his girlfriend Kate Middleton will not be receiving an invitation to the April 8 ceremony. According to royal sources, the heir to the throne wanted to avoid upsetting his youngest son Harry, whose South African girlfriend Chelsy Davy has not been invited.

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