Prince William wants 'informal' trip Down Under
Prince William wants to keep his visit to disaster-stricken areas of New Zealand and Australia later this month as informal as possible, a top official said Thursday.
He is due to visit earthquake-devastated New Zealand on March 17 and 18, then travel to areas of Australia hit by a cyclone and floods from March 19 to 21, including Queensland state.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the prince wanted an opportunity "to really sit down and talk with some of the people that have been directly affected".
"And I think for some people that will be a shot in the arm for their morale," she told the Australian public broadcaster ABC.
"He wants to be as informal as is reasonable -- I don't think that's very easy when you're the prince -- but he does want an opportunity to be pretty informal and get close to people."
Prince William's itinerary is yet to be finalised but he is also expected to visit communities in southeastern Australia as they recover from devastating flooding in January.
The visits, which come just over a month before his April 29 wedding to Kate Middleton, followed invitations from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard, St James's Palace said on Wednesday.
While in New Zealand, Prince William will attend a national memorial in Christchurch on March 18 for victims of the earthquake which devastated the country's second largest city last month, claiming hundreds of lives.
The prince, whose grandmother Queen Elizabeth II remains the official head of state in the former British colonies of New Zealand and Australia, will also visit Greymouth, where 29 miners died in a colliery explosion late last year.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, is also planning to visit Queensland in June during an Australia tour and will offer a free forum to help flood victims cope with their losses, media reports said Thursday.
© 2011 AFP