Maori king refuses Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
King Tuheitia ascended to the Maori throne in 2006 after the death of his mother

The king of the Maori people has refused to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of New Zealand next month.

King Tuheitia said the 90 minutes he was allocated with the royals was not enough to do justice to their status.

His office also said the king was "not some carnival act to be rolled out at the beck and call of anyone".

Kensington Palace said the tour would include several events "to recognise the significance of Maori culture".

William and Catherine were due to meet King Tuheitia - who ascended to the Maori throne in 2006 - at his official residence, Turangawaewae, on the country's North Island.

But a statement from his office said that while he had "agonised" over the decision, the monarch was not prepared to meet the royal couple for only 90 minutes.

'No negotiation'

It blamed "faceless bureaucrats" for "a grave error of judgement", and said the full reasons for the refusal were "conveyed to the royal couple in a personal letter... several weeks ago".

"The government-appointed committee overseeing the visit never met with any officials from this office and when we did seek to contact them, they were not willing to be negotiable or flexible in their approaches to the king," the statement continued.

"A senior rangatira [official] noted that the king and the kiingitanga [the royal line] are not some carnival act to be rolled out at the beck and call of anyone, and nor should we be prepared to compromise our tikanga [customs] to fit into a pre-determined schedule."

It added: "The king wanted to give his best to this couple to reflect their status, he was being prevented from doing that."

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Prince George will be eight months old when he accompanies his parents on the visit

Baby Prince George will accompany the duke and duchess on the trip, more than 30 years after William's own parents took him, aged nine months, on a similar visit.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the situation was "a missed opportunity".

He added: "They were offered a 90-minute slot, that was longer than pretty much any other engagement that they have, and King Tuheitia's people decided that wasn't long enough and on that basis they rejected him attending."

A Kensington Palace spokesman said the programme for the visit had been signed off by the New Zealand government.

"Many elements were considered and we have worked with the New Zealand government to include several appropriate events on the visit to recognise the significance of Maori culture," he said.

"These include a substantial Powhiri, or ceremonial welcome, in Wellington, together with Maori engagements in Dunedin, Christchurch and elsewhere."

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