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Couple's royal wedding gift to NZ

By AFP, NZ Herald staff

Prime Minister John Key this morning thanked Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton for asking people to donate to charities including the Christchurch quake appeal, instead of giving them wedding gifts.

The royal couple have asked anyone intending to give them gifts to instead donate to a charitable gift fund supporting 26 hand-picked charities, one of them the quake relief fund.

Mr Key today thanked the couple for their generous support.

"Prince William and Ms Middleton have chosen charities focusing on issues which matter deeply to them and, in the case of the Christchurch earthquake appeal, a charity which reflects the couple's close ties to and affection for New Zealand," he said.

"I believe it's a mark of great respect for New Zealand that the couple have nominated the Christchurch earthquake appeal as one of those charities."

The gesture came as Prince William arrived at Auckland Airport this morning, before his visit to Christchurch and Greymouth this afternoon, and the memorial service tomorrow.

Mr Key again thanked the couple for their support in the wake of the earthquake and the Pike River mine disaster on the West Coast, in which 29 men died in November.

"The prince's support for New Zealand at this time underscores his commitment to the country and I am very pleased to be hosting him for his visit," he said.

Prince William will today visit mine victims' families in Greymouth and will tomorrow speak at the Christchurch memorial service at Hagley Park. He will also visit Australia.

Spokesperson for the Pike River mine victims' families Bernie Monk told Newstalk ZB he was blown away by Prince William taking time to meet the families.

William will arrive in Greymouth at 3.30pm.

"Each family are going to be separated into groups of 20 and he'll probably spend 10-15 minutes with each family group," Mr Monk said.

"We need these events to keep us going and keep our chins up. It's just overwhelming and humbling."

Prince William is set to marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton on April 29.

The royal couple personally chose the charities in the fund, many of which are not well known and none of which have royal patronage.

Although most of the charities in the fund are based in Britain, they also include the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service.

A palace spokesman said the charities chosen reflected the couple's "close ties to and affection for" those countries.

"The couple have chosen to take the chance to benefit some causes that have less exposure or which are undertaking valuable work in areas of the community which the couple feel would benefit from this support," the spokesman said.

Among the organisations are an anti-bullying group, a dance group, a charity for army widows and Earthwatch, a community of scientists and members of the public who undertake hands-on environmental research.

Donations at www.royalweddingcharityfund.org are possible in six currencies. The money will be held and distributed by a charitable foundation set up by Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry.

Donations via the website, royalweddingcharityfund.org, are possible in six currencies, but can also be made by telephone, by text message or by sending a cheque.

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